20 August 2015

15 facts you did not know about Ukraine

Despite its size and wonderful diversity, Ukraine is still relatively unknown to the Western world. Here we have collated fifteen fun and interesting facts that you can use to impress your Ukrainian friends or even to brush up your own knowledge about the country.

1. Ukrainian is the 3rd most beautiful language in the world

Ukrainian ranked third after French and Persian for having the most beautiful language in the world at a global linguistic contest held in Paris in 1934. Criteria included vocabulary, phraseology and sentence structure.

2. Ukraine is the 4th most educated country in the world

Ukrainians are clever people with 70% of Ukrainian adults having a secondary or higher education. 99.4% of over 15s can read and write proficiently and there are 70,000 scholars spread over 80 research institutes and 150 universities.

Side fact; Ukraine also has the 4th largest number of IT professionals in the world.

3. Wedding rings are worn on the right hand

In Ukraine, wedding rings are always worn on the right hand in line with Christian Orthodox beliefs.

4. Kyiv is ranked #1 for the most beautiful women

As a woman living very far from Kyiv it pains me to write this but according to the Traveller’s Digest, Kyiv has been voted number one for having the most beautiful women of any city. A quick walk through the city quickly confirms this fact.

5. It is the geographical center of Europe

The geographical center of Europe runs through the village of Dilove in the Carpathians (western Ukraine).

6. Ukraine has the longest musical instrument in the world

The “Trembita”, a pipe, is the world’s longest musical instrument and is typically used by Hutsuls from the Carpathian Mountains. Be warned though; cats are not fans of Trembita music as we discovered when we played a couple of videos with our office cat in the room!

7. Ukraine is the world’s 3rd biggest grain exporter

Ukraine is a hugely fertile country with mile after mile of prime farmland. Growing conditions are ideal for wheat and other grain plants, making the country one of the biggest exporters in the world.

Grain is also the influence behind the country’s distinctive national flag which represents golden wheat fields and blue skies.

8. Ukrainians don’t smile

Ok, that is not strictly true, they DO, but Ukrainian’s often associate smiling with laughing. So if they don’t smile at you, don’t worry, it just means they are not laughing at you!

It must be said that Ukrainians are lovely and very hospitable people once you get to know them, so don’t be put off.

9. The national dish is borsch

This tasty beetroot based dish is Ukraine’s national dish and is usually eaten with bread (Ukrainians love bread and eat it at every meal) and sometimes mayonnaise (also often eaten at every meal).

10. It’s “Ukraine” not “The Ukraine”

Impress your Ukrainian friends and refer to Ukraine as just that: Ukraine. “The Ukraine” refers to the period when Ukraine was part of the USSR and some Ukrainians find this reference insulting as it is now its own country.

11. Is it Kiev or Kyiv?

You will often see the capital city of Kyiv spelt two different ways; Kyiv or Kiev. Ukrainians consider the use of “Kyiv” to be the correct transliteration from the Ukrainian language.

12. What do you call people that live in Lviv?

A Leopolitan is someone that resides in Lviv. Incidentally, Leopolitans are mad about coffee and this UNESCO world heritage city has the highest amounts of cafes per capita. You will never be too far from a caffeine fix here.

13. Ukraine is home to the only “metro trams”

Visitors to Ukrainian cities will no doubt notice the many trams that make up a large part of public transport in the country but did you know that in some areas, they go underground too?

The stations for this rather odd “London underground meets tram” combo are usually found in underground army hangars, which have been converted for public use. These underground platforms are HUGE and trams tend to stop wherever they like at a platform causing plenty of hassle to travellers less quick on their feet.

14. Most Ukrainians have never been abroad

Nearly 88% of all Ukrainians have never travelled to another country and as high as 36% have never travelled beyond their local region according a Research & Branding Survey.

15. Ireland has the “Dark Hedges” but Ukraine has…

The “Tunnel of Love”, which sounds so much nicer! Located in the Rivnenska Oblast (330kms west of Kyiv), this 3km long green tunnel is possibly the most attractive strip of railroad in the world!

Ukraine is blessed with many photogenic places but this must be in the top 3 and should be on any serious traveller’s bucket list.

Photo credit to the talented ethnic-photographer Anna Senik

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