Ukraine

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Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It lies at the northwest end of the Black Sea, with Russia to the east, Belarus to the north, Poland to the northwest, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, and Romania to the south west and south, with Moldova in between. Most of the country (the central and eastern portions) was formerly a part of Russian Empire; after the October Revolution and the Civil War, the entire country, known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, was a part of the Soviet Union. Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe, albeit with a slightly declining population. (less...) (more...)

Population: 44,573,205 people
Area: 603,550 km2
Highest point: 2,061 m
Coastline: 2,782 km
Life expectancy: 68.93 years
GDP per capita: $7,500
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About Ukraine

History

Ukrainian history is long and proud, with the inception of Kyivan Rus as the most powerful state in Medieval Europe. While this state fell prey to Mongol conquest, the western part of Ukraine became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the 14th until the 18th century, even modern Ukraine owes it a debt of sorts. A subsequent Ukrainian state was able, in the face of pressure from the ascendant Muscovy, to remain autonomous for more than a century, but the Russian Empire absorbed much of Ukraine in the 18th century to the detriment of their culture and identity.

Despite a brief, but uncertain, flash of independence at the end of the czarist regime, Ukraine was incorporated into the new USSR after the Russian Civil War in 1922 and subject to two disastrous famines (1932-33 and 1946) as well as brutal fighting during World War II. As a Soviet republic, the Ukrainian language was often 'sidelined' when compared to Russian to varying degrees; Stalinist repressions during the 1930s, attempts at decentralisation during the Khrushchev administration and the retightening of control during the Brezhnev-Kosygin era of the 1970s and early 1980s. In any case, the traditionally bilingual province had signs in both Russian and Ukrainian in virtually all cities, including Lviv, where Ukrainian is most prevalent. The 1986 Chernobyl accident was a further catastrophe to the republic but also widely considered as an event which, in the long run, galvanized the population in regional sentiment and led to increasing pressure on the central government to promote autonomy.

Ukraine declared its sovereignty within the Soviet Union in July 1990 as a prelude to unfolding events in the year to come. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's Parliament) again declared its independence in early December 1991 following the results of referendum in November 1991 which indicated overwhelming popular support (90% in favour of independence). This declaration became a concrete reality as the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist on December 25, 1991. Initially, there were severe economic difficulties, hyperinflation, and oligarchal rule prevailed in the early years following independence. The issues of cronyism, corruption and alleged voting irregularities came to a head during the heavily-disputed 2004 Presidential election, where allegations of vote-rigging sparked what became known as the "Orange Revolution". This revolution resulted in the subsequent election of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko as President. During ongoing five years the "Orange coalition" broke up and Viktor Yushchenko lost support of majority of Ukranians. Ironically, his former adversary Viktor Yanukovich was elected the President.


Activities

Hike in Carpathian Mountains around Rakhiv.

Conquer 2,061 meters Hoverla, part of the Chornohora mountain range.

Kayak down Dniester and admire Kamianets-Podilskyi and Khotyn castles.

Chill out on Crimea beaches in summer.

  • Visit one of the forty National Parks (total area more than ten thousand km²).

Food

Ukrainian cuisine is quite tasty, but just as other cuisines in the region uses a lot of fat ingredients, especially in the festive dishes. Traditional local food includes "salo" (salted lard) and soups like "solianka" (солянка in Ukrainian, meat soup) or "borshch" (борщ in Ukrainian) a soup made of red beets. Western Ukraine also has a green version of borshch, with greens and boiled eggs. The first, salo, is perhaps something you might not make yourself try - however is a delicious side dish, as for the soups being a must-have dish.

If you are outside a big city or in doubt about food, exercise caution and common sense about where you buy food. Try to buy groceries only in supermarkets or large grocery stores, always check the expiration date, and never buy meat or dairy products on the street (you can buy them at the market but not near the market).

In most towns in Ukraine there are some very good restaurants. Read the menu boards posted by the entrance of every establishment to help you to choose.

You may also find nice places to eat not by signs, but just by the smoke of traditional wood fires. These are often places where they serve traditional Ukrainian food, including very tasty shashlyky (шашлики in Ukrainian). Restaurateurs are very friendly, and, more often than not, you will be one of their first foreign visitors. Next to the "borshch", you might also ask for "varenyky" (вареники in Ukrainian, dumplings filled with meat, vegetables or fruits) or "deruny" (деруни, potato pancakes). You have to try varenyky with potatoes and cottage cheese in a sautéed onion and sour cream sauce, a fantastic dish. These are just starters, but ones that might fill you up quickly.

You can also use some internet services, which will help you to find any restaurant you want. They usually have a lot of options and English translation making your search easier. These services are free and provide information about major cities. If there is no possibility of internet connection you can ask people about restaurants, but remember that knowledge of English among Ukrainians is low and you can also meet unfriendly people. But in most cases English or other foreign language makes people more amiable.

