Discovering Chernigov below a temperature of -20C

I always wanted to visit Chernigov but was postponing it for later: when it will be nice weather, when it will be on the way, when I will have some more money and time… Who knows for how long I would think like this and never visit this city? But suddenly in the beginning of February this year I got to know that I have to get a new birth document. As I was born in Chernigov region and I couldn’t wait 2 months till I get the document by post, I decided to make a short trip there and to combine in with staying in Kiev for a week.

So firstly I came to Kiev and the next morning I planned to take a bus to Kozelets (where I should have got my doc). At 8 am I was near metro station Chernigovskaya coz I knew there is a bus stop somewhere there. But there were so many people and different buses everywhere! I thought I will get lost. And in that moment the driver of the closest bus opened the door and shouted: “Kozelets!”. I was for sure lucky :) In about 1,5-2 hours I was in a small town with only one big road and two old beautiful churches. And a snowy park.

The cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Kozelets

The cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Koselets. It even has its own site in Russian: http://www.kozelec.in.ua/

Kozelets park

The church of the Ascension in Koselets

I got my document very quickly, beside the time that I spent in the local bank department. It was the period when people get the receipts for the public utilities. So it seemed like ALL the grannies of the town came to this bank at the same time to pay (and to gossip between each other). I have never seen such a queue. And I really hope not to see anything like this again.

After finishing everything at the office I went to the bus station that was situated at the same road like everything else in this town. I was lucky again – the bus to Chernigov came in 5 minutes. In another 2 hours I arrived to Chernigov. From the first view the city seems to be not very beautiful, grey, destroyed, with a lot of Soviet style buildings. So I didn’t like it so much. Actually it is difficult to like something when you freeze and feel hungry. After having a lunch in some small pizzeria I had to go to the Administration of Justice of Chernigov region. In Ukrainian offices I got used to stand in the long queues and to come several times to deal only one thing. And I was very surprised that at this office I was only one and it took me 5 minutes to get a stamp on my doc. Maybe it’s because this office was the one of higher authority and not everyone survives the lower offices to get there :)

Finally it was the time for some social contacts. Before leaving Kharkiv I found a girl in CouchSurfing that found another girl that could host me for one day in Chernigov. So I called this second girl and went to her place. She and her husband are very very nice and hospitable people. I love couchsurfing. We had the second lunch together and went to make a sightseeing tour with the first girl :) It was already dark and much colder but they were really trying to show and to tell me something about Chernigov and I was trying to see and enjoy this! Even so I noticed that the old part of the city with it hills, cathedrals, parks, river and so on is very beautiful. We finished the evening in some lovely coffee house. When you travel somewhere during the cold season you always visit more cafes and bars than sights of the city.

Catherine's Church in Chernigov at night

The next morning we continued our city tour. We went to Boldina Gora (Boldina mountain) where are situated the Trinity monastery and the underground caves of St. Anthoniy. It is also good to visit caves in winter coz the temperature there is always the same and you feel warm there. We went to some more churches and finally to a café to drink hot tea! At the afternoon I took a bus back to Kiev.

Some modern church under construction. Where they take money to build new churches??

Boldina gora, Memorial complex

St Elijah's church in Chernigov, the entrance to the caves

The Holy Trinity cathedral

Tea time :)

To resume the journey I want to say that I would love to come again to Chernigov, it is definitely worth to see especially when it’s warm. The people I met there are great! And I admire their lifestyle – they make bicycle tours or go to swim in the morning before the work, every weekend they organize some activities outside the city or different thematic and intercultural meeting inviting foreign guests that travel in Ukraine. They go together to the festivals all over Ukraine and to hiking tours in the mountains. I have never seen before such a strong and active youth community. They invited me to join their activities in summer and I hope to do so.

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Lviv: city of coffee and chocolate

Yesterday I came back from a short trip to Lvov (or Lviv). It’s almost springtime there, so warm, so nice… And here it still snows…

Lviv, view from the Town Hall

It was my second time in Lviv and I should say that I changed my opinion about this city. The last time I was there in August 2010 for few hours and I saw only the city center. I thought that it is a wonderful city from a fairy-tail. I was really impressed, I have never seen before such a city: narrow old streets, beautiful buildings, town hall, catholic churches, coffee shops… Now I know that the center is small and the most of the city is not so beautiful, it is dirty, destroyed… It’s Ukraine after all.

