Ukraine

When the Ukraine threw its hat into the ring to join the gang to form the Soviet Union in 1922, little did it or the others realize that they were in for nearly 70 years of darkness. Upon dissolution of the USSR in 1991, however, the doors opened and in with the light of the rest of the world came, well, the rest of the world. Tourism quickly became a very important part of the new Ukrainian market economy, which struggled a bit to get out of the gate but eventually held its own before tanking again during the global crisis of 2008. Sadly for the country – but not so for its visitors – this means that the Ukraine has become one of the most affordable stops in Europe and has few visa restrictions for most international passport holders. This affordable jaunt doesn’t come at the expense of quality things to see and do, however. The Ukraine consistently ranks in the top ten most popular places on the continent to visit for many reasons, not the least of which are its natural locales to suit the dreams of any outdoorsperson, its ancient castles, its architectural delights, its coasts along the Black Sea and its famous cities, including Kiev and Odessa, each with both historic and present day wonders to share. A trip to the Ukraine is sure to give visitors insights into its uniquely Ukrainian past as well as that which it shares with the rest of its former Soviet cohorts, and is sure to leave them wanting more. ~ WBB Staff Writer


A Tale of Two Fortresses

Present day Ukraine is located on some of the most sought after and fought over territory in the world, its fertile lands making it perfect for surviving and thriving and its location making it a coveted and strategic point bridging continents. The country has been invaded at different periods by the Mongols from the east, the Ottomans and Tatars from the south, the Russians and Lithuanians from the north and the Poles and Austria-Hungarians from the west. Whole or parts of Ukrainian territory have also passed through the hands of Moldavians, Romanians, Germans, Bessarabians and the Soviets. Today’s invaders are more of the touristy type, with visitors coming to see – among other things – the wide variety of different fortresses and castles left behind by history itself. From the Genoese Fortress in Sudak, Crimea to the Palanok Castle in Mukacheve near where Ukraine meets Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, these fortresses and castles are as diverse as the nations that created – and conquered – them.

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 Full name: Ukraine

 Population: 44.85 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Kiev

 Largest city: Kiev

 Area: 603,550 sq.km. (233,032 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Other

 Major religions: Ukranian Orthodox, Other  Christian, Other

 Monetary unit: Hryvnia

 GDP per capita: US $7,200

 Internet domain: .ua

 International dialling code: +380

 Source: CIA World Factbook