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Ukraine is a country found in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 square kilometres, making it the largest country entirely within continental Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the east, north-east and south, Belarus to the north-west, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west, and Romania and Moldova to the south-west. It is also bordered by the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south and south-east, respectively. 

During the Middle Ages, modern Ukraine was the centre of East Slavic culture, which was epitomized by the powerful state of Kievan Rus. It was then contested and ruled by various powers during the 13th century, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. By the 17th and 18th centuries, a Cossack republic emerged and prospered in the country, but the territories which now constitute Ukraine still remained divided until they were consolidated into a Soviet republic in the 20th century. It became independent in 1991. 

Currently, Ukraine is filled with 45.4 million citizens, with the capital and largest city remaining at Kiev. The country is under a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system with separate powers. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine continues to maintain the second largest military in Europe after Russia's forces. Ukraine also enjoys a good standing when it comes to economics due to its extensive and fertile farmlands. It has long been a global breadbasket for its high production of grains, and is one of the ten most attractive agricultural land acquisition regions. The country also has a well-developed manufacturing sector, particularly in aerospace and industrial equipment.

 

What to see & do

Huge, diverse, colourful and undiscovered, Ukraine is one of Europe's last genuine travel frontiers, a nation that is rich in tradition, warm hearts, and secret experiences which can only be seen by the keen eye. The Bizarre Soviet legacy is still seen here, while the raw history of the country can still be recounted like it just happened. 

Lavra (Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra) the Kyveo-Pecherska Lavra is considered the holiest ground in all three East Slavic

countries, set on 28 hectares of grassy hills above the Dnipro river. The monastery's tight cluster of gold-domed churches is as beautiful as it is holy, and the underground labyrinths lined with mummified monks are exotic and intriguing. Simply put, the Lavra or a lavra is a senior monastery for Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Sheshory Festival – this festival is the most talked about ethnic music festival in the country and has been compared to both burning Man and Woodstock. It is a roving festival, and travellers can partake in the merry-making if they chance upon it during their visit. 

Kamyanets-Podilsky Fortress – built of wood between 10th and 13th centuries then redesigned and rebuilt in stone by Italian military engineers in the 16th century, the K-P Fortress is a complete thing of beauty, one that is iconic enough to land in the front pages of the country's promotional magazine. The Fortress is in the shape of a polygon, with nine towers of all shapes and sizes linked by a sturdy wall. In the middle of it all is a vast courtyard. 

 

How to get around within Ukraine

Travelling around Ukraine is easy since there are a lot of public transport modes in the area. However, foreigners are subject to higher scrutiny by police when travelling in these modes due to security issues. Always be prepared to show passport and entry papers and keep in touch with embassies/consulates from your country of origin. Best to store their phone numbers on your mobile in case you come across a corrupt official. If you are caught outside your base city without your official documents, be prepared to pay a huge lump for fines. With that said, the more popular ways for tourists to go around is through rental cars, but the backpackers will rather go to the hassle of presenting their papers and riding a bus rather than renting a costly car. 

 

How to get there

The Boryspil International Airport is an airport located 29 kilometres from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It is the country's largest airport, serving 65% of the nation's air traffic, including all its intercontinental flights and a majority of international flights. It is one of the two airports serving Kiev along with the smaller Zhulyany Airport. Airlines that travel to the destination include Aeroflot, Air France, Air Arabi, Turkmenistan Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, Ukraine International Airlines, Windrose Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways, and many others. Currently, political turmoil and instability shrouds Ukraine, and many countries have issued travel bans to the country. Do be careful when venturing in to Ukraine. 

Images by Flickr/anaroza3

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