If not Bukovina region, I would have remembered Romania through the prism of few interesting stretches of sunflowers and corn. Here, in the green hills of the Romanian-Ukrainian border, the facades of houses seem to be woven of delicate lace. There are pastel in colour as layette newborn baby or decorated with colorful patterns and stripes. The roofs cover the houses as Sunday ironed tablecloth, gates invite you to enter with a subtle wooden cut-out. Comely are even yard buildings – the color of dark wood or painted in white and brown stripes with lofts plastered to the side. Almost every house and bypass constitute a kind of work of art, from which the world is getting happier and more beautiful – especially in the light of the sun of coming to the end, but still hot summers. I go every now and then stopping to admire and my head turns around.
I set off from Iasi by bicycle heading towards the capital of the region of Suceava, enough with the train pick-ups! Before entering the Ukraine I wanted to get to the foot of the Carpathian Mountains and visit at least one or two of the painted monasteries, which region of Bukovina is famous of.
Leaving any big city, even on a weekend, is never a cycling pleasure, Therefore, as soon as I can I turn in a smaller way, then another, and another.. Although the area reminds steppe the villages here are rather well-maintained and the roads pretty good. As in Romania, horse carriages in large quantities pass by. In order to pass the minor hill as it seems to me I climb up already a few kilometers when the asphalt ends. In Romania, for “improving” the surface of smaller local roads they cover them with small stones. I try to cycle on, wheels barely turn, finally I let it go, walking sounds a better option. A car passes by and some men try to explain me something showing me to turn back, finally seeing me reluctant they give up and go. It’s one of two cars only that pass by me while pushing the bike for the next… 25 kilometers. Angry with myself for doing these shortcuts I fall in a roadside apple orchard exhausted and stay the night. But as we all know, the fatigue always passes and the apples are tasty, However, I promise myself to remember not to try any very local and tiny Romanian road any more.
I head for the village Kaczyce (cacica), where to this day inhabited by the descendants of Poles, mostly miners' families, who were brought here with their families in the first two decades of the nineteenth century to the local salt mine. In the Polish Home, where as I've learned, you can spend the night by reading from the notice at the window "to get the key please call Ms. Krystyna or walk to her house ". Inside the house on the table I find a guestbook full of entries, However, this evening, no one apart from me sleeps there.
The roof of the sixteenth-century monastery in the small village of Arbore, It resembles a hat mushroom mounted on thick, painted images in the leg. This is one of the famous painted monasteries Bukovina - small, rarely visited so the more likely there I appear. Scenes of scripture on the outer facades were painted to support the process of evangelism of illiterate people, that when gathered around sacred buildings could to look at scenes from Holy Bible.
Ukraine? Where are you going, the war is there! I get messages full of concern from friends, mostly foreigners. Yep, the war is still going on in the east, the new Republic of Donetsk was formed and Donbas are is controlled by pro-russian militants.
Here, in western Ukraine in spring 2014 or most of the counties, but now all is quiet and life seems to be normal. In villages and towns I come across crosses and plaques commemorating the struggle during the "blue revolution". From the pictures faces of men, mostly young look at me, sometimes even boys.
I was not prepared for such a shock when I came here – form economic perspective. Since my last visit to Ukraine has passed 11 years. A lot. It has always been cheaper here than in Poland, However, the current hryvnia exchange rate is so low, that even a budget traveller like me can feel rich. This, of course, is the aftermath of the events of recent years, war in the east of the country.
In Chernivtsi I am hosted by Artem and Tatiana, Local cycling family. They show me the charming city, Topics however, stray again to life's issues. Work and money, of course,. Recently I found such work, I call different companies, check addresses, phones, check their database. For the first week of work I got 600 UAH (it is some 20 EUR), a second week 800 (it is some 30 EUR), for this I do not know yet how much I get says Tatiana. The average salary - for example as a shop assistant – it is some 1000-1500 UAH per month. 100 EURO. Sometimes it is 50, and sometimes 150.
I can not get over such low prices, place in a hostel (checking, I dis not stay) It costs the equivalent of 2-3, maximally 5 Euro. I do not need to pull out pots out of my panniers to cook – I always stop at a roadside restaurant for lunch. I love the Ukrainian food – Ukrainian Borsch, that always has juicy beetroot (not brown) colour, solianka (soup of meat and vegetables, with seasoned tomatoes, olives and lemon slice) vareniki (small dumplings usually stuffed with meat) and raw veggies salad I pay 8-10 PLN - 2 USD. Tomatoes or apples are not subject to EU standards here so taste .. as sweet tomato or sour apple simply, instead of paper taste we already got used to.
At the moment of crossing the border of the language barrier disappears and I can talk to people. Finally. I did not even realize, how much I missed this. My not-so-perfect Russian is very useful, although Ukrainian is similar to Polish. The closer to the border with Poland the more my mother tongue is understood.
So, you from Poland, from Warsaw! know, know, I lived 10 years. I worked at the stadium decades, I sold textiles, all legally, great business was, well, but before the championships in football Euro 2012 The stadium closed, built a new – yes nice – I have seen, but we had to roll up trade. I came home, here to Kołomyja. I have two cows and a milk is their. In the garden tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, fruit trees. Everyone is trying to grow something, and some animals grow in order to survive, a gig grabs. Since August I sit here on the road, I am selling watermelons - son-grown and something I pay for it. My brother died of a heart attack in Poland, you downloaded it, I settled it – I only gave 250 dollars and no one on the border is not clung. He came back home, to myselves Vitaly says with obvious relief in his voice.
Yep, the days of the Soviet Union was better, but it could not last longer, we all know it. Well, but the Baltic countries - such as Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia have changed and are doing well, they are a part of the European Union, but in Ukraine nothing changed, and really getting worse year by year. And now this war.
But let's leave in economics and politics, let's look at the environment. Kresy it is called in Polish. the street pavement made of stones, which is still the dominant surface in many places here it may not be the best for cycling, but gives the cities some kind of charm. gates of townhouses, sometimes beautifully renovated, sometimes musty moisture lead into the depths of living with thier lives yards. Packed in marshrutkas that eject clouds of stinking smoke people go somewhere, seller of fresh bread kvass cannot complain about the lack of customers during the hot days of September. Sunsets somewhere behind the hills Hutsulshchyna stop me to admire them.
„Truskavets is a great place, to take a rest after the dubious attraction, that traveling roads of Ukraine is" This sentence from the guide encourages me to slightly deviate from the track and make it to the famous in the interwar period spa town , where among many others famous Poles as Jozef Pilsudski and Adolf Dymsza used to come for health treatment. The latter is a sacred truth, the first, however, absolutely not.
From the pre-war spa in Truskavets was left but almost nothing, the old building was almost completely demolished in Soviet times. It is now not very attractive town, and a collection of post-socialist or brand new behemoths-sanatoriums, big construction site as well. Pump Room healing water "Naftusia" is an old, unattractive pavilion full of pigeons around. big disappointment.
The bumpy Ukrainian roads will be definitely rememberd by my bum.
Chernivtsi, big-town breeze of Ivanofrankowsk, Striy, Kolomyia, finding traces of Bruno Schulz in Drohobych, Sambor.
Already scheming how to come back, meanwhile on the border in Medyka, Nice and quite frankly interested security guy looking at the loaded down with bike inquires about the details of my tour. Although he does not expect details, I run through my head the images of last year. Autumn frosts and summer heat. 11 borders and some 7 000 km distance. I assumed, that I get to Asia but has done the European loop.
There will be time for a summary but here winter approaches. It is high time to escape!.