Those hoping to explore Eastern Europe will find no better starting place than the Ukraine. The unique history of this often overlooked country is fascinating and respect for local heritage is evident in every location. Beautiful forests and breathtaking mountains provide a stunning backdrop to a country which has managed to hold on to its traditions and identity in the face of historical turmoil. Ukraine achieved independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and therefore the present time is an extremely interesting period to visit. Holidaymakers can watch history being made, as well as observe that which has occurred before, as the Ukraine gradually builds its own identity distinct from those states surrounding it.
Ukrainian is the official national language, although many areas still favour Russian. It is important to research the individual location as some districts prefer Russian, whereas those inhabiting other areas will prove reluctant to assist those who do not speak Ukrainian. Confusing for all who visit but simultaneously fascinating, central parts of the country often speak a Russian-Ukrainian hybrid called Surzhyk. Unluckily, very few people have a comprehensive grasp of English so all holidaymakers should ensure that they have a basic understanding of either Russian or Ukrainian.
In 1996 the national currency of the Ukraine became the Hryvnia. One Hryvnia is equal to approximately 11 pence, 20 cents or 0.15 Euro.
Moderately cold in the winter, Ukraine is a slightly warmer alternative to Russia. Regular snowfalls combined with occasional frosts determine the country’s place as a winter wonderland rather than a test of endurance. Summer is relatively hot and largely dry, although thunderstorms may disrupt the peace once in a while. The favourable conditions determine Ukraine’s place as a prospering agricultural country.
The Ukrainian landscape is stunning and all who visit are sure to desire to explore it further. Several national parks pay homage to the nation’s countryside and wildlife by protecting large amounts of land. The Shats’kyi National Park contains 23 lakes which are surrounded by striking pine forests. Yovorivskyi National Park’s dense woodland boasts secret treasures; churches, monasteries and other important historical remnants can all be explored. The Karadag Reserve’s unique rock structure was derived from volcanoes and within the area precious jewels such as amethyst, opal and crystal can all be found.
The country’s unique heritage determines the abundance of historical attractions and fascinating sights. Kyiv contains the Kyiv Pecherska Lavra Monastery which boasts a mixed array of architecture dating back to 1051. There are also charming museums dedicated to Jewellery and Miniatures within this location. The oldest church in the Ukraine is located within Kyiv; St. Sophia Cathedral is a stunning place of worship which has welcomed churchgoers since 1037. Also worth seeing within this city are the Mariyinsky Palace and the Kyiv Mohyla Academy.
Many respected and influential Ukrainians are buried at the Lychakivskiy Cemetery in Lyiv. A stroll around this interesting site grants the visitor a unique insight into Ukrainian heritage. Odessa is home to a massive site of catacombs; all will swiftly realise that the Ukraine is deeply respectful of its past and the role it plays in the present and future.
The enormous shopping centres in Ukraine will astound even the most experienced shopper. One of the most impressive is The Alta Centre, where a massive selection of stores provides everything the shopaholic could desire. As well as catering for those addicted to designer labels, shops also stock a wide variety of local, handmade produce. Perhaps the best and most popular purchase is artwork, although many enjoy selecting a piece from the wide variety of jewellery on offer. Local markets are fascinating, boasting a vast selection of traditional gifts and ingredients. Holidaymakers should ensure that they carry cash on them, as the use of credit cards is not widespread.
Those who prefer action packed nights instead of days should choose their destination carefully. Smaller districts are unlikely to provide a selection of options for the evening, whereas larger cities are more likely to contain multiple nightspots. Ukrainian nightlife is a unique chance to experience an utterly different form of entertainment; visitors will enjoy sampling the variety of establishments available. Perhaps the best location is the city of Kiev, which has an ample selection of bars, nightclubs and discos.
Although it is perfectly possible to explore the Ukraine by car, visitors need to be aware that rules and regulations differ greatly to those enforced in the UK. All signs are written in Ukrainain and all navigators should possess a map in order to aid their journey. It is important that drivers respect speed limits and instructions as traffic laws are strongly enforced; the speed limit in cities is 40mph, whereas highways permit speeds up to 75mph. The condition of the roads is variable, and some should be avoided or approached with care.
Food and Drink
All who visit will enjoy experiencing an entirely different form of cuisine. Home cooked, traditional meals are delicious and filling, favouring ingredients such as berries, meat, herbs and pickled vegetables. Bread is a constant favourite and is made using a multitude of methods; particularly good varieties are babka, an Easter bread containing dried fruits, and Korovai, a braided bread which is often served at celebrations. Favourite dishes include borshch, a beetroot soup, studynets, jellied meat or fish and tort, a cake made from almonds instead of flour.
The selection of drinks on offer is extensive. Many locals enjoy vodka, which comes in a variety of different flavours, for example horilka (vodka with pepper). Beer is particularly refreshing and those searching for a non-alcoholic drink will enjoy kvas which is made from rye or wheat. Vodka and brandy should never be bought outside of supermarkets as methyl poisoning is common.
Tourist InformationFor more information visit: www.ukraine.com
All car hire locations in Ukraine
- Boryspil International Airport
- Dnipropetrovsk International Airport
- Donetsk International Airport
- Ivano-Frankivsk International Airport
- Kharkiv International Airport
- Kiev Zhuliany International Airport
- Kryvyi Rih International Airport
- Kryvyy Rih
- Luhansk International Airport
- Lviv International Airport
- Mykolaiv International Airport
- Odessa International Airport
- Simferopol International Airport
- Uzhhorod International Airport
- Zaporizhzhia International Airport