HBO's recent Chernobyl miniseries reminded the world of the 1986 disaster in the Ukrainian town of Pripyat. If you ask anyone around the world what the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word "Ukraine" they will probably say Chernobyl. They might also say the ongoing war in the eastern part of the country or how attractive the people are. While all of those are true (and the third thing is positive), there is so much more to the Eastern European country than that. It is, after all, the largest all-European country with a population of over 40 million people, so one can be sure that it is rich in culture, history, and nature.
This list will shine a light on 10 awesome things about Ukraine that aren't related to Chernobyl or the current war in the Donbass region, which is also all people hear about in the news these days. To the uninformed, this image of the country might make them apprehensive to visit. Hopefully, this list creates a more positive image and inspires some to take a trip there soon.
10 The Carpathians
The Carpathians are a massive mountain range running through several countries including Romania, Slovakia, Poland, and, of course, Ukraine.
Regardless of which country one visits to see these mountains, they are sure to see stunning vistas. There are numerous walking paths, cabins, and lakes dotting the range, ensuring a comfortable stay.
9 The Black Sea
Ukraine is surrounded by land on three sides, but opens up in the south to the Black Sea. The water is unusually calm for such a large sea, making it perfect for swimming. Many cities are located along the shore, the most famous of which is Odessa, a popular vacation spot for Ukrainians during the summer months.
8 The Cathedrals And Churches
Christianity came to Ukraine sometime during the ninth century. Like all Christian nations, the people got to work building houses of worship for their newly adopted religion. Many of these are still standing, and a couple are creeping up on a thousand years old. Saint Sophia's Cathedral in Kyiv, for example, was completed in the middle of the eleventh century. The Soviet Union's staunch anti-religious stance almost spelled doom for the cathedral, but it was saved, being preserved as a museum. Another must-see religious site is the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, an Orthodox Christian Monastery founded in 1051.
7 The Literature
Ivan Kotliarevsky is credited with publishing the first literary work in the contemporary Ukrainian language, a satirical poem called Eneyida. In the generations since then, numerous authors, poets, and playwrights have made literary contributions going far passed their country's borders.
These writers include Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century poet famous for his work Sleep; Ivan Franko, notable for his play Stolen Happiness; and Lesya Ukrainka, a poet and activist. The Ukrainian language has a history of oppression going further back than the Soviet Union, so these writers are championed in Ukrainian society. The three Aforementioned writers appear on the country's currency and were all arrested in their lifetimes for their writings and political activities.
6 It's Inexpensive
For foreigners, staying in the country and enjoying its restaurants, museums, and nightlife won't break their bank account. Flights from the United States or other parts of Europe are also relatively cheap, considering the distance.
Related: 20 Cheap European Vacations
Additionally, any potential students looking to study abroad probably can't find a better-priced education.
5 The History
While Ukraine has only had independence since 1991, its history stretches way further back. Even before the Kyivan Rus of the ninth century, there was plenty happening in the landmass now known as Ukraine. The Cucuteni-Trypillia are the earliest known inhabitants of the territory, notable for burning their settlements to the ground, only to reconstruct them generations later.
4 The Cuisine
Ukrainian Cuisine is varied and delicious. Notable dishes include Varenyky, Borscht, Salo, and Aspic. Paska is also a sweet bread traditionally eaten around Easter. When in Ukraine there is an opportunity to try foods from other countries, particularly the numerous Georgian restaurants found in cities.
3 The Cinema
Soviet-era cinema is revered by cinephiles everywhere. The likes of Andrei Tarkovsky and Elem Klimov revolutionized world cinema and left an impact that's felt in the work of modern filmmakers. Ukraine's output during this time was also venerated.
Silent film director Alexander Dovzhenko's 1930 film Earth, was derided in the USSR for its potentially subversive messaging but was heralded worldwide as a masterpiece. The 1965 film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors showcases Western Ukraine's Hutsul culture, a group of people rarely represented on film. These are just two examples among many that are still revered several decades after their initial releases.
2 Variety Between Cities
Ukraine is one of the 50 largest countries in the world. It has many cities, towns, and villages all with their unique cultures. Visiting just one doesn't give someone a clear understanding of the country.
Go to the city's capital, Kyiv, to see Soviet era buildings and a population that either speaks Ukrainian or Russian depending on the person. Go to Lviv in the west, and the buildings look more Western European and everybody speaks Ukrainian. These are just two examples of the variety one will find when traveling through Ukraine's varied towns and cities.
1 The Music
The country has a rich musical history, from its folk tunes to classic rock groups like Okean Elzy and Vopli Vidoplyasova. In more recent years, it has become home to some of the wildest, weirdest, most impactful contemporary music in the world. Take, for example, Dakh Daughters. These seven women take the stage in white makeup and long white dresses to perform bizarre, avant-garde theatrical music. Then, there is DakhaBrakha, a group that mixes traditional Ukrainian music with contemporary styles and other world music genres. In the past couple of years, the group TseSho has jumped into the scene, putting on performances that are equal parts party and modern social commentary. The three aforementioned groups were all birthed from Kyiv's Dakh Theater, founded by Vlad Troitsky.