Travel to make your own opinion about a place: journey around Ukraine

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July 27th 2014
Published: July 27th 2014
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Travel to make your own opinion about a place: journey around Ukraine

I feel very sad about what just happened a few days ago with the Malaysian plane. I hope that the truth will come out very soon and that those people will be considered like nothing more than terrorists, even though it will clearly never bring back the lives of those people…

However, I still strongly think that this country is WORTH VISITING and that people shouldn’t get stopped by the fear that media is giving you. I went to Ukraine last month for the 4th time and a lot of people told me that I was mad to go there, that it was war, that I should look at the news to see what was going on there. Well, I think that the news aren’t telling you the whole story. You have to make your own opinion about something, not just listen to what is said without doubting it.

For information, the 3rd time, that I went to Ukraine it was during the « Maidan revolution » and my family was afraid because of the pictures showed in the media of some people being killed there. Well, it didn’t mean it wasn’t safe for me to be there. The revolution was happening only on that part of the city and life in the rest of the capital was normal; even on that part of the city, it wasn’t that dangerous!

At the moment, around Maidan square, there are still tents and people occupying the street, but there is no danger at all going there. I went there a few times last month. You will see some street art about democracy, freedom and against Russia obviously. Yana, the woman I was staying at in Kyiv, told me about what was going now on Maidan: people are organizing themselves to help people from Eastern Ukraine, who are leaving their homes and coming to the capital, to get a place to stay and some clothes. On Maidan, when I was there, I saw some people, which were building the street again. So, it’s not about destruction, it’s all about reconstruction and a new beginning! There are some stands all along that street selling some traditional clothes and flowers hairband. Ukrainian people did indeed become much more attached to show that they are proud to be Ukrainian since what happened on Maidan, but also in Crimea and now in Eastern Ukraine, which is nice I think.

Ukraine has been in the news since December now and people think it’s war there and with the event some days ago, yes it is indeed definitely not peace in the Eastern Part of the country. BUT it’s only in that part of the country that there are some problems and that I won’t go. And honestly, I would be interested to go there, to also see with my own eyes, what’s really happening, but I will not because of safety reasons.

The Ukrainian situation is for me a remake of the Cold War: there are 2 sides of the conflict, the Western Side and the Russian side. Both sides are protecting their own interests and both sides are not showing us the whole picture. It’s clear for me that what is shown in Russian news about Ukraine now isn’t the truth and it’s pure propaganda, -like all the news in fact there-. However, I doubt as well about our news in Europe or in the US about it. How could we be sure about what is said? Who can we trust? Especially, with the plane crash, I doubt about every piece of information given.

It was said in Russian news, that it was Ukraine’s fault and that it was probably targetting Putin’s jet from Brazil. As I said before, this is called propaganda. On the other hand, in some Western news was posted a video of a military vehicle crossing the border to Russia with a missing missile, sometime after the crash. I would like to be sure about the Western news but in my stomach, there is something telling me that it’s more complicated than that. That, Russians are more intelligent than that, to just make such a mistake. As I said, I feel very sad, mainly because this international « cold war » killed hundreds of civilians, a lot of children who had nothing to do with that conflict…

Anyway, I am not a journalist about politics, my page is more about travelling, and life in general, so I will stop now on this controversial topic to talk to you why you should go to Ukraine no matters what is said. I just wanted to share my thoughts quickly about that topic.

The last time, I had visited Eastern cities in Ukraine that I really liked (to read more about it, you can read my blog here ). This time, I went to Lviv, the Carpathians mountains, Kherson and Zhitomir. Each of those places had something amazing to offer.

