Ukrainian Fashion Week was held for the first time in November 1997. It became the first professional fashion event in Eastern Europe. It is a unique event in Ukraine that corresponds entirely to the world standards for prêt-a-porter shows, takes place twice a year, gathers more than 40 participants, accredits more than 150 Ukrainian and international mass media and is attended by over 25000 guests.
Staring Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski, Devin Kelley and Olivia Dudley, The Chernobyl Diaries hits cinemas in the UK this June (22nd). The film follows six travellers who take an extreme tour to the abandonned city of Pripyat, the former home to workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. The travellers find themselves stranded, and then discover they aren’t alone…
As someone who has visited the town and knows a great deal about the history, the plot of the film is rather comical. I mean, for one thing, many former workers returned to the town despite the government forbidding it and sealing off the area. When you walk and drive around the area, you see them. Plus there’s lots of scientists working there, investigating the impact of radiation on the local environment in the hope to learn valuable information for the future.
However, it’s a horror film… reality was not at the heart of the writer, producer or director. So I’ll forgive it the misled plot and allow them their creative license. Check out the trailer below, and for those who want to really know more about visiting Chernobyl read my account here: Chernobyl – Eco Tourism in Ukraine.
I recently wrote about the new routes between London and Eastern Europe and subsequently I received some rather exciting news from Wizz Air. The first Ukrainian low-cost airline is moving its operations from Kiev Borispol to Kiev Zhuliani, as of 27th March. The move will make a huge difference to passengers as this airport is located just eight kilometres from the city centre and is conveniently served by public transport. The new airport will also be more efficient, allowing Wizz Air to continue offering truly affordable fares.
I think there has probably never been a better excuse to book a trip to Kiev!
Last week Ukrainian airline, AeroSvit, the biggest in the country, launched its new route between London’s Gatwick Airport and Kiev. The airline will be flying five times a week to the Ukrainian capital, catering for both leisure and business travellers. It is hoped that once travellers land in Kiev they will visit other regions such as Frankovsk, Lugansk and Odessa. It is expected that around 65,000 passengers will fly from Gatwick to Kiev this year on the new AeroSvit route.
Since BAA sold Gatwick Airport to to Global Infrastructure Partners it has gained no less than 18 new routes including airberlin flight to Hamburg and Nuremburg. easyJet has also launched a new route from London Gatwick to Zagreb this year – the airline’s third route between London and Croatia.
However, Wizz Air attempts to maintain its premier position as the number one airline carrier from London to Eastern Europe, this year opening a new route to the Macedonian capital, Skopje. This brings the number of Wizz Air routes from London Luton to the region to 23.
So, it looks like if you want to travel to the region there’s never been more flexibility! Long may it continue!
When I stayed in Kyiv (Kiev) there was no doubt about it, there was a distinct lack of accommodation and a great deal of opportunity for some of the major hotel brands. So I was pleased to hear that Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts is building a new deluxe hotel in the Ukrainian capital, scheduled to open in 2012.
The future Swissôtel Kiev will form part of the “Sky Towers”, a mixed use development comprised of twin towers of 34 and 47 storeys. Sky Towers is located in Peremogy Avenue, centrally positioned close to Kiev city centre and the main train station, and is comprised of hotel facilities, serviced residences and offices. The Swissôtel Kiev is anticipated to welcome guests for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship and features 513 guestrooms and suites, 14 serviced residences, 4000m of conference space, as well as a 3000m spa. Business travellers and independent tourists alike will enjoy a selection of dining experiences ranging in selection from the fine dining restaurant to the all-day restaurant Café Swiss, as well the lobby lounge and a contemporary bar.
If you plan on visiting Ukraine in 2012, make Swissôtel Kiev the place to stay!
When I was in Kiev a few years ago I went to eat at Khutorok, a paddle-boat steamer-come-restaurant. The charming decor was accompanied by even more charming staff and food. It was by far the best meal I had in Kiev. I ordered veal, wild rice and roasted vegetables. The presentation was faultless and the vegetables were impressively stacked. I remember sitting there thinking that I’d never be able to re-create that but last weekend, as part of a meal I cooked for my family, I foolishly thought I’d give it a go! Although it was a hassle, it looked amazing and I was really pleased with my achievement!
