Thursday, January 23, 2014

Kharkov

A palace?  No, this is an airport.  It certainly sets the tone for visitors to Kharkov, Ukraine, a city with a fascinating combination of traditional and modern.

Since living next door to a Ukrainian family, I’ve dreamed of visiting their home country.The family was warm, friendly and hard-working.I loved to hear my neighbors tell stories about their lives and customs in the Ukraine.  

I was intrigued to learn that marriages were still semi-arranged.  Fathers would pick several young men that they felt were a good match for their daughters and each was invited to a Sunday dinner.  The daughter could then tell her father, which suitors she would like to see again and later, the one that she wished to marry.  This old-fashioned custom was juxtaposed with university educations, multi-lingual fluency, appreciation of the fine arts and technical savvy. 

This mix of old and new is reflected in Kharkov.  Historic cathedrals, museums and universities mingle with research institutes and high-tech industries.   The city hosts both the annual Ukrainian folk instrument competition and the Star Bridge science fiction convention.  This city sparks the imagination.

It’s good to dream, but is a trip to Kharkov affordable? Two of my nieces, who have a considerable amount of global travel under their belts, tell me that it is.  They are pros at finding discounted airfares and reasonably priced accommodations.  I’m not talking student hostels, but private, reasonable living quarters.  One favors residence swaps, although she admits the quality has varied dramatically.  The other favors holiday apartments. a European tradition which seem to be gaining in global popularity.  They are similar to timeshares, since they are homelike, and the availability of cooking accommodations can reduce the cost of dining, while on vacation.  Unlike timeshares, however, there is no long-term commitment or large financial outlay, freeing the visitor to return in the future or vacation in a new location.  I searched online for Kharkov apartments and found that they do have holiday apartments in Kharkov.  The starting prices are comparable to a U.S. budget motel, but with much nicer accommodations and amenities.


Now I just have to find a good deal on airfare.

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