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Ukraine

Ukraine is a large country situated on the Black Sea in Eastern Europe just west of Russia. As a part of the Soviet Union, it suffered major agricultural disasters and brutal repression, resulting in the 1933 and 1946 famines, killing millions. It was, of course, also subject to two world wars that further ravaged the country. During the post-war period, Ukrainian nationalists sought to maintain their identity, reinforce their language and separate, but the biggest news story of the time was the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. This became a catalyst for regional sovereignty, and in 1990, the Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union. In 2005, allegations of election fixing sparked what is now known as the “Orange Revolution”, though it is difficult to say if the country will rise from the ashes or not.

de_0100_ukraine - Kiev in Autumn

Attractions

Fortunately, Ukraine has been able to provide tourist attractions that cater to both to the young and old. In cities like Odessa, not only is there a well-established theatre and opera scene, but there are also several giant night clubs able to host the locals who seasonally flock to the Black Sea.

In the summer, locals and tourists alike travel to the beaches of Crimea, where backpackers can enjoy the beachside nightlife, and those preferring a more relaxed trip can stay in one of the more historical hotels on the Black Sea.

Ukraine also has a variety of beautiful religious architecture, as several orthodox churches still remain centrepieces for towns and cities. Some of the more notable ones include the Bernadine monastery in Lviv, as well as the St.Sophia cathedral in Kyiv, a staggering work built almost 1000 years ago.

de_0102_ukraine - Bogdan Khmelnitsky statue

Local Food & Drink

Ukraine also provides a variety of food and drink native to the country. Many of the dishes, including Borscht and pierogies, are warm and filling comfort foods good for cold weather. Borscht is a famous Ukrainian soup made of beetroots that can either be served hot or cold, and is a staple in most Ukrainian restaurants. Pierogies, on the other hand, are well-known in North America and around the world. The locals, however, call these dumplings Varenyky, and they have filled been stuffed with everything from potatoes to fruit preserves.

Ironically, another one of Ukraine’s most prized dishes, Chicken Kiev, did not originate in its namesake, but was rather created in New York City. Nevertheless, it has become extremely popular in the capital, where it is still commonly perceived as a native dish.

de_0101_ukraine - Kiev cityscape

Safety

Since international tourism is still in its early stages in the Ukraine, there are considerable safety issues that tourists should know about. Petty theft and pickpocketing are common occurrences, especially in Kiev and Odessa.

It is also recommended that one be prudent in the use of bank machines and credit cards. While the technology is available, there are concerns about privacy and security. Traveler’s checks are okay to use, but beware of street vendors peddling false exchange rates. The best solution for travelling in the Ukraine is to carry cash and find a cheap but accessible cellphone, preferably prepaid.

Locals and tourists alike are drawn to beaches, lakes and rivers in Ukraine, but unfortunately, there is general lack of safety, and it is only recommended that you use the beaches. Also, there is a surprisingly high rate of road accidents, so be careful while in the car or on the street, as many inner-city rush hours have a reputation for being chaotic.