Ukraine and Moldova
Nestled between Russia and Central Europe, Ukraine and Moldova perhaps aren’t the obvious choice for a holiday, but without the confines of an established tourist trail, and with surprises around every corner, that’s what makes them exciting.
Kiev has a rich and varied history dating back more than a thousand years, and we spend time exploring its exquisite churches and gold domed monastery of Lavra, a local site of pilgrimage and one of the most important religious sites in the country. More recent events are covered as we discover Chernobyl, where the eerie ghost town of Pripyat provides a snapshot of the Soviet past and the tragic events which took place here.
In the southern city of Odessa we see striking 19th century architecture and the nearby catacombs, once a hideout for the resistance in the Second World War, as well as the nearby vast fortress at Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, standing guard over trade routes from the Black Sea.
Lviv is one of Europe’s great cities, with a heritage which encompasses its Polish and Jewish roots, its streets lined with picturesque houses of merchants and churches rich in religious icons and frescoes – a step back in time, almost. In the Carpathian Mountains we uncover a gentler side of life, staying in a village guesthouse and learning about the rural traditions of the Hutsul people.
On our way towards Moldova we stop in the elegant town of Chernivtsi, and the castles in Khotyn and Kamyanets-Podilsky, their immense fortifications a testament to more troubled times. Tiny Moldova offers us the chance to explore vast underground wine cellars – of course, with the chance to taste the local tipple – and the chance to experience local hospitality at Orheiul Vechi. Finally we visit the unrecognised country of Transdniestr, stranded after the break up of the Soviet Union and one of the quirkiest places in Europe.
This is a side of the continent that you may not know, with a split personality shaped by its giant neighbour to the east and the elegance of Central Europe – all the more fascinating for it.