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Published: August 26th 2008
two and a half days at kamyanets-podilsky is an absurdly short period of time to allow for this magnificent little city!
yes, it's true: kamyanets-podilsky is geographically quite interesting, the Old City perched up atop its namesake rock, the gorge below lush with rushes and willows, but the immense variety of avtivities and interests nourished by the City and its surrounding districts is truly remarkable.
most obvious is a rich vein of history and architecture. the ghosts of old kamyanets-podilsky-- of tatars & turks, polish princes & cossack hetmen-- are everywhere here-- in the old castle, the new fortress, the remnants of the old city gate, the windy gate, and the numerous other artifacts of the past. plan a long day for the fortress: in addition to the magnificent old castle, there are the yards outside the castle walls-- one falling steeply into a lovely little creekbed-- the wonderfully spooky and atmospheric earthworks and catacombs of the adjacent new fortress, and the sunset from the city gate on the other side of the bridge is only icing on the cake. in october, all these ghosts are celebrated in Heroica Festival-- a sort of SCA congregation of squires, knights, kings,
and their horses. afficianados of churches and cathedrals will have their plate full: there are nine within walking distance of each other, and sometimes the walk to the church is as interesting as the destination. lovers of old and distressed buildings (a particular pleasure of mine: my friend mila is always astonished when i point out to her some exquisite & abandoned edifice that actually had windows and a roof!) will be likewise rewarded: take a look at the old beer brewery on the north side of the Old City, down by the river. fans of bridges: the new bridge is entertaining with its wonderful views north and south along the gorge; the turkish bridge between the Old City Gate and the castle also enjoys lovely views, and a set of winding stone stairs on either side descending precipitously to the river; in the bottom of the gorge are several charmingly small wooden bridges and TWO actual suspension bridges, swaying gracefully over the briskly flowing river.
lovers of dining-- casual or fine-- can enjoy a wonderful spectrum of ukrainian cuisine, and if you're homesick you can always try the New York Street Pizza cafe in the heart of the
Old City. i had a very pleasant meal at Gostinniy Dvir ("the guests' courtyard"), that was very reasonably priced, even if a bit lonely: i was the only patron. my personal favorite was Pid Bramayu, located at the Old City Gate, with its cheeky cossack theme, its magnificent views of the castle and the gorge, and some truly delicious-- albeit pricey-- food. service here may have been dodgy once, but i found the staff helpful, and very patient with my bad russian. Pid Bramayu's proximity to the castle also makes it a wonderful spot to take a break and a dinner between explorations of the castle, the new fortress, and the gorge. the cafes in the New City-- in the environs of the 7Days hotel (see below) on suborna street-- offer more upscale dining and a more international menu, and are especially pleasant for tea and a light breakfast on the terrace overlooking the street.
a sportsman could exhaust himself here. aside from the obvious hiking-- in and out of the gorge, and all over the castle and the new fortress-- there is fishing in the river, kayaking, and swimming (although i, as a floridian accustomed to warmer waters,
cannot advocate immersing more than your feet in the icy smotrych, even in august!). the walls of the gorge offer some terrific opportunities for cliff-climbing for everyone from the novice to the pro, and i am told-- though i have not visited these personally, YET-- that there is spelunking in several notoriously beautiful caves within a half-hour's drive. cross-coutry skiiers might enjoy the gently-rolling meadows west of the castle. in the spring there are the hot air ballon races, and a road rally for the driving enthusiast-- it's not my thing, so i wouldn't know where to steer you, but if you're keen on cars i'm sure you'll sort it out.
there's a convenient accomodation at 7Days, suborna st. #4 (+38(03849)30322, or email@example.com) with a helpful young staff, and good proximity to the Old City, the rynok, the university, the post office (and adjacent internet cafe), the taxi stand, and dining. if you want to go a little more posh, however, try Hetmen (+38(067)5882215, or hetman-hotel.com.ua) in the Old City-- a lovely, intimate, baroque micro-hotel with an in-house cafe and sauna, and close proximity to just about everything interesting.
there are several relativley easy ways to get here:
if you fly commuter from kiev or odessa into chernivtsi, you'll need the bus or a driver. coming from kiev's a snap, though: the overnight train #623 leaves kiev at 8:30pm+/-, arriving kamyanets-podilsky at 8.15 next morning; the return #624 leaves kamyanets-podilsky at around 7.30pm, arrivng kiev 7.45am next day. book ahead: it can get crowded-- try unipress travel agency at +380(48)7860713, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
anyone who's read my travel blogs before will know i'm not prone to superlatives, but i can attest, without fear of equivocation, that kamyanets-podilsky is my favorite destination in ukraine! in the immortal words of... well, someone: "i'll be back."
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