23 Interesting Facts About Ukraine
Ukraine was topping all the major news headlines in last half a year. Sadly, for all the rough times we had and the ongoing conflict with Russia (still in progress, unfortunately).
Other than that my home country does not get much talks and visitors after Euro-2012 (except of a steady flock of international daters and wife-seekers…ugh).
I did a quick Google search recently….and yield nothing up-to-date or thrilling enough concerning Ukraine. So I kinda took the initiative and made a list of the most interesting facts about Ukraine .
Won’t bore you much with generic historic facts and focusing more on some of the local Ukrainian quirks only a local can tell you!
1. Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe (2nd biggest if counting Russia) with total area of 603.550 square kilometers. Yet the population is lesser compared to France and Germany.by Ilya//Flickr
2. It is correct to say “Ukraine” not “The Ukraine“.
“The Ukraine” can only be used if referring to the grey old days when Ukraine was part of the USSR, not a sovereign state. A lot of people actually find the usage of article to be offensive. Please, mind this fact as a token of respect to our independence.
P.S. The cool kids also spell Kyiv (not Kiev). It is the right transliteration from Ukrainian language.
3. The official language is Ukrainian. However most people are bilingual and speak Russian and Ukrainian equally well. Some peeps from the westmost regions are often fluent in Polish, Hungarian and Romanian as well.
I come from Kyiv, the capital city, where Russian language is more commonly spoken. My partner comes from Ivano-Frankivsk – a western city, where the majority speaks Ukrainian. In everyday life we speak to each other in two different languages, yet have zero misunderstanding. The perks of being bilingual.Note: Russian and Ukrainian are two rather different languages. They have way more linguistic differences than British and American English. Better comparison: Swedish and Norwegian.
4. The most popular letter in the alphabet is “П” pronounced like “P”. The biggest amount of words starts with it. (including my surname)
5. An expression commonly puzzling all foreigners is “Ta ni”, literary translated as “yes no”. Usually it is used as an objection and stands for “no”.
– “Is it far from here?”
– “Ta ni, it takes just 10 min to walk there”.
6. Popular traditional Ukrainian dishes are borsh – yummy beef and meat soup and varenyky – dumplings filled with meat, potato or sweet berries.by Liz West//Flickr
More local delicacies to try:
- Green Borsh – a soup made of beef broth, potato, carrot, sorrel and egg. Usually eaten with pampushky – round puff buns with garlic flavor and dill.
- Deruny – fritters made of grated potatoes with a bit of onions, flour and eggs
- Holubtsi – minced meat with seasoning wrapped into boiled cabbage leaves. Old recipes include wrapping into grape leaves, but I never tried that.
- Nalysnyky – thin pancakes made of egg dough with cottage cheese filling
7. No, Ukrainians don’t drink vodka all the time (or horilka as we like to call it).
We are ranked as the 6th most drunken nation in the world right after Romania, Russia, Lithuania, Moldova and Belarus being the most drinking nation in 2014 according to the Independent.
But, yeah. Most booze is really cheap. A bottle of bear costs 0.50$ in a supermarket and around 1.5$ when ordered in a bar. A bottle of fine vodka costs around 2$.
However, imported drinks like whiskey, gin and other spirits are can come with a more expensive price tag when compared to US and Europe.
8. Lviv has the highest amount of cafes per capita with around 1500 establishments total. (Lviv population ~730.000 people).
I love quirky places like “Masoch cafe” named after Leopold Sacher-Masoch. Yep, the term “masochism” is deprived from his surname. His most famous novel “Venera in furs” explores a couple with odd sadomasochistic relationship (based on the author’s personal experience). A good read, by the way 😉
In Masoch-café you can ask to be put in chains,while you are enjoying your coffee. Or choose something from their pervert cuisine (the definition’s not mine). Actually, the food here’s really delicious!
My second favorite place is “At The Golden Rose“ – a Galician Jewish Cafe with no prices on the menu. After you finish the meal you have to haggle severely for your bill. Usually the grand total is ten times higher than you actually have to pay.
Waiters here are amazing and would play along with all your jokes and tricks to reduce the price! Be as creative as you can ☺
Most of the staff speaks good English, so you can still have fun if you don’t know a single word of Ukrainian.
9. The first gas lamp was invented in Lviv by a local pharmacist in a store named “At The Golden Star”. Today there’s a cafe named “Gasova L’ampa” (gas lamp) situated in the same building.
