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Holiday Guides for Eastern Europe - Ukraine

Ukraine Holiday

Don't let Ukraine's dismal performance in the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, hosted in the country's capital, put you off a visit to this east European nation.

Although there are many good reasons to visit Ukraine, it seems that musical prowess may not be one of them. The state song's declaration that "Ukraine's glory and freedom have not yet died" isn't exactly catchy.

Ukraine has a population of 48,000,000 people and covers almost 235,000 square miles. It is bordered by a number of countries including Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland to the west, Belarus to the north and the vast country of Russia to the east.

However, the country is not landlocked as the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov run along the south coast.

The capital of Kiev is a bustling city holding 2.6 million people and is steeped in history - it is 15 centuries old after all.

A highlight of any trip to the Ukrainian capital is a stroll around the old town, located in the north-eastern section of the city, and host to a number of impressive landmarks.

Among these landmarks is the highly recommended 11th century Sophia Cathedral, which despite its confiscation by the Soviets in 1934, has now been reclaimed by the city and contains wonderful mosaics and frescoes.

Also located in Kiev is the impressive Caves Monastery, which span across 28 hectares of wooded slopes. Sights to take in here include the 12th century Trinity Gate Church, the monastery's gold striped dome and the Nearer Caves that house a number of coffins containing mummified monks' bodies.

Film buffs may know the southern coastal town of Odessa for its starring role in the classic black and white film The Battleship Potemkin made in 1925 and directed by Sergei Eisentein.

The film refers to the events of the 1905 revolution when the mutinous battleship Potemkin Tavrichesky supported the rebellious workers of the Black Sea industrial shipping centre of Odessa.

A visit to Odessa in the present day will differ greatly to a trip there in 1905; travellers are greeted with an excellent collection of museums, a renowned 19th century Opera and Ballet Theatre and picturesque tree-lined streets.

For those who are wishing to experience some rugged Ukrainian countryside, a trip to the Carpathian National Natural Park is a must.

Situated close to the Romanian border, it is the country's largest park and also contains the nation's highest peak, Mount Hoverla - standing at 2061 metres. Local wildlife includes wolves, lynx, bison and brown bears whilst in the summer visitors can enjoy some great hiking trails.

Ukraine is a country that allows you to step back in time and engage with its great history over the centuries.

A vibrant culture mixes with the fascinating landscape, and travellers can always enjoy a warm dose of east European hospitality particularly if combined with a drink of the local Horilka - Ukraine's very own vodka.