Trying to get drinking water: our short trip to Carpathians

About two weeks ago my mum with her friend came to visit us in Lviv. After spending few days walking around the city we got bored and decided that we want to see the mountains which supposed to be not far from Lviv and to have a picnic there. Actually I was hoping that they would be really close. I surfed in the Internet and found out that there is a national park Skolevskie Beskidy about 200 km from the city, with a waterfall, a lake and a mineral water spring, so we decided to go there as the friend was with a car.

We took with us a map, two umbrellas, some food and several 6-liters bottles. From the very beginning we got lost trying to find a Lviv ring road, so accidentally we found ourselves somewhere near the Poland. When we got to the right road it started to rain. But who cares, mountains are beautiful under the rain!


However we saw the real mountains, and not just few hills, only at the end of our trip after 3 hours of driving. It kept raining and the streets were a total disaster, but we reached our goal: it was a small river in the mountains with a small waterfall…



Surprisingly there were some people: women selling souvenirs (even there, even in such weather!), guys frying shashlyk for selling, kids with a school excursion. Kids were everywhere around and very noisy. Trying to escape from them we went to a small meadow to eat our lunch. We couldn’t have a real picnic so we ate just near the car. Then we filled our bottles with water from a spring nearby with a sign “water of vitality”.


a bridge to the spring

The only attraction left was a so-called “Dead Lake”. There was also a sign pointing to the direction of the lake. The way there was very craggy, my mum and her friend suffered a lot following this way as none of us had good shoes to climb up the mountain. After all the affords to reach the lake we found a small pool. Well, we just had a bad luck that day. At least we breathed fresh mountain air, isn’t it marvelous?


a way to the lake


We had nothing else to do there and we headed back home. Though on the way we stopped off for a while at a town of Truskavets, a resort city famous for its mineral water well-rooms. My mum wanted to get there some mineral water that would make her more beautiful. After accomplishing this task we finally could go home. Of course we got lost again, this time on the central streets of Lviv.

In the evening sitting down an armchair my mum’s friend resumed our day trip: “I have never driven so far just to get some water. The only thing I want now is to relax and to drink some wine”.


Back to Ukraine: Folk architecture museum after the rain

For the third time in my life I am back to Lviv, Ukraine. This time for living, for a period of few months and not just as a tourist. I know I said in my other post that I don’t want to come back to Lviv anymore, but I had to do so because of my husband’s internship here. Living in Lviv is completely different experience from visiting it for few days.

This time I don’t explore this city but show it to my friends and relatives who come to visit us here. But I found out that there are still places that I haven’t seen myself, and these are the parks. In one of them there is an open air museum called Shevchenkivskiy hay.

A small description from one site: “This museum’s full name is Shevchenkivs’kyi Hai, National Architecture and Rural Life Museum. It’s an open-air museum of Ukrainian village life and a living reproduction of Western Ukraine from centuries past. Here you can experience Ukrainian village just like it was back then in wooden huts, with no electricity and other modern conveniences. The museum is divided into 6 ethnographic regions of the western part of Ukraine with 124 architectural objects, including wooden village houses, churches and everyday household items preserved in their original look”.

The weather all those days is very rainy so it occurred that we went to this museum during the rain. Luckily it stopped very soon and we had a very nice walk on the fresh air! The museum’s territory is about 60 hectares and one can spend there the whole day just walking around and visiting the old houses, churches, exhibitions… But it’s Ukraine, and in Ukraine nothing is perfect. Only few ways are done so it was difficult to walk because of the mud after the rain everywhere. At least half of the exhibitions were closed (though while buying the tickets we were told that all of them are working) as a lot of workers skip their work because it is weekend and no one controls them. In addition, it was quite difficult to orientate in this park: almost no maps, lack of signs showing the directions, no descriptions or explanations…

Despite this we all enjoyed a lot our walk in Shevchenkivskiy Hay, it is definitely worth to visit when you’re in Lviv!

 shevchenkivskiy hay 1

shevchenkivskiy hay 2

shevchenkivskiy hay 3

shevchenkivskiy hay 4

shevchenkivskiy hay 5

shevchenkivskiy hay 6

The III International Poetry Festival MERIDIAN CZERNOWITZ, September 6-9, 2012


This year the festival in Chernovtsy will take place from 6th till 9th of September. The final program of the festival has been published just recently. I found there a lot of new and fascinating events.  It is dedicated to the modern Ukrainian and European poetry (of course! it’s the poetry festival) and includes poetry readings, lecture, musical and theatrical performances, screenings of the poetry films, poetry in animation, electropoetry and so on.  Last year I was positively surprised by the concert combining poetry and rock-music. This time there will be something similar, I guess.

