Ukraine draws visitors to Eastern Europe with its rich history, interesting architecture, and hearty food. Bordered by Russia, Belarus, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania; there is a variety of culture, traditions, and customs in this country that make it of interest to travelers. As it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, independent Ukraine is still a relatively young country, but its history extends back hundreds of years do the days of the Kievan Rus'. While creativity was stifled during the period of the Soviet Union, this is no longer the case today. Present day Ukraine travel can be filled with opera, theater, culture, and exposure to Ukrainian writers and artists.
A vacation to Ukraine will most likely begin in the capital city of Kiev. Founded 1,500 years ago, Kiev is known for its architectural beauty, a rich cultural life, and for being the home of the Orange Revolution in 2004-05. The strong presence of Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Ukraine can be seen in the architecture of the capital’s famous monuments. Churches and cathedrals with beautiful golden domes are many centuries old, and ornate palaces remind visitors of the country’s former affiliation with the Soviet state.
Tours in Ukraine typically visit all the main attractions of Kiev, including Independence Square, where students began a hunger strike in 1989 that led to the dissolution of the Communist Party in Ukraine. Today, Ukraine is home to a market economy and as a republic has separate executive, judicial, and legislative branches. During a vacation to Ukraine, you will hear not only the national language of Ukrainian, but Russian as well. More than 75 percent of the 46 million people in the country are ethnic Ukrainians, while minorities of substantial numbers include Russians, Belarusians, and Romanians. The presence of the Russian language is a reminder that the Soviet era isn’t so far in the past for Ukraine.
Ukraine travel is also sure to include a sampling of the local cuisine. Traditional dishes include boiled dumplings with mushrooms, potatoes, and sauerkraut, soups of beets and carrots, and stuffed cabbage rolls filled with rice and meat. Internationally popular dishes such as chicken Kiev will also be present on menus. A vacation to Ukraine, and especially your meals, will be a festive occasion. This is especially true in the city of Odessa, as local people are known for being friendly and especially willing to share their culture and customs with visitors. The country also experienced a significant downturn in 2008 with the worldwide recession, and therefore has recently been even more willing to welcome tourists to its historic streets, markets, restaurants, and attractions.
Ukraine travel will have its serious moments as well, as the varied history is at the center of many tours, museums, and attractions. Kiev had a golden age in the tenth and eleventh centuries, after which the country suffered periodically from foreign domination through to the present era. Unsuccessful attempts were made to break free from the Russian Empire following World War I and the Russian Civil War, but traditions from before this time period still have survived until today, notably including the Ukrainian custom of artistic creativity. Historically, this was seen on painted eggs, where a combination of wax and bright colors results in intricate patterns. This handicraft will still be seen in the country today. During your trip to Ukraine, you will experience living traditions and customs of this ancient culture, and the fascinating attractions and beautiful hotels are sure to help create the perfect trip.
Top image: Alexxx1979 (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0