"Big, diverse and largely undiscovered, Ukraine is one of Europe’s last genuine travel frontiers, a poor nation rich in colourful tradition, warm-hearted people and off-the-map experiences."
Despite their often glum reticence and initial distrust of strangers, the Euro 2012 football championships proved what travellers to the country have known for years – that Ukrainians are, when given the chance, one of Europe’s most open and hospitable nations. Break down that reserve and you’ll soon be slurping borshsch in someone’s Soviet-era kitchen, listening to a fellow train passenger’s life story or being taken on an impromptu tour of a town’s sights by the guy you asked for directions. Much social interaction takes place around Ukraine’s hearty food, always brought out in belt-stretching quantities.
Why You Should Love Ukraine
Is it the feeling of being Elsewhere but still in Europe, the bizarre Soviet legacy, the country’s raw history, the unexpected travel experiences, the openness of locals or the stories tall and true of life under post-war communism? Or is it the star-dusted, blacker-than-black nights in Myrhorod, the Nutcracker at the opera house in snow-bound Kyiv, empty churches on rainy autumn Wednesdays in Lviv, or the endless bus journeys across the steppe in the company of Gogol and Kurkov. I suppose it’s all the above and volumes more that have me returning to this magical Slavic hinterland time and time again.
A diverse landscape obviously throws up a whole bunch of outdoorsy activities – from mountain biking and hill walking in the Carpathians to bird spotting in the Danube Delta, from cycling along the Dnipro in Kyiv to water sports on the islands across the river. But if the idea of burning calories on hill and wave has you fleeing for the sofa, rest assured that most Ukrainians have never tried any of the above, but love nothing more than wandering their country’s vast forests, foraging for berries and mushrooms or picnicking by a meandering river.
Ukraine is a rich farming and industrial country in south-eastern Europe. The territory of the country is about 603,700 km2 (233,074 mi2). So Ukraine is the world's 44th-largest country. The Ukrainian landscape consists mostly of fertile plains, or steppes, and plateaus, crossed by rivers such as the Dnieper, Seversky Donets, Dniester and the Southern Buh as they flow south into the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov. To the southwest the delta of the Danube forms the border with Romania. The country's only mountains are the Carpathian Mountains in the west, of which the highest is the Hora Hoverla at 2,061 metres (6,762 ft), and those in the Crimean peninsula, in the extreme south along the coast.
Ukraine has a mostly temperate continental climate, though a more mediterranean climate is found on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is highest in the west and north and lesser in the east and southeast. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Summers are warm across the greater part of the country, but generally hot in the south.
Some claim history ended around 1989, but not in Ukraine. The country is passing through a choppy period in its post-independence story and one which is fascinating to watch (from a safe distance perhaps). History is all around you wherever you go in this vast land, whether it be among the Gothic churches of Lviv, the Stalinist facades of Kyiv, the remnants of the once-animated Jewish culture of West Ukraine or the more recent Soviet high-rises just about anywhere.
Big & Diverse
Ukraine is big. In fact it's Europe’s biggest country (not counting Russia, which isn’t entirely in Europe) and packs a lot of diversity into its borders. You can be clambering around the Carpathians in search of Hutsul festivities, sipping Eastern Europe’s best coffee in sophisticated Lviv and partying on the beach in Odesa all in a few days. Ukrainians are also a diverse crowd; from the wired sophisticates of Kyiv’s business quarters to the Gogolesque farmers in Poltava, from the Zaporizhzhya steelmaker to the Hungarian-speaking bus drivers of Uzhhorod, few countries boast such a mixed population.
Ukraine is a country that is developed in both induxtry and agriculture. It may be said to be an industrial-agricultural country. Speaking about the industry of Ukraine, two branches should be mentioned as primary in importance. The ferrous metallurgy industry, centered in Pridniprovye Region, produces enough iron, cast iron, and steel to satisfy the needs of the whole country, with more left over to export. The Ukrainian machine-engeneering industry manufactures diesel locomotives, railway cars, automobiles, tractors, missiles, sea and river vessels. Ukraine has always been associated with grain production. That and sugar production are the main branches of Ukrainian agriculture.