Handful of fresh thyme and rosemary (use dried if you can’t get fresh)
3 garlic cloves
150ml rapeseed oil
4 red peppers, roasted, skins removed and sliced into discs
2 white onions, sliced quite thickly
Sprinkling of paprika for presentation purposes
Slice aubergine and courgette and place in a dish
Blend the oil together with the garlic and herbs
Drizzle oil over the aubergine and courgettes and leave to marinate for at least 3 hours
Heat a griddle pan, when hot, place the aubergine, courgettes and sliced onion in pan using marinate as oil
(Add more oil to pan if needed)
When all vegetables have a nice charred colouring across them, set aside
Put aubergines, courgettes, onion and sliced red pepper into a dish and heat in oven for 15 minutes on 180°C
Arrange vegetables on top of each other
Sprinkle paprika over the plate to decorate and serve
Up until the 15 June 2010, the (National) Lyttelton Theatre in London is showing Bulgakov’s play The White Guard…
In Kiev during the Russian Civil War, the Turbin household is sanctuary to a ragtag, close-knit crowd presided over by the beautiful Lena. As her brothers prepare to fight for the White Guard, friends charge in from the riotous streets amidst an atmosphere of heady chaos, quaffing vodka, keeling over, declaiming, taking baths, playing guitar, falling in love. But the new regime is poised and in its brutal triumph lies destruction for the Turbins and their world.
NT Associate Howard Davies directs this major new production, featuring a fantastic NT ensemble cast.
Captioned performance: Wednesday 12 May at 7.30pm
Audio-Described performances: Friday 21 May at 7.30pm, Saturday 22 May at 2.15pm (Touch Tour at 12.45pm)
Tickets from £10
Running Time 2 hours 40 minutes (including interval)
When discussing future travel plans to visit the Chernobyl oblast prior to an imminent visit to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital city, it was surprising to receive two incredibly polar responses. The first was one of little interest – Chernobyl barely registered on many people’s radars as anything but another town on a long itinerary of destinations. The second, however, was one of fear – fear that time spent at the site of the world’s greatest nuclear accident to date would mean returning glowing yellow like a character from the Simpsons. Either way, and understandably so, for the majority of tourists a visit to the site of a nuclear accident is probably of little allure. Nevertheless, if you have made it to Ukraine in the first place, chances are a trip to this ghost town would excite you too. This certainly appears to be the belief of several Ukrainians who are jumping on the current eco-tourism bandwagon and arranging regular trips for tourists to the nuclear exclusion zone.
Before arriving in Kiev it was necessary to contact one of the growing number of Ukrainian tour operators offering trips to Chernobyl such as Sergei at Solo East Travel (www.tourkiev.com). Sergei arranges trips to the exclusion zone for up to three days. The price of the daytrip starts at 3,000 Ukrainian Hvyrnia, around £300, but the greater the number of people on the tour that day, the lower the cost.
On the day of the tour Sergei arranges for his colleague, Ivan, to meet with the eco-tourists on the main square in Kiev, the site of the 2004 Ukrainian Orange Revolution. The average annual income in Ukraine is just £3,500 so to Ivan and Sergei each trip is a lucrative business transaction. On the day of my trip an 875 Hvyrnia, £88, payment per person was required, after which, having ushered the eager eco-tourists into a small white minibus for the hour-and-a-half journey to Chernobyl, Ivan disappeared, no doubt to the bank!
On arrival at the perimeter of the 30-km exclusion zone the military guards survey the necessary documentation, including passports, which are required to permit entry.It is an intimidating experience, but wholly worthwhile because only then can the expedition into the savage world of nuclear devastation proceed.The landscape is littered with small, abandoned houses, now ruins, engulfed by encroaching triffid-like vegetation, and reflecting the desolate nature of their surroundings.
Red and yellow danger signs, warning of highly contaminated buried buildings, permeate the landscape. As with many problems, ideological or physical, in the former Soviet Union, burial has proven not to be a long-term solution and this approach to the contamination has since ceased.
The tour is preceded by a brief talk by a guide about the history of Chernobyl.
