Eastern European country
It is large
Ukraine is the continent’s largest county at 603,628 square kilometres, stretching from Russia in the East to Poland in the West, and located between the Black Sea in the South and fellow former Soviet state Belarus in the north. France is next at 51,695 square kilometres .
And boasts seven wonders
Within its large borders, Ukraine has seven World Heritage Sites, including the 11th century Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, the ancient city of Chersonesus, and the primeval forests of the Carpathians. Another is the Struve Geodetic Arc, a chain of survey triangulations linking Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea in Ukraine. It “helped to establish the exact size and shape of the planet and marked an important step in the development of earth sciences and topographic mapping,” according to Unesco. Beyond its World Heritage Sites it has a wealth of majestic Orthodox cathedrals, including St Michael’s in Kiev, pictured below.
St Michael’s Cathedral in Kiev
It loves Mcdonald’s
Ukraine is not all about booze. The McDonald’s next to the main train station in Kiev, the country’s capital, is claimed to be the third busiest in the world.
It is at the heart of Europe
Ukraine is the geographical centre of Europe. OK, it’s not quite as simple as that. A number of locations lay claim to the title and it depends on how you measure Europe, but the small town of Rakhiv in western Ukraine is one such place. The country has a second claimant in Transcarpathia, where an obelisk marks the spot.
It gets deep
Arsenalna, a station on Kiev’s Sviatoshynsko-Brovarska line, is the world’s deepest at 105,5 metres below ground.
The escalator at Arsenalna
And has a very wide road
Kiev’s main street, Khreshchatyk Street, is the shortest and the widest main street in the world. It is only 1.2km long .
Speaking of Kiev…
Chicken Kiev is a favourite dish for lots of Ukrainians people. If you‘ll try it for once, you’ll never forget the taste …
It has hosted plenty of history
Ukraine has played the stage for much destruction during its history. But it was also the host of the Yalta Conference in 1945, where Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met to discuss the organisation of post-war Europe. Livadia Palace, which hosted the meeting, is open today as a museum. Today, Yalta is part of history once again as it lies on the disputed Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014. The Crimea is one of four regions the Foreign Office advises against travel to [Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lugansk are the others].
A statue to commemorate the visit of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt
It is home to ghost towns
Another Ukrainian claim to history is Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear power plant disaster. The location in northern Ukraine is now the centre of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, established by the USSR soon after the accident in 1986. Within the zones are a number of abandoned towns, most notably Pripyat, that draw interest from all over the world. Tours of the area, including the power plant, are available, at the risk of the traveller. Radiation levels remain dangerously high – read Telegraph Travel’s Chris Leadbeater guide on how to visit.
And Ukraine has a cafe capital
The city of Lviv is sometimes claimed to have the most cafes in the world per capita. Fiona Duncan, after visiting for Telegraph Travel, said: “Though Livivians of today are known for both their fervent nationalism and for their churchgoing, their city has an easy-going, almost frivolous air, filled with university students, embellished by its frothy confection of Renaissance, Baroque, Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau buildings and scented with aromas from its hundreds of Viennese style coffee houses. We only had to step out from our hotel, the Opera, and stroll with the crowds along Lviv’s central spine, Svobody (Liberty) Avenue, to find out how relaxed the place is.”
The gas lamp was invented in Lviv
Lviv also claims to be the home of the first ever gas lamp. Invented by a local pharmacist in a store called At the Golden Star, today the achievement is remembered by a café called Gasova L’ampa found in the same building.
The Tunnel of Love, excellent Instagram folder, is found in the forests near the town of Kleven. The rail road is for a private train that provides wood for a local factory.
The Tunnel of Love
It built a superlative plane
Kiev was the birthplace of the world’s biggest plane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya. It has the largest wingspan of any aircraft, at 88.4 metres and weighs 640,000kg. A brainwave of the Soviet Union, only one was ever made.
You can ski there
It’s no French Alps, but Ukraine has about four or five ski resorts to shout about, including Bukovel in the Carpathian mountains, with 55km of slopes and 15 lifts.
The ski resort of Bukovel
Its capital is a hero
The capital Kiev was given Hero City status by the Soviet Union following its resistance to the Nazis in the Battle of Kiev in 1941. The Germans encircled the city in July of 1941, eventually capturing it in September and taking more than 600,000 soldiers captive. Despite the battle being seen as a huge victory for Hitler, the city was rewarded for its defence with the title of Hero City in 1965.
It is big on easter eggs
Ukrainians are pretty big on easter eggs. Less so, stuffing their faces with low-quality chocolate: they favour more intricate designs using wax on ornaments known as pysankas. Different regions of the country have different styles and methods of decoration. The practice was banished by the Soviet Union, but continued in North and South America by Ukrainian immigrants.
Its music inspires
George Gershwin’s Summertime was inspired by an old Ukrainian lullaby.
And a surprising claim to political history
Ukraine was home to one of the world’s first ever constitutions, in the form of the Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, written by a Ukrainian Cossack in 1710. It established a democratic standard for the separation of powers in government between the legislative, executive and judiciary branches, an idea perhaps made more famous by Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, which was published in 1748.