AS humankind is gradually adjusting to the new normal, the tourism industry around the world is struggling to reinvent itself by creating new products and solutions that will provide a sense of safety and comfort for travellers eager to explore new horizons.
Ukraine, often referred to as an ‘underdiscovered gem’ of Europe, is trying to seize the opportunities created by the global disruption, and to position itself into a new post-pandemic tourism destination. With the current, comparatively low number of Covid-19 infections, Ukraine was one of the first countries to open its doors to international travellers.
Here is a brief ‘Guide to Ukraine’ from His Excellency Olexander Nechytaylo, Ambassador of Ukraine to Malaysia.
Things to do
There are plenty of thrilling attractions in Ukraine, intended for all ages and interests. While visiting Kyiv, it is worth exploring the city on the metro (subway). Ukraine’s capital has the deepest metro station in Europe, which is called Arsenalna. Another Kyiv metro station – Zoloti Vorota (the Golden Gate) is in the top 10 of the most beautiful subway stations in Europe.
For sports fans, a ‘Visit to the Klitschko Brothers’ is definitely recommended. It is a unique tour, which includes not only a visit to the Klitschko Brothers Museum but also provides an opportunity to attend the training of the new-generation Ukrainian boxing champions, held by one of the Klitschko brothers.
For those preferring an extreme tourism experience, a visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a must-see. Just imagine: one gets to see a place struck by the nuclear disaster more than 30 years ago.
Walking amidst the ruins of the abandoned city is a real haunting experience. Because of the limited human presence in the Exclusion Zone, it has resulted in a unique ecosystem with flourishing wildlife.
Some species of animals and birds considered to be extinct for decades are now multiplying and populating the vast forest reserve. Nature lovers will not be disappointed with this disquieting visit.
In Lviv, one can take a gastronomic tour around the city centre and explore the most exclusive and authentic restaurants.
Another interesting excursion would be a Jeep Safari around the Carpathian Mountains in the Western Ukraine. Mount Hoverla is the highest point of the Carpathians, at its height of 2,061 metres. The mountains are full of centuries-old legends and myths, offering thousands of places of interest.
The legend of the Dovbush Rocks is probably one of the most known. It tells a story of a Ukrainian Robin Hood – a young man by the name of Oleksa Dovbush, who rebelled against the authorities and always helped those less fortunate by distributing gold and money, accumulated through robbing the rich.
According to the legend, he was betrayed and apprehended in the deep forest during a secret date with a love of his life. He was subsequently executed, but never revealed where he had hid the rest of the gold, jewels and silver. It may still be somewhere out there, and many treasure hunters keep trying to find it.
One may also find interest in an exclusive tour of the amber mines in Rivne. Not many people know that Ukraine is the second country in the world with the largest amber deposits. Some of the locally-made amber handicrafts are real masterpieces.
Down in Odesa, one should not miss the opportunity to immerse in the nightlife in the Arcadia beach area.
Ukraine has a great variety of restaurants specialising not only in traditional cuisine but also in international cuisine such as Mediterranean, Georgian, all sorts of European, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish and Middle Eastern, with many restaurants now being Halal certified. However, visitors are highly recommended to explore Ukrainian gastronomy, rich in taste and often made with local organic ingredients.
Almost every Ukrainian city boasts its signature dishes and carefully kept recipes. The most well-known internationally are borsch (beetroot soup), varenyky (dumplings with various fillings) and Chicken Kyiv. One may find them on menus at fine dining establishments, as well as traditional restaurants.
There is a city in the Western Ukraine called Chernivtsi, which is clearly a 'must visit’, often compared to Paris and Vienna. The most popular spot there is the University building, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
One of my favourite places is the Tunnel of Love near the small town of Klevan’. It is a natural rather than a man-made miracle that can create amazing memories not only for couples, but also for single travellers, enchanting everyone with the visual beauty of nature.
In Kyiv, my own home town, there is an observation deck on top of the Soviet architecture Motherland Statue at the World War II history museum. The height of the sculpture is 102 metres, making it 9 metres higher than the Statue of Liberty (93 metres). It is a perfect place for a selfie, or a panoramic picture with a breath-taking view of Kyiv in the background.
What to bring back
Apart from good memories, the best souvenir will certainly be a vyshyvanka – an embroidered shirt or dress that has always been a symbol of national pride and an authentic feature of my country.
Simple versions of vyshyvankas may be purchased at any souvenir shop all across Ukraine, but the best ones would be from the haute-couture Ukrainian designers – Oxana Polonets, Olesya Telizhenko, Vita Kin.
My wife and I have brought along a nice collection of vyshyvankas and often use them for various occasions here in Malaysia. – The Vibes, August 21, 2021
More information about Ukraine can be found at: www.ukraine.ua. His Excellency Olexander Nechytaylo is the Ambassador of Ukraine to Malaysia