I didn’t know quite what to expect from Ukraine, before I landed here. I certainly didn’t expect to find an undiscovered haven for digital nomads and remote workers in Ukraine’s quickly growing collection of busy coworking spaces and anti-cafes.
The force is strong in Odessa. Inside the gates of an old factory complex in the outskirts of Odessa, Ukraine, stands a monument to Darth Vader, the Sith Lord and Supreme Commander of the Imperial Fleet.
This typical urban courtyard in one of Lviv’s oldest neighbourhoods has become a makeshift museum, and home to an unlikely exhibition – the toys that were left behind.
Despite being the most radioactive place on earth, visiting the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is surprisingly easy.
“So you want me to ride public transport an hour out of the city with you?”
“To an address that you’re not sure is correct, in the dangerous part of town?”
“To see something that may not even exist anymore?”
“On St. Valentine’s Day!?”
I was placing a fairly large bet on my proposed Valentine’s Day itinerary, but of all the things I wanted to see during my month in Kyiv, Ukraine, the psychedelic 13th floor apartment that may or may not exist, in Troeshina (the dodgy part of town), landed squarely at #2, right after a tour to Chernobyl. After all, my decided travel theme for the year was something along the line of “places people don’t really go”.
With the holidays here, I’ve been learning a lot about Ukrainian end of year traditions. Growing up in Australia, I just assumed that Christmas was kind of the same in most places around the world. Even as I sit writing this in a cafe in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a crazy frog remix of We Wish You A Merry Christmas plays a little too loudly in the background.
I was wrong. Ukrainians celebrate what looks to me like a mash-up of what I know as Christmas and New Year, rolled into one holiday that feels equally familiar and bizarre at the same time. Christmas was banned in Russia in 1917, but many of the traditions you might know as “Christmas” stuck around through the USSR, they just seem a little odd.
Most of this also applies to Russia, and other former Soviet countries, but since it was told to me by a Ukrainian, I’m going to stick with referring to Ukraine for the rest of this post.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about Ukrainian Christmas.