Drinks

The Ukrainian specialty is horilka (the local name for vodka) with pepper. Other kinds of vodka are also quite popular - linden (tilia), honey, birch, wheat. Prices range from $2 to $30 (1€-20€) for 1L. Souvenir bottles are available for higher prices (some bottles reach upwards of $50 (35€)/0.5L). There is a great choice of wine, both domestic and imported. The domestic wines mostly originate in the south, in the Crimean region - known for wine making dating back to early Greek settlement over 2,000 years ago, although wines from the Carpathian region of Uzhorod are also quite tasty. Ukraine is also famous for it's red sparkling wines. Prices for local wine range between $2 to $50 (2€-35€) per bottle of 0.75L (avoid the cheapest wines, $1 or less, as these are sometimes bottled as house wines but sold as local vintages), however, one can find genuine Italian, French, Australian wines from $50 per bottle and more in big supermarkets and most restaurants. The price of imported wines dropped significantly over the last number of years and trends indicate further reductions in price.

There are a lot of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Ukrainian beer is of very good quality. Beer from barrels or kegs (more common in cafes) is often watered down. Canned beer is not very common in Ukraine and sometimes not of the same quality as the same variety sold in bottles. The best beers are brewed by Lvivske, Obolon and PPB (Persha Privatna Brovarnia). Imported beers are also widely available but more expensive – for instance, a bottle of Austrian Edelweiss can cost upwards of $2 US while average price of Ukrainian beer is $0.50 US. All told, Ukrainian beers are very tasty and gaining popularity elsewhere in Europe.

Of non-alcoholic beverages, one should try kvas – a typically Slavic drink made of rye or wheat. During the summer one can easily buy it from designated street vendors. There are a lot of yellow barrels with kvas around the city in summer. It’s better to buy it in bottles due of unknown cleanness of the barrel. Milk drinks, of all sorts, are also available, although mostly in supermarkets. Bottles of mineral water are available everywhere, as well as lemonades, beer, and strong drinks. When seeking to buy bottled water make sure to ask for "voda bez hazu" (water without gas) otherwise you are likely to be handed the carbonated drink.

Never buy vodka or konjak (the local name for brandy) except from supermarkets or liquor stores as there are many fakes. Every year a few die or go blind as a result of poisoning from methyl alcohol, a compound used to make fake vodkas.

In Ukraine it's possible to buy alcohol produced in other former Soviet republics. The Moldavian and Armenian cognacs are quite good and not expensive. Georgian wines are quite unusual and fragrant, if overly sweet.

You may be concerned about offending Ukrainians by not drinking alcohol. Unlike the USA, it is not expected that everyone drinks. (In USA, you might expect someone to ask you why you don't drink, for example.) In USA culture, there is a cultural lean to not refuse hospitality. The common attitude is, "If you do not want, you do not want."

Shopping

The unit of currency is the hryvnia (UAH). It is spelt гривня and pronounced hryvnia in Ukrainian and grivna in Russian. Just to make it a little more confusing, Russian speakers in the east often refer to it as ruble.

Rates are about 10 UAH to the Euro and 8 UAH to the US Dollar (May 2013). For National Bank actual rates here:[6]

Money

Every reasonably sized town will have exchanges booths and banks that will convert euro, USD or Russian rubles to UAH, just look for signs with exchange rates. British pounds are also often exchangeable, though at poor rates. In tourist areas, a much wider range of currencies can be changed. Shop around as offered rates often vary.

Booths and banks will generally not try to scam you, but count your notes to be sure. At many places bank clerks would refuse money with even minor damages or grease spots. A tear in the paper longer then five millimetres can be too much.

ATMs

ATMs (банкомат, bankomat) are common throughout the country and generally work with international cards. They nearly always dispense UAH, though you may find some give USD. They mostly do not charge fees to foreign cards. (unless you are withdrawing dollars).

Debit cards such as maestro do work in ATMs. Cirrus/Maestro/Plus bank cards could be most effective way to get cash in Ukraine. Not all ATMs indicate that they support the Plus system, but in most cases they do support it if they support Visa. PrivatBank ATMs indicate that they support Plus, but they do not work with North American cards.

Banks

Changing money in banks is time consuming—there is a lot of paperwork involved. Bank staff may be unwilling to go through all the procedures just to change your $100 bill and may try to fob you off with an excuse: "sorry, we don't have the money" is common. If you absolutely must change money there, you might be able to persuade them to change their minds; but if you can go somewhere else, you'll probably save time. At a bank, you will also need to show your passport. Banks may also only let you buy UAH; they may prevent you from buying "hard" currency.

Even at larger branches, you cannot expect English-speaking staff. Doing anything other than currency exchange may require a translator or at least a lot of patience.

