Economic crises, hunger strikes, and military attacks—this is what Google News will return if you type in “Ukraine” in the news search field. Such sombre descriptions can hardly convince anyone to pack a suitcase and come to vacation in Ukraine. Sometimes even locals question whether it is worth doing some sightseeing in the capital city of Kyiv or planning a weekend getaway to another major Ukrainian city.
But now an international group of volunteers is creating an online map of places in Ukraine where people can feel happiness in the air.
The idea behind Map Me Happy is to help both locals and tourists fall in love with the country all over again and also learn about interesting architectural objects and landscapes in Ukraine.
Is Ukraine a happy place?
The creators of the new interactive map are convinced things in Ukraine are not as bad as the news headlines might suggest. While the eastern provinces are indeed embroiled in a simmering military conflict with Russia, the country is so big (Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe) that one can hardly feel the tension traveling in its western or central regions. So, to give travelers and locals some ideas of where to relax and feel a good vibe, the Map Me Happy map sprang into existence.
“Map Me Happy blends the interests of geographers and architects. We share a great interest in the built environment and the social reactions it provokes… To us, cities are far more than just real estate, buildings, infrastructure, land, factories or architectural designs. They are made up of the thousands of unique meanings people assign to it and by the way they use it,” explain the creators of the Map Me Happy project.
The map is essentially a crowdsourcing platform that lets any registered user mark “positive” places around the country. Currently there are 328 spots marked on the map, and the number is growing every day. Users can also search for places using filters like “positive thinking,” “positive hearing,” “positive visual,” “positive smelling” and “positive touching.” This allows to find “happy spaces” according to whichever of the six senses a user wants to engage.
For example, if you want to get inspired by some positive thinking places over the weekend, the map offers to visit Trukhaniv Island, located close to downtown Kyiv, and go for a bike ride there. Another option would be to meditate in the Kyiv Sahara sands on the outskirts of the city or just visit the spot to take some breathtaking pictures.
The map was launched only a month ago, so the creators are actively encouraging everyone to join the initiative and add more happy places to the map. To do that, users have to fill out a short registration form or log in with their Facebook accounts.
The collaborative project was created by Ukrainian urbanist Nastya Ponomaryova and geographers from Romania, Germany, and the Netherlands under the auspices of the Cultural Managers Exchange program.