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Summary: Located in Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Poland, Romania, and Moldova in the west and Russia in the east, most of Ukraine consists of fertile plains and plateaus, with mountains being found only in the west (the Carpathians), and in the Crimean Peninsula in the extreme south. Ukraine has been battling corruption while it modernizes itself and asserts its independance from the old USSR.

Capital: Kiev
Time Zone: DST +0300 UTC
Population: 47,732,079
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian
Power: 220 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Hryvnia - Currently 1 UAH = 0.1975 USD $
Climate: Ukraine has a temperate continental climate that becomes mediterranean on the southern Crimean coast. Precipitation varies around the country, with more in the west and north, and less in the east and southeast. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland. Summers are warm across the greater part of the country and hot in the south.

Kiev: Founded in the 5th century BC, Kiev has been called the mother of all cities, and has a number of historic attractions, including the Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, with secret tunnels and passages between a collection of churches and monestaries, the Cathedral of St. Sophia, with its mosaics and frescos dating back to the 11th century, and the Golden Gate of Kiev, which dates back to 1037.

Odessa: Known as the "Pearl of the Black Sea", Odessa was founded in 1794 and owes its beauty to the Duke de Richelieu, who decided to make the city more beautiful than Paris. This port city balances Baroque architecture and sculptures at the Pasazh shopping mall, with ancient history at the Archaeology Museum, and sits upon over 600 miles of catacombs dug into the sandstone beneath the city and region.

Chernobyl: Extreme tourists can venture to the most infamous nuclear accidents site located about 75 miles north of Kiev near where the river Prypyats crosses from Belarus. Tour guides carry personal geiger counters to show and lead you through the town Prypiat in the shadow of the reactor, to the reactor itself, and to a memorial to the firefighters that responded and is dedicated "To those who saved the world". Tours cost about $150 USD per person, with costs dropping with larger groups.

Pure Water: Tap water is chemically safe in Ukraine, but it is recommended to boil water before drinking it. It is even better to use bottled purified water available almost in every shop.

Gifts: If visiting someone in the Ukraine it is advisable to bring a gift with you. If you want to bring flowers, do not forget that an even number of flowers is intolerable.

Superstitions: Shaking hands right over the threshold or whistling in-doors, for example, is usually considered bad luck.

Food: One delicacy you must try is Bliny - normally served with smetana, a sweetish heavy cream, bliny is a crepe stuffed with fruit, cottage cheese or jam. Of course, there is also Kotleta po Kyivsky, the famous Chicken Kiev.

Phrases: Some common phrases are: Hello - Pryvit/Vitayu; Do you speak English? - Chi vi govoriti po angliyski?; Yes/No - Tak/Ni; To your health (a toast) - Za vashe zdorovye!

Tipping: Tipping is the norm and may help you in getting better service from officials and others. Check your receipt to make sure a service charge hasn't already been added, otherwise the standard gratuity is 10 to 15 percent.

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