This article was originally published on our website: storieswithpictures.com
Recent events have shifted the attention of the whole world towards Ukraine and the tragic events that are unfolding there as we speak, but not many people realize that this country is so much more than news about war and aggression. With its rich land, breathtaking sceneries, colourful traditions, and delicious cuisine, Ukraine is a land of vast contrasts and mysteries waiting to be solved. Here are 20+ facts that will change the way you see Ukraine forever.
The Coffee Mecca of Europe
While Austria is considered to be the main culprit of inventing coffee houses in Europe, Ukraine also claims to be the birthplace of Europe’s coffee shops. And if you look at one of its cities, Lviv, you will clearly see that this claim may actually be right!
This European city has more coffee houses than it has regular buildings – we kid you not. Wherever you go, you will find a bunch of versatile cafes and coffee boutiques catering to all kinds of coffee lovers. The coffee culture is definitely strong here.
It is also a historical fact that Yuri Kulczycki, who helped free Vienna during the Turkish Siege in the 1600s took with him numerous bags of Turkish coffee seeds no one knew what to do with. Being a merchant, he knew very well just how precious they were. It is believed that he was the one who started coffee business in Europe, brewing the first cup of hot coffee in Vienna himself.
Ivana Kupala Festival
Ancient traditions are still going strong in Ukraine. Long before Christianity came to this country, Ukrainians were celebrating various pagan festivals connected with the change of seasons, collecting crops,
This Slavic holiday is celebrated in the end of June and is one of the biggest and most fun festivals during the year. Girls and young women make wreaths of flowers and herbs and let them float on rivers with candles – while doing so they make wishes about their romantic relationships and try to foresee what they will be.
Everyone also lights up huge bonfires and men jump over them to show off their bravery. Couples also jump over the fire while holding hands. It is believed that if they separate – their relationship will be short-living. There’s also a belief that a magical flower, the Fern flower, blooms only on this night.
The Longest Musical Instrument
Maybe some of you have seen didgeridoo, a wind instrument that originated in Australia, which is quite, but it has nothing on Ukrainian trembita! This wind instrument is used mostly in the mountain region and it is the longest in the whole world.
Trembita has such length to produce powerful sound, which is necessary in the mountains as it helps people ‘communicate’ with each other on long distances without actually going to the place, which can be dozens of miles away.
It’s mostly used to report different important events like wedding or a local gathering. Usually, trembitas are made of tree trunks, but not ordinary ones. Trembita-makers look for special trees that were hit by a lightrning – this gives wood special qualities in terms of sound and, some believe, magic as well.
The Infamous Ghost Town
Ukraine is well known all around the world, but not for its beauty. Right now Pripyat is one of the most frequently visited ghost towns not only in Europe, but in the whole world.
This town got abandoned shortly after the deadly nuclear disaster that happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant in 1986, which has polluted local land and rivers for hundreds of years to come.
None of the people who lived here returned to this place, leaving all their belonging behind. Many photographers flock this place to take haunting images of broken old toy and nature slowly taking over the city.
The Tunnel of Love
Ukraine is home to many beautiful natural and man-made landmarks that attract visitors from all over the country and across the globe. The Tunnel of Love is definitely one of the most picturesque place, especially if you’re planning a wedding photosession.
This beautiful tunnel is located not far from a town named Klaven and it has a serene and peaceful aura about it. This railway is not completely abandoned, but trains rarely pass through here, so visitors have all the time in the world to enjoy its beauty.
Some people believe that couples who visit this place may be granted with strong, long-lasting relationships. It may be just a legend, but it’s definitely worth checking it out!
The Heaviest Plane Ever Built
So we already know that whatever was built in the Soviet Union times was mostly big and yet, somehow, functional. Whether it was architecture or spacecraft, engineers did their best to outperform all other inventors in the world.
That’s why it doesn’t really come as a surprise that Ukraine is home to the heaviest aircraft ever created - Antonov AN-225 that also goes by the name ‘Mriya’ or ‘Dream’.
Originally built for military purposes and the Soviet space progam, it was later used to carry heavy and oversized payloads. This striking aircraft was designed to carry up to 440,00 lb (250,000 kg)! Unfortunately, this plane was destroyed during the latest Russian invasion, but there are already talks about rebuilding this amazing vehicle.