During the ten days subsequent to reactor #4’s explosion on the 26th April 1986, the Ukrainian and Soviet authorities evacuated 116,000 people to other towns and cities.Despite government regulations, 2,000 of those so resettled chose to return to the 30-km exclusion zone.Now there are just 300 people living within the Chernobyl oblast, two of which live alone within the central 10-km exclusion zone.
Although the Ukrainian government forbids anyone to live within the Chernobyl oblast, the elderly who have returned are allowed to live out their dying days peacefully.
The government provides them with some medical care and transport to shops on a regular basis.In many respects those still living in the exclusion zone live as normal a life as any resident of any country village throughout the world; they are no more removed from society than many elderly people in English country villages.In fact, the Chernobyl residents probably benefit from a more frequent bus service and more frequent home visits by doctors.
These people seem content with their quiet lives and grow the majority of their own food, although doing so flouts legislation.
Following the brief introduction to Chernobyl’s history and after signing an agreement to the various rules which must be abided by during the visit, including not standing on moss because the way plants absorb radiation makes them potentially very harmful to human beings, the visitors return to the minibus for the tour to commence.
During the tour many of the sites are large and/or striking, for example, the evident inadequacy of the vehicles used in the clean-up operation, the Sovietesque memorial to the fire-fighting services, the abandoned shipping port and rusting ships, the blackened forest and even reactor #4.
However, nothing compares to the eerie ghost town of Pripyat. Once home to 49,000 people, Pripyat is an example of a perfectly preserved Soviet town but now houses just one lone elderly couple. The Soviet housing blocks, still containing their former residents’ belongings, cannot fail to make you gasp. Now decaying, the then brand new and unused football stadium and ferris-wheel, which were to be unveiled to celebrate May Day just days after #4’s explosion, are a grim reminder of what life was like in the Soviet Union, superficially appearing grand and elaborate, but, in reality, highly dangerous.
Trips to Chernobyl are rounded off with a traditional Ukrainian meal, none of the produce of which is sourced locally for fear of contamination. The women employed to cook for those working in the area present a veritable feast: a selection of cold meats, salad, bread, delicious borscht soup and a plate of grilled meat, served with small potato chips.
This is possibly the most poignant eco-tourism trip one could take. Politicians from all over the world should visit Chernobyl before they consider commencing extolling the virtues of nuclear power in an effort to justify further investment in this technology.
When leaving Chernobyl, on reaching the perimeter of the exclusion zone, visitors are required to exit the minibus in order for the guards to check personal radiation levels. Having been there for such a brief time and some 22 years after the accident, levels of personal radiation appear to be no greater than on arrival.
It is said that during a flight between the UK and the USA more radiation is absorbed into the human body than is the case when visiting Chernobyl for a short time. Of course, those living within the region in 1986 were not as fortunate, and reported cases of thyroid cancer and other health complaints are numerous, not also forgetting the deaths due to radiation sickness which occurred during and just days after the explosion.
Angus Bell is a Scot, who while living in Canada, stumbled upon a medium who told him his Great Uncle Ivor (who had died as a child) was inspiring his ideas, that he would travel and write about it. While working in a methadone clinic Bell planned a cricket tour around Eastern Europe. Starting in the Baltics with playing cricket on ice and encountering a streaker, Bell picks up many a hitchhiker along the way and makes his way through the Balkans, Bulgaria, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic and finally finishes his tour in Poland where his final match is cancelled.
My sister lent me this book and instructed me that despite my general dislike of travel writing and my limited knowledge of cricket, it would indulge my love of Eastern Europe. However, whether you are a lover of travel writing, cricket, Eastern Europe, or would like to find out about an interesting, albeit odd, adventure.
While Bell’s knowledge of East European history is not always necessarily spot on (though I do understand it is difficult to convey complicated historical concepts, thoughts, ideas and facts in a limited number of words) I did find his investigation of academics’ work amusing simply because there were many thesis written in utter jest. I had never before come across academic work written as a hoax and I do wonder where academics get the time considering supposedly how hard they work and how much research they do! (Note, I realise many historians actually do work incredibly hard!) What I found most intriguing was the brief mention of Lapta, a Russian game which began in the medieval period and is a Russian game similar to cricket.