Last weekend we got back from Ukraine. It was our fourth trip to this eastern European gem in three years and this time we spent six weeks travelling to 18 towns and cities (15 that were new to us).
At a very rough estimate, we covered 3272 kilometres by train, bus, and marshutka and according to my iPhone, spent 565 kilometres pounding the pavements.
I should be writing up an encyclopedic number of articles about travelling in Ukraine but as I procrastinate over which scrappily written note I should turn into a blog post first, I’ve come up with something far more trivial.
To help with my decision-making, if there is anything here you’d like to read more about or any other topic related to Ukraine, either leave a comment at the end or drop us a note.
A is for… Andriyivsky Uzviz
Translated as ‘Andrew’s Ascent’, this is said to be the oldest street in Kiev and it connects the Upper Town with Podil, the Old Town. It’s not my favourite part of the city but most visitors will find themselves there at some point if only to gaze upon the incredibly beautiful St. Andrew’s Church.
B is for… Brutalism
For fans of concrete structures, Soviet-era architecture and all buildings #uglypretty, Ukraine is the place for you. Ukraine also does Stalinism, postmodernism, totalitarianism, and constructivist quite well too, but its brutalist buildings are a good place to start…
C is for… Circuses
Circuses were an important form of entertainment in the former USSR with performers trained at the prestigious Moscow State Circus. Whilst we do not condone what circuses stand for, we do seek out circus buildings in ex-Soviet states. Often, they look like a traditional big top tent, but in glorious concrete!
D is for… Dnipro
Ukraine’s third largest city was previously called Dnipropetrovsk or Dnepropetrovsk but helpfully shortened its name in May 2016. Easier to pronounce, but only if you are in the know – the D is silent. Dnipro was a closed city until the 1990s as it was an important space and ballistic missile design centre.
E is for… Exclusion Zone
The Chernobyl catastrophe created an exclusion zone covering 2,600 km2 (1,000 sq miles). Thirty years later, life is starting to return but public access is still restricted. Visiting the site of the reactor and the abandoned town of Pripyat is now a popular excursion from Kiev.
F is for… Five Fun Facts
Five facts you may or may not already know about Ukraine:
- Chicken Kiev doesn’t come from Kiev. It’s origin is unknown but some sources claim the name was invented by early New York restaurants eager to attract Russian immigrants and others say its creators were French chefs in Moscow, eager to impress the aristocracy.
- Ukraine shares land borders with 7 countries, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova.
- Ukraine is the largest country in Europe (Russia is also a contender but arguably its borders are not all within Europe).
- Ukraine likes a drink – the nation ranks 6th in the world for alcohol consumption (Belarus drinks the most and several other neighbouring countries are also ahead of them: Moldova, Lithuania, Russia and Romania).
- Lviv is home to the highest number of cafes per capita in the world.
Next will be…