The participants changed a little bit. No French poetry this year :( But there will be a lot of events performed by representatives of Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania and Israel.

One of the guests is Oksana Zabuzhko. I have never read her and heard about her just recently from my husband. It turned out that she is the most famous (and maybe only one) Ukrainian writer beyond Ukraine and her works are translated to other languages.

IMHO the highlight of the MERIDIAN CZERNOWITZ 2012 will be the day trips and the poetical events in Khotyn and Kamenets-Podolskiy – the towns with the beautiful impressive fortresses. I still dream to visit these towns one day.

Last year I enjoyed Chernovtsy and the festival and I hope that this year it doesn’t become worse.

Chernovtsy: another magical city in Western Ukraine

Chernovtsy (or Chernivtsi in Ukrainian way) is a city in Western Ukraine, the historical center of Bukovina region. For a long time I wanted to visit this city because it was the place where the story of my favorite book of my childhood took place. The right moment came and I and my fiancé went to Chernovtsy within our Ukraine-Moldova trip.

After arriving in Chernovtsy early in the morning we tried to reach our host’s home. It was our first experience of staying at some couchsurfer’s place so I was excited and afraid at the same time. We had an address of the girl that had to host us, we knew the way to her home and of course we got lost in her district. Finally we found the apartment we needed, entered there and were very surprised if not to say shocked: in her 2-rooms flat she hosted 6 more couchsurfers. It turned out that these days there was a poetry festival “Meridian Chernowitz” and all others came to Chernovtsy for this festival.

It was a strange company of kind of eco-people: 3 Germans, 1 Ukrainian who was speaking German perfectly, 2 Moldovans and two of us. The whole morning the conversation was in German and I was sitting there like an idiot trying to catch some words. Our host didn’t know any German neither, she was laughing all the time and making photos of everybody. Very stressful first experience, I would say :) During this talk it turned out that I know one of the German guys. I met him in summer 2010 at the buffalo farm in Zakarpattia region, where I and my group from a workcamp spend one weekend and this guy was volunteering there. The world is so round! (I mean here that the world is very small. My fiance said that I can’t use the word “round”. I just translated literally a Russian expression. I leave this sentence how it is now, because it’s boring to say “small” and I don’t know how to say it in other way ^^)

In some time we went out and plunged in the city. I wanted to see everything there. Oh, I really love this place! It is quite small and there are not so many attractions. However it is a very beautiful city with everything that I like: multicolored churches, old narrow streets, pedestrian streets full of restaurants and hundreds of architectural monuments. Firstly I compared it with other Ukrainian cities in this style: Lviv and Uzhgorod. But Chernovtsy has its own specific face and charm. I can’t explain it in a proper way, but it’s a really marvelous city.

Chernivtsi street

Town Hall

Chernivtsi cathedral

Theater square

Besides just walking along the streets we also visited some events of the poetry festival. We have been to a presentation of Paul Celan’s poems in the house where he was living. We also went to the presentations of French and German poetry. In general there were a lot of events in different places the whole day during three days, so we missed a lot. But the festival was not our aim but a pleasant supplement to our city tour. And it helped us to enter the local university for free.

on Paul Celan's house

Meridian Chernowitz, German poetry

The university of Chernovtsy is its main sightseeing place. And usually you should pay to enter there if you’re not a student. But as I said with a leaflet of the festival you can go there without paying. That’s what we did. It is huge and beautiful. It was built as a residence of Bukovina Mitropolit in a byzantine and roman style. Then in 1875 it became a university. The left part of the building is the faculty of Philosophy. It has a very romantic courtyard. I felt in love with this courtyard, I can clearly imagine how it makes easy to think about some philosophical matters… The students in Chernovtsy are very lucky :)

on the way to Chernivtsi university

Chernivtsi university

I forgot to write that we gave an interview about the festival to some channel. Unlike my fiancé I am really bad in speaking and I don’t like cameras, but there was no chance to escape. I hope it was a local channel and if I was shown on TV nobody I know has watched it.

We finished the day in Chernovtsy with a concert organized within the festival. It took place at the summer theater of a city park and was a combination of the poetry and the rock music. I found this a very impressive show. I have never thought that a poetry festival can have so many diverse events. And I had no idea that there is such a famous festival in Chernovtsy so that many people from other countries participate in it. Here is an official website of the “Meridian Chernowitz” festival”:

We left Chernovtsy the next morning and I was sad about it… But Moldova waited for us, we bought the bus tickets to Balti and continued our trip.

More photos of Chernovtsy here.

