For Spring break I thought to make some bigger trip and to somewhere outside Poland. And idea came to me -Ukraine. And so it was decided. Thursday evening I packed my backpack and went to Warszawa Centralna.
04.10 1.30 am Train Warsaw-Krakow
The journey started. I always have mixed feeling before trips - excitement and also worry. I always worry if I am going to get on the right train, if everything will be OK. So with these mixed feelings I put my backpack on my shoulders and went out to evening Warsaw. The weather was great and I got the last tram to train station. The beginning did not go very smooth, the train was late 40 minutes and I have to transfer to another train in Krakow. But it also had the upside - some Polish people started talking to me. People seem to get closer when they face some common problem - a late train in this case. So with my little Polish I managed to communicate quite decent. And another good thing - I got a seat. As the tickets are without seats there is a chance that you do not get the seat, so
Luckily they made the train to Przemysl wait for the late train from Warsaw, so I got on it instantly. It was a good coincidence that I started talking to those Polish people; otherwise I would not have known that the train is waiting in other station, not Krakow Glowna. Otherwise I should have waited 2 hours for another train. Then I remembered what we were talking with Kamila my Torun hostess that things do figure out by themselves during travel (usually). First hour on the new train I had to stand, but that wasn’t a problem - I was just happy to be on the train. Also some AC/DC music kept my mood up. After one station I had seat. There were to women and I did not understand a thing they were saying, so I talked to them in Russian. They were from Moldavia, going back home after working in Poland. We talked a bit about their country, which is interesting for me as travel destination. They told how it is hard to get a job, how they have to support their children to go to university and that
is why so many parents go working abroad. They complained how unfair and unequal they are treated in other countries. Reminded me Lithuania some 13 years ago. Recently there was student uprising in Moldavia against such big payment for university. I sit and wonder will things get better for this country, while train is slowly moving towards Ukraine.
12.10 pm Minibus Przemyszl-Border
I almost got fined 50 zlots. I went through railway passage right after security guard and did not see the sign saying that is forbidden to cross (in English too, so no excuses). They asked for my document and told I had to pay. The guard was staring at me in this “will she pay look”. I put on my “I am foreigner, poor student, backpacker girl” look and it worked. He just warned me, yay!
16.28 Lvov, Café “Fortunik”
Crossing the border went smooth. At Polish border person carefully studies my passport and asked me if I am from “Litwa czy Lotwa”. Good that I know what my home country is… At Ukrainian border they looked at me weird that I this was my first time to Ukraine and I was going alone.
Suspicious But they let me through. After border I went down the road and started hitchhiking. In like 15 minutes I got a ride from some businessman going back from business trip to Poland. He shared his doubts about Ukraine joining EU, he said Russia would not let it and Ukraine is very bound too Russia economically and politically. Also EU would not be too eager to accept country that needs so much investment. He got me to city and told which trolleybus goes to center. And now I am in cafe enjoying my “zelony borshc” and steak (which is my meat limit for two weeks or so).
P.S. Ukrainian roads are awful. And trolleybuses smell like old lady.