It is possible to get dollars from most banks using a cash advance from a Visa or MasterCard. There is a small service charge (3%) to do this in addition to whatever your bank charges.

Exchange booths

Exchange booths, while looking rather unsavoury, are generally the best places to change money. Their rates tend to be better than the banks' (but not always) and you will not need your passport. Service is quick and there's often no paperwork or receipts.

Shopping

By law, all transactions are required to be in hyrvnia, although less formal transactions may be in euros or US dollars.

If you want to buy any kind of artwork (paintings, Easter eggs) in Kiev, the place to visit is Andriivskij Uzviz (Андріївський узвіз in Ukrainian, Андреевский спуск in Russian).

It is illegal to take out of the country any items of historical importance. These includes badges, medals, icons, historical paintings, etc. While you are unlikely to face a bag search, don't wear any old badges or display anything that may arouse suspicion.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Ukraine on Wikivoyage.

Popular cities in Ukraine

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Kiev is the capital and largest city of Ukraine with 3-4 million inhabitants. It is in the north of central Ukraine on the Dnieper River (Ukrainian: Днiпро, Russian: Днепр).

Interesting places:

  • St. Michael\'s Golden-Domed Monastery
  • National Philharmonic
  • Besarabsky Market
  • Center of all Pointers of Ukraine
  • Independence Square
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Odessa is a city in Ukraine, a country in Eastern Europe.

Interesting places:

  • Ekaterininskaya Square
  • Potemkin Stairs
  • Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater
  • Lanzheron Beach
  • Tsentralnyi-Chornomorets Stadium
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Lviv is in Western Ukraine and used to be the capital of East Galicia. It's the biggest city of the region and a major Ukrainian cultural centre on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Interesting places:

  • Taras Shevchenko Monument
  • Armenian Cathedral
  • Latin Cathedral
  • Market Square
  • Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet
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Donetsk is a city in Eastern Ukraine, on the banks of River Kalmius.

Interesting places:

  • Donbas Arena
  • Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral
  • Donetsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
  • Forged Figures Park
  • John Hughes Statue
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Yalta is a resort town on the Crimea peninsula in Ukraine.

Interesting places:

  • Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
  • Yalta Cable Car
  • Swallow\'s Nest
  • Yalta Lighthouse
  • Nikita Botanical Garden
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Truskavets is in Western Ukraine. It is the original and most attractive balneological resort of Ukraine. The resort is located in a picturesque valley at the foothills of the Eastern Carpathians at the height of 350 м above sea level at a distance of 100 kms from Lviv. The city of Truskavets is a cozy and ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Tsentral\'nyi Adamivka Park
  • Mychaylo Bilas Museum
  • Diocesan Museum
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Kharkiv is a major city in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine and is the second largest city in Ukraine with a population of over 1.5 million inhabitants. The city is located in the northeast of the Ukraine. The site of the city is a hilly plain — more than half of the total area of the city is situated about ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Kharkov Historical Museum
  • Kharkiv National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet
  • Victory Square
  • Monument to T.S. Shevchenko
  • Metalist Stadium
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Sevastopol , also known as Sebastopol, is in the Crimea, in Ukraine.

Interesting places:

  • Monument to the Scuttled Ships
  • Chersonesos
  • St. Vladimir\'s Cathedral
  • Fort Paul
  • Panorama Museum
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Kiev is the capital and largest city of Ukraine with 3-4 million inhabitants. It is in the north of central Ukraine on the Dnieper River (Ukrainian: Днiпро, Russian: Днепр).

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Uzhhorod is a city in Western Ukraine, the administrative center of Zakarpatska Oblast (Transcarpthian Region). Its population is 120,000 people.

Interesting places:

  • Greek Catholic Cathedral
  • Transcarpathian Museum
  • Uzhhorod Amphitheatre
  • Bozdos\'kyi Park
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States in Ukraine

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Points of Interest in Ukraine

Ukraine is a country worth seeing and visiting over and over.

See UNESCO listed Lviv centre, Residence of Bukovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans in Chernivtsi, Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Pechersk Lavra in Kiev.

St. Michael\'s Golden-Domed Monastery - Kiev

Taras Shevchenko Monument - Lviv

Kharkov Historical Museum - Kharkiv

Ekaterininskaya Square - Odessa

Monument to the Scuttled Ships - Sevastopol

Donbas Arena - Donetsk

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - Yalta

Holy Trinity Church - Kamenets-Podol'skiy

Greek Catholic Cathedral - Uzhhorod

Globy Park - Dnepropetrovsk

Monument of Fame - Poltava

Avanhard Stadium - Rivne

Defenders of Crimea Monument - Koktebel

Bukovel Ski Area - Bukovel

Armenian Cathedral - Lviv

Market Square - Lviv

Latin Cathedral - Lviv

National Philharmonic - Kiev

Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet - Lviv

Besarabsky Market - Kiev

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