I started first with Lviv, as I was arriving on the road from the West of Europe. For the short story, I hitchhiked from Latvia to Ukraine crossing Lithuania and Poland and arrived in Lviv 23 hours later exhausted and after a full day of adventures… I wasn’t supposed to arrive that quick : I was supposed to stay one day in Lithuania and then one day in Poland. However, in Latvia, I got a direct ride to Poland, so I couldn’t refuse such a long and hitchhiking journey. Then the same thing happened in Poland, when I wanted to go to Lublin for the night, I hitchhiked with a Ukrainian guy, whose friend was going to Ukraine on that day. As I said, I will make this story short, so I will just tell you that in 23 hours, I met a Latvian listening to an old French singer loudly, a very nice
Carpathians MountainsCarpathians MountainsCarpathians Mountains

Best reward ever!
truck driver, with whom I talked about his family, then got a ride with an old guy who offered to pay me to get sex (yes, this one was very scary and creepy !), arrived at the Ukrainian border at 3am with the Ukrainian guy, who wasn’t finding his Ukrainian passport (but had a lot of other passports…, I prefer not knowing why!) and then met a very friendly group of Ukrainian women, who gave me a ride to the bus station across the border in the middle of the night (as the Ukrainian guy couldn’t cross and I wasn’t allowed to cross the border on foot). After all that, I got a bus to Lviv and arrived there at 9am. As I said, I was exhausted and I decided that hitchhiking in Eastern Europe wasn’t as safe as in Africa or in South America!

Let’s come back to this 1 new city, Lviv. I loved it for many reasons: the old city as lot of charm with its old buildings, its street performers all day long –music and dancing- and with all its nice coffee places. I think I would get fat, if I was living in that city : every little cafe was telling me « come, enter and enjoy my nice food » and I tasted with the best melted chocolate ever in Lviv homemade chocolate manufacture ! It’s cheap, it’s tasty what could you ask for more.

The 2nd reason, why I loved Lviv is because of the very nice people I met there : Olya and her husband Rostislav, who hosted me so well –I had forgotten how Ukrainian people treat very well their guests !- and Ulyana, a girl from Lviv, with whom I shared a very nice afternoon.

I am not a fan of visiting cities, while travelling, but some are worth it and Lviv is one of them, even though Uzhgorod will always stay my favorite town in Ukraine 😉 So, if you are a food, chocolate or coffee and old city center lover, you should go there.

Moreover, Lviv is close to the Carpathians Mountains, so you can stay for a day in Lviv and then go to enjoy the nice landscape the Carpats’ have to offer by train.

The Carpathians mountains are covering different countries and in Ukraine, it’s in the Western part of the country and if you like nature, small villages living from farming, mountains, forests, rivers, … then you should definitely go there. There are lots of hiking trails and you can camp anywhere in the mountains, near the river. You may even find guesthouses or hotels in the villages, which are the most touristic.

I had a great time there with my boyfriend, hiking and camping. It went by so quickly that on the last day, I wished I could stay longer to enjoy such places for more time.

We had quite an adventure on the 1st day, when we had some problems getting out of the forest, as we had chosen to not follow the normal path, which would have been too boring and also which would have been getting downhill after getting uphill. But, anyway, after hours hiking -in circles I think-, we finally found the way to go out of the forest and get back to the trail. As a reward, we got the best gift ever: the light of the early evening on the grass and the flowers, and then the sunset with the pink sky. It made me forget how I was exhausted of not finding the path whole day long and walking without knowing where we were.

The rest of the hike was easier as we were following the path and quite quickly we reached the peak of the mountain, we wanted to reach. Unfortunately, it started to rain very strongly when we reached it, so we didn’t stay long there and then walked on the back of the mountain until getting downhill to get down to the valley and then to the forest, where we would camp for the night. The image of the valley was the highlight of that hiking day: the carpet ground of flowers and the strong smell from it is still in my mind now!

The last day, we walked through the village to go back by train to leave. It was very nice to see the small wooden houses, sometimes with a cow in the front garden and with people who were indicating us the way to go saying « at the house of Madam A, turn left and then straight until the house of Mister B » 😉

After this journey to the Western part of Ukraine and a week working in Kyiv as nanny –teaching a 3-year-old boy English-, we went to Kherson where my boyfriend’s family is living. There, we also spent one day in the nature as well. The last time, I went to Kherson – it’s located in the South of the country- in late autumn I didn’t like the city that much as lots of buildings aren’t renovated and left dying and it didn’t seem to be an active city. However, this time, visiting it in summer and going kayaking for a day, made me changed my mind. The city seemed much greener that what I thought the 1st time, which gives some life to it.