04.11. 21.00 Lvov
My host Valerii and his family are very nice. We spent evening chatting and just relaxing. I was awoken in morning by my grandmother calling me so happy that I am in Ukraine. Of course she did not know that I was hitchhiking… I ate breakfast with my hosts and headed out to explore Lvov. I went to museum of Pharmacy. What at first sight looked like simple drug store with some exhibition, in
back was whole museum with basement and some scary mannequins pretending to make medicine in what looked like alchemists laboratory. After that I went into cafe-gallery where I met Misha, who became my guide in Lvov. After walking to Armenian Church and High Castle, the rain started, so we went to Kraivka. This bar has the most interesting concept of all I ever been to. So that’s how I got there: we went into some hallway in a house in center of city. In the end of it there was wooden door and some women was knocking it and shouting “Valodia atkroj” (open up). A man with military uniform and a gun opened up and let her in. He looked at us, asked if it’s two of us and asked for password. Misha told it and we were let in, he gave us a shot of vodka with honey. Then he opened secret door and we had to go down by stairs. It was wooden-bunker style place. All waiters were with uniforms and food was in metal bowls. The concept was taken from partisan fighters. After this we went to pastry café or in other words old Soviet canteen with
very grumpy staff. But my cherry pie was oh so good. Going back ended up being little adventure. I got to tram to wrong direction, so went all the way and back to center. Then I asked a woman for some help and she was really extremely helpful. She went into a tram with me and asked people do they know the street I need to go to (although she did not need to go to tram). She got off the tram with me, took my hand and got me through street, showed me tram stop I had to wait in and assured that I would not sit to tram number 7, just to tram number 2. I went back to my host successfully, although really late. They have a saying: if you want to be late somewhere take a tram. So true. There were many people in their place. We started looking at old books left by owners. One was a notebook with notes and drawings of some school age boy. It was hilarious!
04.12 14.10 Lvov
Morning was rainy. No surprise that they call Lvov Ukrainian London. In afternoon I went to city again and took
a train excursion. It was all in Ukrainian, but I could understand more than a half. And it was really fun, especially when they stopped talking and turned on some funny music. For lunch I went to Lonely Planet recommended Dyzga. As usual for LP recommendations it was a bit more expensive than usual, but food was nice (beer too). The coolest thing there was the old speakers with old jazzy music.
Rain started again and I was not in mood to do more city sightseeing. But it was great for cemetery sightseeing. According to Lonely Planet Lychakiv Cemetery is one of loveliest cemeteries in Eastern Europe. And so it was. Well, it is called “museum” and entrance is 5 hry, unless you go to visit someone there. And photography, as I understood from signs had a fee too, but no one actually can check if you do take pictures or not. The cemetery itself was really beautiful - lots of statues, crypts and the calmness. Rain and thunder also gave some to atmosphere there. In time rain became strong and I went to bus stop. I was standing there with just a scarf on my head
and eventually two girls invited me under their umbrella. They were from Odessa visit Lvov fro weekend. We waited for a tram for around an hour and it still did not come. So we stopped a taxi. The fee to center was 20 hry, I had only 100 in one piece so driver had to give me change. He tried to trick me and have 80 hry back, as if I had to pay all amount, although we shared it with the girls. I told this to him and he just pretended to be dumb and gave the rest of change back. The girls had some time till the train so I invited them to go to Kraivka with me and Misha, who we met that time too. And again Kraivka is awesome place. After this I went back to my host, packed up and went out still quite late, so me and Valerri had to almost run to station. But we made it in time. And surprisingly I got into one coupe with two Dutch also backpacking through Ukraine. We shared our traveling stories, as it is usual when you meet other backpacker, with Jurek and Aafke till 1
am and went to sleep. Next morning we were in Kiev.
What I noticed after Lvov about Ukrainians: many of them feel excluded from Europe. Especially in Western Ukraine, where more people are pro-EU. Also it is important for their identity how they see Russian language. Some are more nationalist and say that in Ukraine they should speak only Ukrainian, but many people speak Russian or have lots of Russian slang. Also in television they switch from Russian to Ukrainian or otherwise any time and see no difference. But in Western Ukraine they usually reply in Ukrainian if you speak to them in Russian.
Few jokes from newspaper “Krokodil”:
A visitor comes to cafe and sits by the table. Waiter comes: - What would you like to order? - So, brink me a glass of brandy, glass of vodka, glass of dry wine, glass of liquor, glass of champagne, glass of beer, and cup of tea. That’s all. Just don’t make tea too strong, I have a weak heart…
In vine shop man is lying on the floor. - Are you drunk or something happened to you? - asks policeman. - Neither. I am here for
Ukraine was the center of the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest and most powerful state in Europe. Weakened by internecine quarrels and Mongol invasions, Kievan Rus was incorporated into the Gran...more history