The Deepest Subway
Not many people know that Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, is home to one of the deepest subway stations in the whole world. It was built back in the day when the country was still part of the Soviet Union and we all know that their architecture was grand.
Kyiv’s metro stations run deep across the city, filled with marble, gorgeous high lights, and mosaics on the walls of tunnels. Arsenalna is the deepest subway station on Earth – it lies at striking 347 ft (105 m) below the ground!
This metro station was built in the ‘60s, along with a few other stations of the first Metro line in Kyiv. Today this whole subway system carries around 3 million people from all corners of the city – every day!
The First Ever Gas Lamp
Today gas lamps are known and used all over the world and kerosene is one of the most widespread fuels known to humanity. But did you know that it originated in Ukraine?
Yes, Lviv is home not only to numerous cozy cafes and confectionaries, this is also the place where pharmacists Ignacy Lukasiewicz and Johann Zech accidentally invented kerosene while distilling alcohol from oil and patented their invention.
They created special lamps to use kerosene, but people weren’t interested in it much until these lamps were used by surgeons during various procedures, thus, creating demand for these gas lamps, which turned out to be safer and much cleaner than all others.
You probably won’t see such beautiful and striking wreaths in any other country in the world! Wreaths have existed as a part of Ukrainian culture long before the Christianization of Kiev Rus, and lucky for us they survived as a part of ancient Slavic traditions that are mostly lost in other countries.
Flower and herbal wreaths were created on various special occasion like weddings or festivals. They were mostly worn by girs and young unmarried women who wanted to attract fertility and prosperity into their lives.
Ukrainian vynok consisted not only of various flowers, but also of coins, ribbons, feathers, herbs, and yarn. Now it is mostly used as a fashion statement piece, but on some regions you can still see beautiful women wear huge wreaths on their wedding day!
The Land of Sunflowers
Ukraine is a sunny and picturesque land, and if you come there in summer, you will find limitless fields blooming with bright yellow flowers. We’re talking about sunflowers, which cover the most part of the country.
Wherever you go travelling, east or west, you will see countless sunflower fields which look amazing when in bloom. Naturally, Ukraine is also the biggest exporter of sunflower seeds in the world, seconded also by Russia.
If you want to imagine just how big those sunflower fields are, here’s a quick hint – when put together, Ukrainian sunflower fields could cover the territory of Slovenia! Not to mention, that sunflower fields are perfect backdrops for amazing Instagram photos.
Ukraine’s National Costume – Vyshyvanka
Ukraine is a land of beautiful ancient traditions and one of the most striking things that survived the passage of time is the country’s national attire – vyshyvanka.
Vyshyvanka is a shirt made of linen, but what makes it stand out from the rest of clothing items is the handcrafted embroidery filled with special meaning. Each of the elements is deeply symbolic and is made carefully whether to create prosperity, bring love into one’s life, or for protection.
All people wore these short, both men and women, but for each there were special symbols used while the embroidery was created. Vyshyvanka is still worn in many parts of Ukraine, but in general modern people wear it only for special occasions.
The World Heritage Centre
Ukraine’s architecture is what makes it stand out from the rest of the countries. Of course, Europe is filled to the brim with beautiful castles and churches, but Ukraine has some of the most ancient cathedrals and Christian monasteries that are protected by UNESCO.
Whether you come to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, or travel to more remote places, like the Carpathian mountains, you will find beautiful picturesque buildings that are hundreds of years old – in great condition!
Lviv’s history center is one of those place you could walk around forever as stunning cathedrals are located there around each corner, while Saint-Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, which was built 1000 years ago, offers marvelous views of the city from its high bell tower.
The Mysterious Carpathian Mountains
If you head to the west of Ukraine, you will find a vast mountain range with a variety of peaks to climb and forests to explore. Its highest peak, Mount Hoverla, raises at 2,061 m above the sea level, offering breathtaking view of the surrounding mountain ranges.
But what’s even more peculiar are the high-altitude lakes located all over the Carpathian mountains – each of them has their very own story, which usually includes some spirits dwelling inside those waters or some lovebirds that got separated due to some wrongdoings.
