Kiev - Lesya Ukrainka Boulevard - Varenichnaya Restaurant

Ukrainian Snapshot: 10 hours in Kiev, August 2012

Ah, the good old days of Aerosvit! New York-Kiev non-stop in a mere 10 hours, on a plane with nearly non-existent entertainment but at a reasonable price. I’ve used Kiev as a stopover on many trips, spending anywhere from a few hours to a few days there before heading on to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, or […]

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Ukrainian Snapshot: Vylkove, July 2013

Last summer, after touring Moldova, we crossed the border with Ukraine and headed towards Odessa. The goal wasn’t really Odessa itself, which I had already visited, but a remote village called Vylkove (Vilkovo, in Russian). Vylkove takes its name from vilka, which means fork, on account of its location in the Danube Delta. Although the town is […]

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Moldovan Impressions: The Breakaway Territories, Part 3

Our mock tourist guide of Transnistria continues! After the history and travel logistics sections, let’s talk about the attractions, the gastronomy, and the souvenirs. I have to warn you: “pretty” isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when thinking of Transnistria and its capital city, Tiraspol. And I dare anyone to name a Transnistrian national dish. Don’t […]

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Moldovan Impressions: The Breakaway Territories, Part 2

9 November 1989: the Berlin Wall falls, marking the end of the division between the East and the West. Within a year, the Eastern Bloc ceases to exist. 27 August 1991: following the failed Soviet August Coup, Moldova, like most other republics in the USSR that haven’t done so yet, declares its independence. 8 December 1991: the presidents of Russia, […]

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Azerbaijan Adventures, Part 5

In today’s installment, we’re leaving Baku and heading to the mountainous region of Quba. But before we get there, we’ll have a look at the quintessential post-Soviet landscape on the road outside the capital, near Sumqayit. Here’s how the Traiblazer Azerbaijan Guide describes Sumqayit: “Until 1940 Sumqayit was a village of 4,000 souls set on an idyllic curve of white […]

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Azerbaijan Adventures, Part 2

Reading about the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in a travel book leaves you under the impression that the place suffers from acute spying paranoia. Here’s what the Traiblazer Azerbaijan Guide (now in its 4th edition) has to say: “while local people are very friendly and hospitable, the same can’t be said for the police and officials […]

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Vodkas from the Vanished Empire

During my recent trip to France, I spent some time unearthing forgotten vodka bottles scattered across my parents’ apartment in every possible cabinet and closet. Most of these bottles, acquired in the late 80’s and early 90’s, have been gathering dust ever since, quite often because of the dubious nature of the spirits they contained. […]

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Armenian Adventures, Part 2

After Part 1‘s visit to the Central Market, here are some more food-related pictures from the Armenian capital. Armenia has its fair share of Soviet relics, like this abandoned Soviet café in Victory Park. Apparently this remote café — located on a hill with not-so-breathtaking views of Yerevan, surrounded with war monuments, and featuring only a […]

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Georgian Adventures, Part 8

In our previous adventures, we entered Abkhazia, an almost-country that already has a language with a funky Cyrillic alphabet, a flag worthy of a banana republic, a dead president (Vladislav Ardzinba, below), and authoritarian-looking billboards: Not to mention some of the most accomplished Soviet bus stop artwork: Except for the Russians who don’t need a […]

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Georgian Adventures, Part 7

The last leg of our Georgian Adventures took us to the controversial Republic of Abkhazia, the self-proclaimed independent region at the Northeast tip of the country. Let me start with some practical information (dating from July 2010) for prospective travelers. Getting there isn’t trivial. The airport is closed, and its reconstruction is being delayed both […]

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