Ukraine, for Better and Worse
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Q. My husband and I will be attending a conference in Kiev at the beginning of October. We would like to spend about a week seeing Ukraine and are wondering about the most interesting places to visit.
Diane Rumble, Gaithersburg
A. Oleksiy Synelnychenko didn't even try to deny it. The Kiev native, who works for the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation ( http:/
"The most important part of Ukraine remains the churches," he said, especially such treasures as St. Sophia's Cathedral in Kiev, where frescoes date back nearly a thousand years and the bell tower offers a panoramic view of the capital. What you'll see from there is a city that happily looks both forward and back, where "real estate is more expensive than Paris," according to Synelnychenko, and restaurants specialize in a range of offerings, from varenykys (Ukrainian dumplings) to sushi to kotleta po-Kyivsky (that's chicken Kiev to you). October will probably prove too chilly for a dip at the Crimean resorts, but even then you can enjoy the spectacular scenery that inspired Soviet leaders from Brezhnev to Gorbachev to visit dachas there. And thanks to gentle peaks and ideal hiking conditions, "the Carpathian Mountains are marvelous as well" in fall, Synelnychenko said.
For a reminder of how fragile these picturesque scenes are, there's always Chernobyl, site of the devastating 1986 nuclear accident that left whole towns uninhabitable and whose environmental effects are ongoing. "You can take tours if you are not worried about your health," laughed Synelnychenko, who incidentally has not taken one. "You're going to get some radiation."
How much radiation you'll get is a matter of dispute, but the heart-stopping power of the journey is not. SoloEast Travel conducts day-long excursions to within a few hundred feet of the power plant ($475, with discounts for groups of two or more, http:/
We will be traveling to Canada, Chile, Colombia and Ireland this year. Are international driver's licenses still needed to rent cars in those countries?
E. Collins, Alexandria
Getting an international driving permit remains a good idea for any traveler wishing to drive outside the United States, although a U.S. license alone is sufficient in Canada and Mexico. The State Department has authorized two entities to issue IDPs, the National Automobile Club ( http:/
Send queries by e-mail (email@example.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.