Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Train Travel Guide: The Ukraine

Planning a vacation any time soon? With the summer heat upon us and the economy experiencing what I like to call an “extreme fecal blast,” many Americans are looking to take some vacation time and go abroad. Some head south to the beaches of Mexico, while others head north to Canada. Old European standbys like England and France are also popular options, and the Olympics may bring some to China (assuming of course that one manages to get a visa, something the Chinese are making inexplicably difficult).

Sadly, the weak American dollar makes travel to these places far more expensive than it used to be. Are you sure you can afford a trip to somewhere nice? If not please consider perusing this introduction to the Ukraine, the first of a series of articles highlighting the marvels of less-traveled paths and second-tier destinations!

-The capital of the Ukraine is Kiev. You may have eaten Chicken Kiev, the only Ukrainian recipe ever declared “technically edible by humans” by the United Nations Food Committee!
-The official currency of the Ukraine is the hryvnia. The current exchange rate is 4.6 hryvnia to the dollar. One hryvnia will buy you two goats, five stools, eight broken light bulbs, or a fist-sized pile of human teeth. These things are all used interchangeably with hryvnia in the Ukraine, much the same way dollar bills and change are here in the States!
-The domain suffix for the Ukraine is .ua. The Ukrainians have yet to discover how to create systems of tubes, however, and estimate that their first website will not be online until 2012. As it stands this site will likely be a portal for automated spambots, exiled Russian hackers, and people advertising a wide variety of unspeakable Ukrainian fetishes. I can’t wait to recoil in horror from what they have to offer!

-The Ukraine has been inhabited for millennia. In the 7th century the land was part of “Old Great Bulgaria,” a term used to distinguish it from “New Crappy Bulgaria,” also known simply as “Bulgaria.”
-The Ukraine is made of 24 “oblasts.” Each oblast is then divided into a number of borslops, which is itself comprised of grossflaps. Most grossflaps contain a number of blechniks, gratsplots, ikbumps, ughflorps, and dripvarts. The last one doubles as a heinous insult in Ukrainian, however, so take care when asking for direction!

-Khotyn Fortress: While this place has a long, confusing history, all you need to know is that it was once stormed by people called “Zaporozhian Cossacks.” With a name like that they’re either undefeatable or stunningly incompetent- go ahead and figure out which it sounds like to you, and then assume the battle went accordingly.
-The Seven-Kilometer Market: As an American I refuse to get even the slightest feel for the metric system, but trusted sources assure me that this is a moderately impressive length for a market.
-Chernobyl: Apparently they no longer give tours of the power plant? Feel free to disregard safety signs and check it out on your own though. I’m sure these guys are taking good care of their nuclear power plants.
-The Potemkin Steps in Odessa: These steps were designed to create the illusion that they violate the rules of time and space, or contain non-Euclidean geometry or something. While a small minority of viewers are filled with inexplicable dread, most are able to get from the top of the stairs to the bottom with only minor malaise!

Well, that’s it for now. If anyone has any ideas for future installments, please do make some suggestions. Good luck enduring the horrors wonders of the Ukraine!

1 comment:

  1. While in a bookstore browsing the travel section I picked up a tour book on the Ukraine. After discussing crime, the tour book pointed out that many former KGB and Secret Police agents (now unfortunately out of work) hire themselves out as bodyguards. This book suggested hiring one of these guys for your visit. It didn’t say how many hryvia this requires.