Khmelnitskiy, Ukraine

Firstly we didn’t plan to go to this city. But the connection between Kharkov and Chernovtsy was not comfortable, and the easiest way to get to Chernovtsy was through Khmelnitskiy. We spent only few hours (from 3pm until about 10pm) there but it was quite enough. From the first view I didn’t like the city – it was even dirtier and more destroyed than Ukrainian cities usually are. In the end of the day I still couldn’t call it beautiful, but there are some interesting places and things that I liked.

In the center of Khmelnitskiy there is a pedestrian street with a lot of cafes near the park. I really love such places and it’s still something special for me because in Eastern Ukraine we usually don’t have this. Of course in the central park we found a Shevchenko monument. What is a city in Ukraine that doesn’t have any Shevchenko monument?

Khmelnitskiy, Shevchenko monument

Another park in Khmelnitskiy is situated along the river Yuzhnyi Bug and is quite strange place. The river is very dirty but we saw there some fishermen.  Don’t know what they try to catch there. Some parts of the park look like wild, and just near there are some restaurants, monuments, distractions for children. Just a very strange place.

Khmelnitskiy, a park near Southern Bug

The biggest surprise for me was that there are no cathedrals or churches in the center or just somewhere in a plain view. We found several churches that were hidden on the backyards of living houses. I’ve never seen anything like this before. Usually it’s opposite and the churches are one of the main attractions in the city.

Khmelnitskiy, a church

About the language. From my point of view Khmelnitskiy was definitely a Western Ukrainian city. Then once I got to know one couple from there and they were speaking surzhik – a mix of Russian and Ukrainian languages. I asked them about the languages in Khmelnitskiy, and they said that people speak mostly Russian and they speak surzhik because they came from a kind of village in Khmelnitskiy region. I was wondering why it is like this, I thought that in Western Ukraine people speak mostly Ukrainian. At this point they seemed to be surprised. They said me that Khmelnitskiy is in the center of the country and has nothing to do with the West. Western Ukraine is somewhere further in the West, maybe near Lviv… I was very confused. They destroyed my image of Ukraine. Anyway, when we were in Khmelnitskiy I really noticed that a lot of people speak Russian.

Until recently I didn’t know that there is a panorama museum in Khmelnitskiy. Now I regret it very much coz I’m a fan of panoramas and want to see each of them.  I would not like to come back to this city just because of this, but who knows? Maybe I will do one day. Another thing that we missed is Khmelnitskiy region. It is much more interesting than Khmelnitskiy itself. For example the famous Kamenets-Podolskiy fortress.

Kamenets-Podolskiy fortress

 Some info about Khmelnitskiy and its region.

And some more of my photos from Khmelnitskiy.

Holidays in Moldova and Ukraine

In September 2011 I and my fiancé decided to make some small trip abroad. The problem was that there are not so many countries where we both can go without visa and we needed some cheap variant of travelling. We couldn’t go neither to Russia nor to EU countries. So we decided to go to Moldova. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about this trip coz I already have stayed in Tiraspol for two weeks one year before and knew at least one part of this country: Transnistria. And in general, what can be interesting in Moldova, this country of sunflowers and grapes?? But now I must say that even there we found a lot of fascinating places, and we couldn’t manage to see everything in this tiny country.

On the way to Moldova and back we also have visited some cities in Ukraine. And actually it was the best part of the trip :)

We left Kharkov on the 1st and came back on 17th of September. We visited 12 cities (towns, villages…): Khmelnitskiy, Chernovtsy, Balti, Soroca, Orhey and Orheiul Vechi, Chisinau, Tiraspol, Bendery, Comrat, Izmail, Belgorod-Dnestrovskiy, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk. Ok, in the last one we just changed the trains so it should not be counted as a visited city :) Little by little I will write here about all these places.

Our travel map:

Everywhere beside Comrat we stayed at couchsurfers’ places so we got to know a lot of interesting people. Though all of them (beside Ukrainian girl in Chernovtsy) were foreigners living in Moldova and not Moldovans. It seems like the real Moldovans don’t trust couchsurfing… So we met some local people only accidently (somewhere in the transport usually) and didn’t get to know them very well.

People in Moldova speak Moldavian dialect of Romanian language. Also we heard some of them speaking Russian and Ukrainian, and of course they all know Russian. In Transnistria and Gagauzia people speak mostly Russian. It’s actually striking that in such a tiny country there are two autonomic republics: one of them officially is not autonomic but practically is an independent country and another has a unique status in the world.

It is not true that there is nothing to see in Moldova. There are a lot. And it was interesting to experience all these good and bad moments in this bunch-of-grape-shaped country.

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:

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.