In two days we manage to see everything that is worth to visit, and even more. I will not describe Lviv’s sightseeings, everybody can read it somewhere else, in wiki: all churches and cathedrals (mostly greek-catholic, strange mix of two branches of christianity), Arsenal, High Castle, Lychakiv cemetery… We have seen local Citadel that is used now as a department of Volksbank. Even our hosts in Lviv didn’t know that there is some citadel in the city.

Lviv, St. Jura cathedral

Lviv Citadel = Volksbank

Though the real face of the city is not its sightseeings, but its restaurants. he restaurants and coffee bars are the most important visiting points in Lviv. There is a net of restaurants “Local”, which includes the best places in the city like “Dim Legend”, “Kryivka”, ‘Gazova lampa’, “Mazoch”, “Kopalnia kavy”, “Maisternia shokoladu” and so on. The creators of these places are really geniuses. Every restaurant has its own idea, design, concept and it is for sure unique! Like “Kopalnia kavy”, for example. Isn’t it a crazy idea to build a coffee mine?

Coffee mine "Kopalnia kavy"

Lviv, "Dim legend"

Lviv, the roof of "Dim Legend"

Some people call Lviv a paradise for coffee and chocolate lovers. But I completely disagree. In paradise you should get what you want, be satisfied and happy. In Lviv you can’t be. At least I can’t be. Everything there is so expensive, that it is very hard and painful to choose something. You want everything but you get very few. And you suffer… For me it is not paradise at all!!

In Lviv people speak Ukrainian. Of course, it’s Ukraine. But for me it is uncomfortable to be there because of the language. I know Ukrainian but it is so weird to speak it! I don’t like. And why should I if my native language is Russian and everybody there understands it? But the problem is that I also feel very uncomfortable when I speak Russian. I have a feeling that sooner or later people there gonna kill me because of this… So I prefer to use English. Unfortunately in most of the situations I had to speak either Russian or Ukrainian.

There is still one thing that I wanted to visit in Lviv but I haven’t manage to do. It is Lviv stadium. I already saw stadiums in Kharkov and Donetsk after reconstruction for Euro 2012, and I wanted to see another one. No chance. It is far away from the center, there is no direct transport to go there. It would be too complicated to reach this stadium. And I have seen it on the picture. Not very nice one, I would say. Still it’s pity.

I don’t understand foreigners that come to visit Lviv and think that they saw Ukraine. Especially Polish. This city is not representative for Ukraine at all. It is kind of European city with the same style and architecture as many other cities in Europe, especially in Poland. I do agree that Lviv is nice and beautiful and it is worth to visit, but if you want to see Ukraine you should go east, to other cities.

I guess this time there was enough Lviv for me. I don’t think that I will visit it again. Maybe only on the way to somewhere else. I will just look sometimes at the postcards that I bought there.

Lviv, Italian yard

Volunteer Workcamps in Ukraine 2012: different topics

UA-SVI 11.1: CAMP OF IDEAS (Poltava region)

Start Date: 2012-08-01

End Date: 2012-08-14

Topic: 11: Others

Number of volunteers: 14

Description: Baranivka House is a meeting place and training centre for people who wish to change their lives and the life of their communities through practicing awareness, responsibility, service and integrity. It is place that helps visitors to gain inspiration, knowledge and skills and strengthen their desire to bring positive change to their society, based on Ghandi’s philosophy “Be the change you want to see in the world”. It is situated in rural area surrounded by beautiful nature, where a variety of initiatives can be implemented: cultural, ecological, educational, peace-building, social, etc.

Type of Work: The project aims to contribute to developming and improving Baranivka House: construction works, arranging the territory, making the House more eco-friendly and self-sufficient.

Study Theme: Excursions and visits to different historical and cultural places in the “heart of Ukraine” which is Poltava region, different workshops (Scottish dance, sewing stuffed toys, making herbal teas and jam), leadership skills and effective communication, the volunteers will have the opportunity to take part in activities of the House.