10. The 3rd most visited McDonalds in the world is in Kyiv, near the main railroad station. Also it was ranked as one of top-5 worst McDonald’s around the world and there’s a reason for that…
11. One of the most fun traditional celebrations is Ivana Kupala Day, celebrated on June, the 23rd.
A huge fire is laid out first. Next, boys and girls (in pairs or solo) jump over the flames to get “purified”. If a couple jumps over the fire without letting go their hands, their love and marriage will last forever and ever.
Later at night everyone goes searching for the fern flower. It is said to bloom only during this night for a few hours and is guarded by evil forces. The one, who finds it, will be able to talk to any creatures alive and spot any treasure hidden under the ground.
12. Ukrainian national costume is called “vyshyvanka“. It’s a plain white shirt made of linen and decorated with floral or ornamental hand-sewn embroidery. They are worn by both men and women on numerous occasions.
Another part of the traditional women costume is “vinok” – a wreath made of real or fake flowers with long colorful ribbons attached to the back of it.Photo by Anna Senik – an amazing ukrainian etno-photographer.
13. Kyiv ranks #1 city with the most beautiful women according to Travelers Digest. (Actually, the first thing I always notice when I come back home is how beautiful all girls are!).
14. Kyyivo-pechers’ka Lavra is one of the biggest Orthodox monasteries in the world. Golden domes and the bell tower are the postcard view of Kyiv.by Matt Shalvatis//Flickr
If you are planning to visit the monastery, dress appropriately. Please, do not wear short skirts or shorts (men including), bright makeup or way too open cleavage. Women are usually asked to cover up their head when entering the church.
Ornaments inside are mind-blowing with loads of colorful mosaics, mural paintings and stained glass.by Trey Ratcliff//Flickr
However, the most fascinating thing about Lavra is an extensive cave network, stretching for kilometers out and around the Pechersk hills. No one knows exactly how long these 11th century tunnels are.
Two cave passages are currently open to the public for exploring. Obviously, you will here a few spooky ghost tales about the dead monks still wondering through the caves at nights.
14. For centuries Kyiv has been an important Orthodox spiritual center with pilgrims coming from faraway lands to visit Lavra, St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery and Sofia Kyivska church.by Timm Suess//Flickr
At the same time, there are 3 “official” witch gathering places in Kyiv. All named Lysa Hora (Bold Mountain).
According to Ukrainian folk tales, all the witches, evil spirits and other paranormal creatures used to gather for Sabbath at each of three mounts with no vegetation on top.
15. You have seen this viral picture of the Tunel of Love. It is located in Rivenska oblast, Ukraine nearby Kleven town.Photo by Oleg Gordienko
16. Public transport in Ukraine isn’t at its best…sigh. It’s primarily dominated by marshrutka – ugly, uncomfortable mini-buses where you need to shout to get out.
However, a weirder form of public transport can be found in Kryvyy Rih. The metrotram. Yep, it is a tram, which goes underground on 4 stations from 15. So, it was proudly named the metro.
Underground platforms are huge as they were intended to be used as an army hangar. You know, to hide planes in case of bombing during the Soviet times and all that stuff. Today, this tram-metro stops randomly at any part of the platform and you have to run to catch it.
17. A bit more about public transport. In Uzhhorod region – the westmost province of Ukraine, there used to be a 700 meter smuggler underground tunnel going to Slovakia with tiny railroad and trolleys riding back and forth all day long. It existed for a year till the owners got busted. It actually looked like a tiny metro ☺
18. The deepest metro station in the world is Arsenalna station in Kyiv going down at 105.5 meters. It was made that deep for military purposes with a huge secret bunker hidden between Arsenalna and Khreshatic stations.Photo by cool Kyiv diggers whom I’d love to hang out with one day!
19. Ukrainians have built the world’s biggest plane An-225 Mriya (The Dream), which can carry up to 559.577 pounds into the air. You should have seen it in 2012 movie.
20. Trembita is the longest musical instrument in the world. It is a very long pipe that the Hutsul ethnicity from the Carpathian Mountains loves to play.
21. The first constitution in the world was written and adopted in Ukraine in 1710 by a Cossak hetman Pylyp Orlyk. It was a progressive document separating three branches of power with numerous laws regulating the government and society.
22. The current President of Ukraine – Petro Poroshenko – is the former owner of the biggest candy factory in the country.
23. Ukrainians rarely smile in public, yet are extremely heartwarming and hospitable people once you get to know them closer!
More Country Facts:
- 11 Facts About France That You Did Not Know
- 10 Quirky and Fun Facts About Japan
- 8 Facts About Russia Guidebooks Won’t Tell You