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One of Europe’s most important rivers, the Dnieper rises near Smolensk in the turf swamps of the Valdai Hills and flows through Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine to the Black Sea. It has great economic importance, especially for Ukraine, and its 1420miles (2285km) is regularly interrupted with dams and hydroelectric stations. It is linked to the Dnieper-Bug Canal and forms a major transport system for cargo though this stops in the winter when the river often freezes and severe storms can occur. The Dneiper passes through many major cities including Smolensk in Russia and Kiev in the Ukraine. It is relatively unexplored by river cruises though Black Sea cruises explore the area around its mouth in Odessa. However, its lower reaches from Kiev to Odessa are navigable by passenger ship and feature long tracts of green agricultural land, lakes, islands and inland seas and the cities of Kiev and Odessa.

Odessa was founded in the eighteenth century by Catherine the Great though there was an Ottoman town and fort there before the Russians captured it in the Russo-Turkish War and built a new city. That now old city is still intact, there is a beautiful opera house. Kiev is the capital of Ukraine and one of the oldest cities in eastern Europe. Its monasteries are venerable and there is a Cave Monastery – Kiev Pechersk Lavra – founded by St Antoniy in the eleventh century, the caves dug out by the hermit-priests who lived there. St Sophia Cathedral is UNESCO World Heritage site and St Michael’s Monastery is renowned for its golden domes.