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Published: August 12th 2009
The fortress in Kamianets-Podilskyi
Parts of the fortress is today in ruins but enough if it stands to make it an imposing sight
Kamianets-Podilskyi, the Carpathian Mountains, Lviv and an egg museum
In western Ukraine we first went to a city called Kamianets-Podilskyi
. Tourists visiting Kamianets-Podilskyi come there to see the old town and the fortress. Over the centuries power over Kamianets-Podilskyi has shifted several times. With each new ruler came new architecture styles. This has given the old town a special character with different cultures living side by side.
The most obvious example of this can be seen in the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. It was originally built in the end of the 16th century when Kamianets-Podilskyi was part of Poland. It was then a catholic cathedral. In the 17th century Turkey took over the power for a while. They turned the cathedral into a mosque and in the process they built a minaret outside the entrance. Later in the 17th century the Polish again returned to power and the mosque was once again turned into a catholic cathedral. When the Turks signed the peace treaty that forced them to hand over Kamianets-Podilskyi to the Poles they asked that the minaret should not be dismantled. The Polish agreed to this and kept the minaret. But the treaty said nothing
about adding things to the minaret so they put a statue of Virgin Mary on top of it.
Kamianets-Podilskyi also has old churches, something that many cities in Ukraine lack. We mentioned briefly in a previous entry on the blog
that religion was suppressed in Soviet Union. Therefore in many cities the churches were torn down, or in some cases actually blown up with dynamite. Some of the church buildings that were not torn dismantled were used for other things than religious activities such as storages or cinemas. In Ukraine today you can see that many churches have been built very recently, to replace the ones that were destroyed, or have recently been restored to their original purpose. But in Kamianets-Podilskyi the churches seems to have been better protected than elsewhere. Why it is so we don't know.
A small distance away from the old town is the other big attraction in Kamianets-Podilskyi - the fortress. Some parts of the fortress are today in ruins but enough of it stands to make it an imposing sight when you walk towards it from the old town.
The fortress, with its towers and high walls, is very picturesque. To us it looks like
it came straight out of a movie about Ivanhoe or Robin Hood.
From Kamianets-Podilskyi we went to the Carpathian Mountains because we wanted to hike a few days.
On the way to the Carpathian Mountains we stopped briefly at Pysanka Museum
in the town Kolomyia. It is a museum dedicated to the old Ukrainian tradition of painting egg shells. They take a normal chicken egg. They make two small holes in the shell through which they remove the yolk and the white. After that they paint the shells, often with great care and with complicated patterns. Many times the artist must have used several days to finish a "painting".
In the Carpathian Mountains
we stayed in a town called Yaremche, a small town that has a strategic location making it popular as a base for hiking. We stayed there two days and in these days we made two hikes.
The first hike took us to a small but popular waterfall. That was not were we first intended to walk. But the trail we wanted to take had been bulldozed away to give space to some houses they were constructing in the edge of the forest. Maybe they will
Can this sign possible mean...
Funny sign. We think that it means that this is a designated area for breakdancing
restore the trail when the houses are finished. But for us that makes no difference because when we wanted to walk there we were politely turned away.
The second hike took us to the top of Hoverla Mountain, the highest mountain in Ukraine. The president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, is an enthusiastic hiker. He has as a tradition to at least once each summer climb to the top of Hoverla Mountain. It is not a difficult climb so it is not much of a feat really. In fact it is better to call it a walk rather than a climb. But it is a bit steep and if you are totally unfit it might be a bit tough. The walk for us was made more difficult because it started to rain when we had reached the top. So while we descended we had to walk in mud.
The last place in western Ukraine we visited was the city Lviv
. Lviv feels totally different from the other Ukrainian cities we went to. It didn't feel Ukrainian. Instead it reminded us more of Krakow in Poland or even Paris in France. Lviv is situated very close to the Polish border
A minaret with a statue of Virgin Mary on top of it
When a peace treaty was signed the Turks wanted the minaret to be spared. The Polish then put a statue of Virgin Mary on top of it
so the Polish influences are not surprising really. The French influences are harder to explain though.
Lviv has a nice city centre with many cafés. It is a splendid place to relax, walk around and drink coffee and eat pastry. Drink coffee and eat pastry is also what we did most of the time we were there.
A short tram ride from the city centre is one of the highlights of our visit in Lviv - the Lychakivskiy Cemetery
. This is the main cemetery for the rich and famous in Lviv and many of the graves are topped by statues and other monuments. It is a cemetery that resembles Père Lachaise Cemetery
In Lviv we also met Ellinor and Veronica who were back-packing Eastern Europe this summer. Emma and Ellinor are good friends and they have known each other for many years. Ellinor and Veronica spent one week in Ukraine and we actually met them twice. First we met and had coffee together in Kiev and when we met in Lviv we spent the better part of the day together.
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