As I said, we went kayaking a day and a night. It was my best moment in my whole trip in Ukraine. We kayaked inside the little channels – a “Kherson’s Venice” is calling it Sasha- around the summer houses of local people, went to a lake and then to a river where we put our camping gear to stay there for the night. We had such a nice time there alternating between kayaking, swimming, cooking, eating and talking on the kayak in the middle of the river and enjoying the sunset on the shore. I couldn’t have dreamt of a better time there. The rest of the weekend was spent with his family cooking French macarons, French dish “hachis parmentier” and eating some traditional Ukrainian dishes. As I said, it was a very nice time.

After that weekend in the South of Ukraine and another week working with the little Dimian, we went to Zhitomir, which is close to Kyiv by bus.

This place is also very nice when you like nature. I will not speak about the city, as I didn’t visit it. We indeed went the 1st day in the forest for climbing with Sasha’s cousin and his family. We had a nice time there climbing and eating some shashlik – a traditional barbecue-. The 1st time I climbed there was quite challenging for me - and for Sasha who was insuring me by the way- as I got scared once I was at the top of the cliff and didn’t dare jumping into the void to go down alongside the cliff –for your information, I am afraid of heights…-. After being stuck there for a while, I went out going up the mountain, which isn’t allowed usually. I was feeling so ashamed of myself at that time, of not having been able to overcome my fear. That’s why, I decided to climb again there to challenge myself and prove that I could do it. I hesitated a bit again arriving at the same point at the top of the cliff but after a while, I let myself go. I arrived down the cliff with a wide smile on my face being proud of me. After this 2nd time climbing, I decided that as I love challenges, I wanted to start training climbing regularly now to get the adrenaline I need while I am not travelling – yes travelling for me became an addiction!-.

This climbing day was nice but in fact what I preferred during that weekend in Zhitomir was our walks at the lake early morning and late evening. That lake is so nice with clear and blue water. Each time we were going there, I was going to swim, even when it was a bit chill in the evening. It’s in fact so good when you go out after a swim in cold water to feel your body so energetic from it. I also learnt to cook sweet vareniki in that weekend with his cousin’s wife.

To finish that weekend, we spent a night with my friend Nastya and other people at the beach for a special day when you have to swim inside the river and jump up the fire. A very nice memory as well.

So, do you feel fear reading the post, does it seem dangerous to you? NO, it’s normal, because it isn’t in most of the parts of the country. I had an amazing time in Ukraine, which has a lot of natural places that satisfied my need to be out of the cities and I hope that with this article and with the pictures, I could show you that Ukraine is not only what is said about it in the news.

From Ukraine, I went to Mongolia, where I am now and I have an amazing time in the countryside, about which I will tell you soon in my next blog 😊

Additional photos below
Photos: 39, Displayed: 32


Street performersStreet performers
Street performers

Lovely music

27th July 2014

Quite an adventurer you are. Hitchhiking Latvia, Poland, Ukraine...was that to meet up with your boyfriend? Chocolate indulgence, homecare, nannying, camping...rockclimbing to prove you can do it. And to top it off this was in prove it is safe when you know how and where. Great blog Natacha. Then to
28th July 2014

Dave, Thank you for your comment. Happy you liked my blog about Ukraine. I wasn't planning to hitchhike Ukraine, as I had heard it wasn't that safe for woman to hitchhike there, but I just got the opportunity in Poland to do so. Yes, it was to meet up with my boyfriend, who is Ukrainian. Mongolia is amazing for people, who are travelling like me: people are so hospitable and friendly. When you travel alone, it's the best country: people invite you to their home, offer you food, tea,... I am now going to China by train (but not the Transmongolian one, a local one). I will update my blog soon about my trip in Mongolia :)
28th July 2014

Nice blog- now I definitely want to visit the Carpathian mountains and roam around the mountains there.
28th July 2014

Re: Carpathia
Hi David, Yes Carpathians mountains are a really nice place and the villages around as well. If you need any information how to get there exactly, prices of trains/buses, hiking trails, ... don't hesitate to contact me I could help you with it.
6th September 2014

Well said
Nice blog showing the real Ukraine. We just went to Lviv and thought it was lovely. Would like to visit the Carpathians sometime too.
8th September 2014

Re: Well said
Hi, yes Carpaths are very nice place. I went to Dzharylhach island near Skadovsk this we, it was also amazing place!

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