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Friday, 5 December 2014

Ukraine. Reversed



As I crossed the border back into Romania without any of the customs officers inventing funny bases to ask for a small bribe, I realised that some of the stories connected to this part of Ukraine were indeed urban legends: only a bunch of people spoke Romanian and none accepted payment in lei.
Always remember this when in Chernivtsi: while you’re driving on paving stone, you’re safe and close to the centre. On the way back from Kamianets-Podilskyi, I remembered the rows of lit reindeer, subtler to the eye as we approached the former Bukovynian capital in a very eager attempt to have a proper evening meal.
Red is the norm
As the darkness crept in, it got some human touch, too. Namely the conversations that were necessary to buy biscuits, chocolates, natural juice, and vodka [which is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever tasted]. It reconnected me to the kindness of Ukrainians... a kindness that had always been there, hanging like an extra discussion member, or at least these were my experiences in Ukraine. Talk about an extra smile when you buy vodka and you’re given chocolates as a ‘thank you for your purchase’ gesture. The big wow that meant glimpsing over Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle, a former Ruthenian-Lithuanian castle, with first records of it going back to the 14th century, will stay with me forever. I’m thankful for seeing its gates close before me, as this clearly meant brighter red towers perched against the evening sky.

The dry cold air @Khotyn
Letting go of my new-found friend, a quite chubby puppy I cuddled and fed, was a bit hard, I admit. It’ll go along every memory accompanying the tens of minutes spent at Khotyn Fortress, inside the walls that had seen so much and on the steps that had probably also guided important Romanian rulers. At least Ştefan cel Mare [Stephen the Great] was there – or it’s what I’d like to believe –. And he got the same incredible view of the clear and silent [for now] Dniester River. Going round the parking lot equalled a quick view over the traditional items sold: some carved, others painted, but all colourful and beautiful. By the time the trip to the local ATM had been completed and the admission and parking fees paid, it was already clear that the Ukrainian hryvnya was the currency and that I would probably get to see Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle as well, which made me quite happy.
Sunday in Chernivtsi: hmmm, a bit tricky. Crowded; people shopping; no road signs. Luckily, we always seemed to be on the right road. Colours of the city centre had replaced the grey of the suburbs, a colour I often associate to Ukraine because I had twice seen it in winter and only once in summer. ‘Beautiful’, I thought, ‘rows of colourful old buildings making your drive as spectacular and as curiosity-driven as it might get’.
A series of small villages and towns dotted on the way to Chernivtsi and their names stood as evidence to the fact that it used to be Romanian soil. I was not trying to make propaganda, not even in my heart, but I always feel connected to the parts of the land that are no longer Romanian – even if they had not been Romanian from the beginning of time –, because I do love my country a lot and exploring these lost territories makes me go full circle. The ‘Why’s at the border crossing reminded me of other such questions uttered by border control officers in Bosnia and Moldova. ‘I’m travelling and visiting places! Is it that hard to believe?’—I just wanted to pour the words out. There are conflicts, I know, but given the immensity of the country, it’s as safe a travel as one would get.
This reminds me of the reasons I haven’t told many people that I was travelling to Ukraine. I foresaw the questions, the doubts, the insecurity. And I didn’t want to go there. As reality almost always wins over what is shown on TV – and I’ve witnessed this a lot over the past two years –, I imagined southern Ukraine to be a sanctuary where people would normally get on with their lives even if conflicts are lurking. And even if people do not deserve them.    

2 comments:

  1. I was at the Donetsk some time ago. I think Ukraine is one of the most beautiful country in Europe by its nature. If you're looking for some interesting places to visit in Ukraine, try to call touristclub.kiev.ua travel company.

    ReplyDelete