Summer by the Black Sea: Exploring Ukraine

Our 10 days of exploration in Ukraine, including Odessa, Kiev and Sevastopol. Spectacular country.

  • Taking advantage of my favorite elite benefit

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    Some benefits of an airline elite program are used more often than others. Some are more valuable than others. And some are ripe for seemingly excessive overuse. It is one in this last category that I love the most and which I get the greatest value from: Free changes on award tickets. I book award […]

  • Buying train tickets, the Ukraine way

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    As part of our upcoming trip to Ukraine I’ve been spending a lot of time learning how the Ukrainian train system operates. Well, trying to anyways. The train network covers the country well and the overnight trains are a reasonably priced way to hop between cities, so long as you’re willing to spend the 10-12 […]

  • Who took “the” from Ukraine?

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    I have no idea why, but Ukraine used to be The Ukraine from what I can remember. I don’t know when that changed or what the motivation was. Maybe they traded it to The Gambia in exchange for coconut exports; stranger things have happened. Whatever the reasoning, I’m sure we won’t figure it out over […]

  • First impressions of Ukraine

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    There are certain stereotypes or preconceptions I have about various parts of the world. I know that many of them are probably wrong so I’m doing what I can to actually experience things in person, but that doesn’t stop me from going in to any particular trip with certain expectations. On this trip, my first […]

  • Exploring Kiev’s Pechersk Lavra: On the grounds and underground

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    The Pechersk Lavra, a monastic site on the southern edge of Kiev’s city center, has a history going back to the 11th century. The monastery has served the Russian Orthodox Church since that time, despite suffering damage and attack over the years due to fires a well as incursions by the Tatars and Mongols, among […]

  • More photos from Kiev

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    It is just after 10pm local time and train 105, the overnight ride to Odessa, has just pulled out of the station in Kiev. We’re on board in a 2nd class cabin (4 beds, 2×2) and getting ready to settle in for the night, hoping for at least a couple hours of sleep before we […]

  • Remembering the disaster at Chernobyl

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    Visiting the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev is a most sobering experience. The entry hall includes the road signs for each of the towns which was forced to be evacuated during the crisis. It also includes decorations from one of the local churches, reminders of the real lives which were so quickly abandoned when disaster struck. […]

  • An unofficial tour of Odessa’s catacombs

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    The history of the catacombs in Odessa is rather different than any others I’ve previously visited. Most similar underground cities were built for protection from invading marauders or other challenges. And while Odessa eventually managed to have their catacombs used or similar purposes the initial digging had a much more simple beginning: the city needed […]

  • Beaching it up in Odessa, Ukraine

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    With a reputation as the go-to beach destination for so many years in the Soviet Union it isn’t surprising to me that during the summer holidays the area gets rather crowded. And this time around a couple of Americans joined in the crowds, heading out to the waterfront to see what the excitement was all […]

  • And then I ran in to a “powwow” in Sevastopol

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    So one of the great things about being in a country where you don’t understand the language and cannot figure anything out is that, well, you don’t understand anything and cannot figure it out. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. And then there was tonight on the Sevastopol waterfront. It is getting late on a Friday […]

  • Around town in Odessa, Ukraine

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    Odessa is mostly known as a beach town. Not necessarily because the beaches are great (I wasn’t all that impressed) but that is mostly what people seem to be focused on when in town. Beyond the beach there are a few other things to see and do. But really only a few. The main port […]

  • In flight: Taking a WizzAir flight in Ukraine

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    My initial itinerary for the Ukraine trip didn’t include any domestic flights. We were going to focus on train travel instead. And while the trains were nice enough (posts coming soon, I hope) they weren’t a particularly efficient use of time. Plus, I was presented with the opportunity to fly on WizzAir – I love […]

  • Taking a ride on the Kiev Metro

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    I’m a big fan of mass transit systems in general. They provide a much more intimate connection with the local population when traveling and they’re often both inexpensive and efficient, especially outside of the United States. The Metro system in Kiev is reasonably new, built by the Soviets starting in 1949 and opening for service […]

  • Exploring Soviet naval history in Ukraine

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    It turns out that ties to the old Soviet motherland still run strong in parts of Ukraine. Most notable, perhaps, is Sevastopol, a port city in Crimea and home to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. Walking around town one gets the feeling that the Soviet Union might not have ever really collapsed. And even if […]

  • Rolling through the Ukrainian countryside

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    Need to get between cities in Ukraine? There are a few different ways to make it happen, but the most popular – by far – seems to be the trains. And with good reason. The trains aren’t particularly fast, but they are cheap and comfortable. The train network connects most major cities in Ukraine and […]

  • Inside the super secret Soviet submarine base at Balaclava

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    The city of Balaclava doesn’t exist. At least it didn’t for a few decades during the Cold War. That likely came as quite a surprise to the thousands of people living there, as well as anyone with a grasp of the rich history the town had leading up to the 1950s when it disappeared. but […]

  • Checking in: Best Western Sevastopol really is best

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    In some ways it is hard to believe that a simply finished room with nothing particularly fancy to be seen is the best. Usually it is hard to accept that a Best Western-flagged property is best. But in Sevastopol, Ukraine that’s just the way it is. Our Ukraine guide book mentioned the Best Western Sevastopol […]

  • Heading back in time to the Cembalo Fortress atop Balaklava’s hills

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    It is not hard to see why the port town of Balaklava has seen residents dating back thousands of years. The harbor is well protected from the Black Sea, providing great strategic advantage to whomever held it. It has seen a storied history as a military installation. The infamous Charge of the Light Brigade happened […]

  • Beaching it up in downtown Kiev

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    Looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of summer city life in Kiev? Thank goodness someone came up with a plan for that. The city is filled with parks, many of which are well-appointed with benches and snack kiosks. And those kiosks are well stocked with local beers which are delicious and cheap. For […]

  • Exploring Chufut-Kale near Bakhchisarai, Ukraine

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    The town of Bakhchisarai has, over the past couple decades, developed into the biggest tiny tourist town in Crimea, Ukraine. That might not sound like much, but after spending a few hours climbing through old cave cities high on plateaus above the river valley or visiting the recently reopened monastery carved into the side of […]