Ukraine – Land Labored, Land Loved, Land Lost
Ukraine, once a land of many masters – the Ottoman Empire, the Cossacks, the Austro-Hungarian monarchs, the Polish after the fall of the Tsar, the Germans and the Soviets during World War II – has always held fast to its heritage and the land people call Ukraina – borderland. Situated in Central Europe between Russia, Poland, and Romania – amongst others – Ukraine’s dynamic history, warm and friendly people, and diverse and rich culture is a country worth visiting.
Natural wonders like the mountainous Carpathian and Crimean regions in the southwest offer exhilarating skiing opportunities in the winter. The coastal areas of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, bursting with activity during the mild summer months, are a wonder to behold. In other parts of the country, beech trees cling together in dense forests and linden, oak, and pine branches knot like a spider’s web above the swamps and meadows. Interconnecting these forests and the steppe region, the Dneiper River, the largest river in Ukraine and the third largest river in the world, flows south through Kiev to the sea. Like the land, the Dneiper River, “the holy river”, binds Ukrainians to their history.
With its classical Byzantine architecture, golden domes of orthodox churches and monasteries, and nineteenth century museums, Ukraine can leave you feeling as if you have stepped into a distant time with wandering minstrels carrying banduras and ox-drawn carts stumbling across muddy roads. Yet, fifteen years after this country’s people became architects of their own fate in August 1991, the contemporary tourism industry in Ukraine is exploding onto the international cultural scene.
Leisurely cafes selling poppy seed and honey cakes, outdoor food markets with vendors eager to offer you a slice of cheese or a freshly picked apple, dozens of book stalls, Western style nightclubs, and art galleries dominate the Ukrainian street life of today. Integrating the antiquated with the modern has put a fresh new face on an ancient country.
If museums are your passion, the National Art Museum of Ukraine traces the country’s history through the eyes of artists dating back to medieval times with its collection of carved and painted icons, portraits of prominent Cossack leaders, drawings, sculptures, and Baroque art. A unique anthology of Scythian pieces may be found at the Museum of Historical Jewelry. Folk art and traditions, a cornerstone of the Ukrainian Diaspora, come together at the Museum of Ukrainian Folk Art and if your interests wander into the truly eclectic, why not visit the Museum of Books and Printing and the Museum of Miniatures.
With the advent of Ukrainian independence, Ukraine is definitely a country to have on your travel To Do list. As you make your way around Ukraine, you can be sure that you will find many small tidbits of fascinating information as you explore cities like Kiev, L’vov, Yalta, and Odessa. Why not let history be your tour guide? This passionate country is waiting to welcome you!