Marg and Leigh's travels around the world

We are two retired women from New Zealand, busy travelling the world. Our quest is to experience other cultures before they are changed beyond recognition, and see endangered animals and environments before they disappear. We hope you like our blog and enjoy our exploits. We sure have had fun getting here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Ternopil to Kiev

Ternopil statue, Leigh
Heading toward Ternopil in south-western Ukraine, we found the roads to be most challenging! Slow progress was made until we reached a hotel we thought might offer overnight parking. They directed us to a car park next door were we had a lovely discussion with the caretaker – he speaking Ukrainian and us English - but we managed to understand quite a bit! He was excited that we were from New Zealand and called us ‘amigos of Ukraine’.

We got a cab into the city and had a delightful roam around the quite elegant streets of Ternopil. There were pretty buildings, promenades lined with trees and flowers, and lots of street art and statues.

This city has a lake which seemed very popular for strolling, fishing and boat trips. We stopped at a local restaurant for a Ukrainian meal before finding another slightly more expensive cab to take us home to Vanni.

Khotyn fortress, Marg
The next day we drove, or rather we bumped, our way on the terrible Ukraine roads, down and across country stopping at Chernavisti, then Khotyn to view the Khotyn Fortress.

Constructed around the 13th century, the Fortress was in great shape and sat overlooking a river on one side and a valley on the other.

Kamyanets’-Podil’skyy fortress
After investigating the Khotyn Fortress, we drove on to a lovely city called Kamyanets’-Podil’skyy which is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, and that also has a fortress.

We did a drive through first in an attempt to find a suitable hotel with parking - but to no avail! We were then directed to a car storage area which, while looking a little grotty was secure, safe and quiet.

Leigh & friend
We decided to stay there for the night as we were very tired after the long bumpy day’s drive.

Early the next morning we drove back into the old town and managed to get a great parking spot which enabled us to walk around and enjoy the town.

The 10th century fortress which sat strategically and impressively, upon the highest hill, was a major sight. 

We were also delighted with the lovely street art and colourful old buildings.

Medzhybizh Castle
Leaving Kamyanets’-Podil’skyy, we drove through several villages before reaching a little commune which has a medieval building called Medzhybizh Castle.

After a good look around and admiring its amazingly solid fortifications and great museum, we moved on to the city of Vinnytsia.

Vinnytsia, Bug River
Arriving late, we skirted around the city as we wished to find our camp ground – supposedly just out of town. However, following the GPS settings led us around in circles with no sign of a camp!

We stopped on a corner to read our map, when a car pulled up and a man and woman hopped out offering help. They could not speak or understand spoken English, but were really enthusiastic.

They were able to read a little English however, so showing them the camp address, they were able to work out what we were looking for. They both pulled out their cellphones but after several calls, it transpired that nobody knew of the camp. Then after a few more calls, they signaled us to follow them.

Entry to Vinnytsia camp
We decided to go with the flow, and they led us through a maze of narrow dirt roads. We were wondering whether we had made the right decision to follow when we came to a narrow bridge leading to a holiday resort – not the campsite we were looking for but a place where we could park and be safe (whew!!). We were very grateful to have met such lovely people, and we never would have found the place, as they are not too common in Ukraine.

The resort owners were amazed to see us. They had never had any English speaking tourists before - especially from New Zealand - and certainly none in a campervan! However, they plugged us into electricity and made us feel welcome. It was an attractive spot with cabin accommodation, a restaurant, and swimming pools, and seemed to be a relaxing place for locals after work, as well as for people staying there.

Vinnytsia campsite, Marg

Tanya, our hostess was concerned that we appeared not to be eating. Finding an English speaking guest who helped with translation, we ended up eating meals that she prepared especially for us on the two nights we were there. 

The food was absolutely delicious and very filling – we’re pleased we don’t have scales in Vanni to weigh ourselves!

Vinnytsia village bus & well
The resort gave us a place to relax for a couple of days before heading off again on the bumpy Ukraine roads. We still don’t know the name of the commune where the resort was located, but were interested to see the communal well which was right next door to the bus stop.

We have seen many such wells dotted along the streets throughout this part of Ukraine.

They all have slightly different decorations, are covered, and many have a decorative wheel instead of a handle, to raise and lower the bucket.

Vinnytsia street
Next day, we visited Vinnytsia city, finding it to be an attractive university town. We saw our first Ukrainian McDonalds in Vinnytsia. Up until this time, we had not seen any of the big food chains such as McD, Starbucks, etc etc in Ukraine.

We then headed off toward Zhytomyr.

Zhytomyr defence sandbags
Arriving at the entrance to the city, we found sand-bag fortifications with each having weapon slots. Presumably these have been erected in the case of invasion by Russian paid football hooligans that have lead the current uprising in Eastern Ukraine.

We had seen others elsewhere, but the Zhytomyr ones looked very well organised.

We are not sure that we will get to enjoy the charm of rural Ukraine again, as we are now headed toward the big city of Kiev. Also, due to the political situation in Ukraine, we may have to depart the country sooner than planned.

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