Welcome to Poltava
Quaint, leafy Poltava is all about one particular turning point in history. Had Russian tsar Peter I lost a decisive battle on the town's outskirts in 1709, he wouldn't have become Peter the Great and Ukraine could have celebrated the 300th anniversary of its independence in 2009. But the Russians defeated a joint Swedish-and-Cossack force, marking the event a century later by rebuilding the city's centre as a mini–St Petersburg. As if avenging the lost battle and the architecture imposed from the north, Poltava became a centre of Ukrainian cultural renaissance in the 19th century. The battlefield lures throngs of war history buffs into the city, which is dotted with monuments dedicated to seemingly every regiment that took part in the faithful battle. Besides imperial architecture, Poltava boasts a few imposing Cossack-baroque cathedrals and enchanting views from a bluff at the far end of the main pedestrian drag.