Let it Snow! Get to the Carpathians!
by Paul Miazga
It’s easy enough for many foreigners living in Ukraine to ignore suggestions to hit the slopes in western Ukraine: poor infrastructure in many places, difficult to get there, lack of reasonable accommodations, language barriers – the list seems endless. I used to have many of these same beefs, but in recent years the only major hassle has been getting info before going out. By this, I mean websites.
Ukraine actually has a number of good websites – some dealing with specific resorts, such as Bukovel (www.bukovel.com) and Slavske (www.trostian.com), and others dealing with weather conditions at various hills (http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts – type in the resort you want to check out and there it is) or post photos in chat forums (http://www.skier.com.ua/vasbin/vfor.cgi?skf=get_topic&f=1&t=002626&sorted – such as this bunch from Dragobrat, which gives you a good sense of what the notoriously hard-to-reach hill can look like when it’s not clouded over).
Take the time to check out the sites, trip and stumble your way around if the language issue is a big problem, but remember: skiing and snowboarding is very popular in Ukraine and incredibly affordable compared to other major European or regional resorts.
Speaking of websites
I was rather surprised the other day by the new website for the National Opera (www.opera.com.ua), which has really improved compared to previous editions. I took new interest in the site when, just before the New Year, I was invited to attend the ballet along with my Olga and some friends. Needing a bit of information on the ballet itself, I turned to the old site and found it surprisingly in English! Not bad for a state-run institution. The site still isn’t totally up and running in English (you’ll have to click on Afisha in the Ukrainian version to see the playbill not accessible in English), but it’s a step in the right direction.
And for that matter, the opera these days seems a bit more polished than it has in the past, with great new costumes, excellent attention to detail in sets and scenery, the orchestra is as good as ever and the dancers seem even more spot on than they’ve been (the main dancers, anyway). A few months remain for fans to go check out some of the great ballets and opera performances to be shown there and I strongly recommend a visit (as would any good tour guide to the city) for anyone, even those who aren’t so keen on seeing men in tights.
A taste of Greece
For a long time now and despite this city having many types of ethnic restaurants to choose from, it’s puzzled me why Greek food was never available. Greeks have been part of Ukrainian history for millennia (recall the ruins at Khersones, near Sevastopol), there are literally hundreds of thousands of ethnic Greeks in Donetsk region but no restaurants until now.
Just before the New Year, a Greek entrepreneur opened Athina on Gorkogo St., between Lva Tolstogo and Saksaganskogo. A Greek guy at work tried it out and said it’s great, a friend invited me out for lunch and when I suggested Athina, it turns out I’m one of the last people in the city to have tried it out.
Usually the critic in me takes charge when I enter any new restaurant and I can’t help but pick apart some aspect of the place: overlong menu, tacky interior, pricey food, poor service, yada yada yada. In this city, it’s easy to find fault in any such place. However, Athina is already doing many things right, most importantly the food. Inexpensive, delicious, sizeable portions and authentic – Athina is right on target. Add to this that the place gets ample natural lighting to accentuate the great open space it has and it’s sure to become a long-standing favorite in no time.
Once I get the address and other such info I’ll pass it on, but in the meantime, use my directions to find this sparkling new gem of a restaurant, bring friends along and enjoy!
“The views from new Greek restaurant Athina may not be quite as pictured, but the food is highly reminiscent.” (www.athina-studios.gr)