Accommodation: Volunteers will stay in tents. Kitchen, shower and Internet wi-fi are available. There is an authentic Ukrainian toilet and an outdoor shower. Please bring your own mattress and sleeping bag. Volunteers will cook for themselves.

Language: English

Approximate Location: Baranivka, Poltava region

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Volunteer Workcamps in Ukraine 2012: work with children

UA-SVI 4.1: GARDEN OF SENSES (Kharkiv)

Start Date: 2012-05-27

End Date: 2012-06-10

Topic: 4: Disabilities

Number of volunteers: 10

Description: The workcamp will take place at the rehabilitation center “Pravo vybora” for children with disabilities, including visually impaired and blind children. Near the center there is a place where people now dump their trash. The aim of the workcamp is to create a “Garden of senses” at this place – a special playground where visually impaired and blind children can experience nature, different plants, various sizes, shapes and textures of objects by touch. The “Garden of senses” will be a place where children can develop their senses through different activities.

Type of Work: The volunteers will help to clean the territory and build the “Garden of senses” — this will include the construction of sensory paths, planting and other gardening works, and building simple playground equipment with natural materials.

Study Theme: Information about children with disabilities and their rehabilitation. Further, the center is located within Kharkiv, the second largest city of Ukraine, and volunteers will have the opportunity to explore the city.

Accommodation: The volunteers will live in the rehabilitation center “Pravo vybora” and prepare meals themselves. Please bring your own mattress and sleeping bag.

Language: English, local language — Russian

Approximate Location: Kharkiv

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Volunteer Workcamps in Ukraine 2012: historical camps

As volunteering and workcamps play some role in my life and I am a member of volunteer organization SVIT-Ukraine, I want to share the list and the description of the workcamps that will take place this year in Ukraine. There will be 10 camps from May to September 2012.

Maybe it will promote them somehow ;)

The full information you can find in SVIT-Ukraine blog (workcamps descriptions are in English, but most of the other posts are in Ukrainian) or the workcamps database http://www.workcamps.info/

UA-SVI 9.3: EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY in “CROW VILLAGE”

Start Date: 2012-07-01

End Date: 2012-07-14

Topic: 9: Art, Culture, History

Number of volunteers: 12

Description: “Crow Village” is located in an area with a very rich archaeological heritage, where many different cultures have existed one after another: ancient tribes such as Scythians, Goths, Khazars, Alans and Severians. Here enthusiasts started to rebuild settlements of archaeological cultures, using only technology from the ancient times. The reconstructed buildings are open to visitors. The project’s aim is to better understand how the people in the region used to live in ancient times.

Type of Work: The volunteers using methods of the experimental archaeology will help to construct park of archaeological cultures, e.g. build settlements of ancient East Germanic (Goth) and Khazar cultures, using only technology which was used in those times. They will work under the guidance of an archaeologist.

Study Theme: The volunteers will learn from a specialist about experimental archaeology and the ancient cultures. Further there will be workshops on the preparation of Ukrainian dishes and traditional handicrafts, excursions to a local history museum and earthen fortress from the 18th century, presentation of traditional songs and dances by a folklore group.

Accommodation: In a block house on the territory of “Crow Village”. Volunteers will cook themselves. Please bring a sleeping bag and if possible, a mattress. There is a sauna that the volunteers can use.

Language: English

Approximate Location: Melikhivka, Kharkiv region

A note from me: It happened that I have been to this Melikhivka village. I spent there one summer month some years ago. I have no idea about the “Crow village” and archeology there, I can tell only about the place itself. Melikhivka is a traditional East Ukrainian village, with old not very beautiful houses, bad roads and poor people. There is a lake, the forests, the corn fields. I remember that I and my friends liked to borrow a horse from one local guy, go to the lake to swim and then to steal some corn for the dinner :) It was a very nice time. his village is far away from the city and the public transportation doesn’t work very well. So it’s not possible to go to Kharkov often. This camp is definitely for the fans of the rural life and nature. 

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