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My Travels Through Ukraine

by Eugene Katchalov |  Published: Sep 15, '14


I am back in the States, after having done a lot of traveling lately.  Part of those travels involved me finally exploring my home country, Ukraine, for the first time. 

When I finally finished with the TV show around the beginning of July, I debated whether or not to go out to the WSOP for the Main Event.  I could have made it, but I thought it would be too hectic with all of the traveling and I’d be too tired, so I decided against it and instead took the opportunity to do some traveling a little closer to home.

I was born in Kiev and since I was a kid I had never really gone anywhere else in Ukraine as an adult.  I’m dating someone from Ukraine, and we decided to spend some time going around the country together.  I didn’t even realize this before, but in Ukraine there is a great high-speed train system which makes it easy to travel around the country.  They have these nice, fast Hyundai trains from Korea, which are very convenient.

Obviously we avoided the dangerous areas where the conflict is currently going on, but there were other cities we picked out to see, including my girlfriend’s home city of Kharkiv in the northeastern part of the country which is where we started our trip.  Actually Kharkiv isn’t that far from the conflict area — only about 60 miles away — although far enough to be safe and we really enjoyed the time we spent there.  There were a lot of beautiful parks and places in the city to walk around.

Eugene_Katchalov_personal_blog August 2014 Photo 1 - Kharkiv-2

We spent about three or four days there, went back to Kyiv, then went all of the way to the west coast of Ukraine to Lviv.  I didn’t even recognize the city because it was so different from what I knew of the rest of the country.  Everyone spoke only Ukrainian there — not Russian, as is the case in most of the rest of the country.  The architecture was very European, too, reminding me a lot of Prague or Paris, which is also very different from the rest of Ukraine.

We were only there about three days, but we did some very fun things, most of which had to do with eating out.  We went to three very cool restaurants in Lviv, all of which had interesting themes.

One place was like a half-restaurant, half-torture museum — I’m not joking!  The place was more than a century old, and they had all of these medieval torture devices all around.  They kept the theme going in other ways, too, such as one time when I saw a woman being put into a cage — willingly, of course — and then get lowered into this hole in the ground that led to a dungeon below.  Kind of scary!

From there we went to another famous place in Lviv called the Masoch Cafe where the theme was masochism (as suggested by the name).  There when you ordered drinks the waiters walked around with whips and actually whipped you!  That was another interesting experience. 

Eugene_Katchalov_personal_blog August 2014 Photo 2 - Being whipped at the Masoch cafe in Lviv-1

The third place we went to was another unusual restaurant.  The menu had no prices on it, and in the end you had to haggle with the waiter over how much you were willing to pay for the meal.  We didn’t really know what to expect, and so we watched people at the other tables negotiating with their waiters when their meals were done.  When it came to be our turn, I think we weren’t very good at haggling because the waiter accepted our proposed price pretty quickly.  We might have overpaid a bit, but it was still a fun experience.

Eugene_Katchalov_personal_blog August 2014 Photo 3 - at the haggling restaurant in Lviv-1

From there we went to Odesa (or Odessa), which is on the southern coast by the Black Sea.  It’s a seafront city with nice beaches, kind of like the “Miami” of Ukraine.  We spent another three or four days there just relaxing and again enjoying the food, including a specific fish they have there for which they’re famous.  We did a lot of walking, too, and had a great time.

I was pleasantly surprised to find so much that was interesting and so much variety, too, in Ukraine.  It was a great opportunity to experience and appreciate those places and learn a little more about my country.

The post My Travels Through Ukraine appeared first on Eugene Katchalov.

Eugene Katchalov has been a professional poker player since 2003 and is a World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour champion. The Ukrainian native has won over $8 million on the live tournament circuit and is a member of Team PokerStars Pro.

You can read more about Eugene on his website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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