One Country Three Cities: Ukraine

LINKING EASTERN EUROPE WITH THE BLACK SEA, UKRAINE BOASTS FASCINATING MUSEUMS, RICH MARKETS AND ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS. HERE ARE THREE OF ITS BEAUTIFUL CITIES.

GOLDEN-DOMED CAPITAL: KIEV

Its earliest traces of life going back more than 10,000 years, Kiev sits on the banks of the Dnieper River in north central Ukraine. Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, is the city center, and the 1.5-kilometer-long Kreshchatyk Street adjoining it is busy almost every time of day. This thoroughfare lined with the city’s poshest shops, cafes and restaurants is also alive with dance and pantomime performances. Churches with gleaming golden domes stand out on the Kiev skyline. A century-old funicular takes passengers up to the Podilska Hills, which afford one of the finest views of the city. And the Andriyivskyy Descent here is a fun-filled street lined with artists’ studios and souvenir stalls. We should hasten to add that the city’s advanced metro system makes it easy to get around.

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Ice skating is a popular sport in Kiev, and many venues from sports halls to shopping malls have ice skating rinks.

HERO CITY: ODESSA

Pearl of the Black Sea, Odessa is an historic port city. It is also proud of having earned the epithet Hero City in 1945. Its famous steps, featured in the Eisenstein film The Battleship Potemkin, are the first thing that pop to mind at any mention of the city. At the top of the steps, which run all the way down to the harbor, rises a Roman-style monument to the Duc de Richelieu erected in the mid-1800’s. Boasting a milder climate than that of the country in general, Odessa’s beautiful long beaches are popular in summer. The city was entirely rebuilt when it came under Russian rule in the 18th century, and it’s not for nothing that the renowned Russian writer Pushkin felt he “had arrived in Europe” when he came here.  Indeed, with its tree-lined boulevards and classical and Art Nouveau buildings, Odessa is reminiscent of Paris.

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April 1st is an important date in Odessa, because that’s the day the city goes wild with concerts and other shows in the Humorina festival.

LION OF THE UKRAINE: LVIV

Did you know that the Old Town at Lviv in the far west of the country is on Unesco’s World Heritage List? Celebrating its 755th year, Lviv means lion in the Ukrainian language. One of Eastern Europe’s leading cities for education, Lviv is suitable for sightseeing all year round with its unique architecture and some fifty museums. The heart of the city is Rynok (Market) Square in the Old Town, where the magnificent 65-meter clock tower also stands. The environs of the square are a virtual open-air museum, boasting mansions, palaces and historic churches in an architectural diversity ranging from the Baroque to the Renaissance. Lviv Historical Museum in two historic buildings is also within walking distance. There are numerous cafes in the vicinity, all brimming with young people. If you like you can even take a spin by phaeton down the broad avenues left from the Habsburg dynastry.

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The honey obtained from the myriad flowers that grow in the Carpathian Mountains is an elixir of health, and you can find it at the city’s Krakivsky Market.