Of course, Ukrainian mountains also house a number of ski resorts that open up during winter months, offering gorgeous views of snow-capped mountains and sugary-white forests. It’s a sight like no other!
Ukrainian Mountain Shamans
Ukrainian culture is very rich in ancient traditions that are alive until this very day. If you head to Ukrainian mountais, you will find local shamans called molfars living there and healing people.
Not only they are heals, but they usually have the abilities to see into the future, make protective talismans, and use some kind of magic to help people with their problems.
Mostly they work with natural powers and energies and their remedies are often made from herbs they collect themselves. Molfars also know how to use the power of words and use them to heal people and create different herbal concoctions to cure diseases. They also make magical talismans from wood that was hit by a lightning.
The Carol of Bells
There’s hardly any person in the world who hasn’t heard the Carol of Bells, one of the most recognized Christmas carols. But did you know where it originated from?
Yep, you guessed it right, it was created in Ukraine, bearing the name ‘Schedryk’. Written by Mykola Leontovich in the early 1900’s, the song quickly became popular and even reached other countries as well!
In the U.S. the song was converted into the ‘Carol of the Bells’, leaving the original melody, but with new lyrics by Peter. J. Wlhousky. Now we all know and love this song as one of the most inspirational Christmas songs ever created!
Ukraine is Huge
Geographically speaking, Ukraine is the biggest European country. That is, of course, if we don’t count Russia, which stretches far from Europe into Asia, which makes it a semi-European country.
Ukraine’s territory is around 603 628 sq. km. and it borders on Poland, Romania, and Belarus, Slovakia, Moldova, and Hungary, as well as the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
While the territory of Ukraine is quite big, it’s population is relatively small compared to other European countries that aren’t as huge – its population is around 44 million people.
Geographical Center of Europe
That’s right, Ukraine isn’t just a huge country in the middle of Europe, it is also home to its geographical center! If you’re wondering where it’s located, then you’ll need to go to the Carpathian mountains and see for yourself.
The geographers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire visited Ukraine back in 1886 and measured the center of Europe to be somewhere near the village Dilove in the Carpathian mountains.
Although the sign post has been there for decades, locals are a bit skeptical whether it is true or not. Still, many Ukrainians are proud to know that the very center of Europe is located inside their homeland.
Beautiful Easter Eggs
We all love Easter and in Ukraine it’s a very special holiday that brings together families, but only for celebration of the holiday – there’s a beautiful and unusual tradition in Ukraine connected with Easter eggs.
In traditional Ukrainian culture people have always made special Easter eggs called ‘pysanka’. Those eggs were hand-painted with natural dye and then decorated with Ukrainian folk designs.
Each part of the design and each symbol carries special meaning. But what’s more interesting is that pysanka originated in the pre-Christian era and is associated with the cult of Sun god named Dazhbog, the giver of all life. Such decorated eggs were created as special talismans during spring festivals.
The Production of Honey
Ukraine is one of the ‘sweetest’ countries in the world as it is in the top three biggest producers of honey in the world. And that is not a coincidence!
Ukrainians are huge honey-lovers and around 700,000 people all over the country are involved in beekeeping. Petro Prokopovych, a professional beekeeper who lived in Ukraine in the late 1700’s not only invented commercial beekeeping, but he also invented the movable frame hive!
He studies bees as a scholar and greatly improved beekeeping that we all know and use today to produce honey and learn all there is to learn about the behavious of honey bees.
Chicken Kyiv is Not from Kyiv
If you come to Kyiv and go to any of its big restaurants you’ll probably see Chicken Kyiv on the menu and learn that it is one of the staple dishes of the capital of Ukraine.
But what most people (including Ukrainians) don’t realize that this dish didn’t originate in Kyiv, in fact, it wasn’t born on the territory of Ukraine at all!
Some historians believe that Chicken Kyiv comes from the Russian Empire, but more people are sure that it originated in France and then travelled all over the world under the name of Côtelettes de volaille, eventually reaching Russia. The name, as they believe, was concocted by the chefs in New York, out of all places, who were trying to come up with an ‘exotic’ dish name that would attract clientele. And they succeeded!