Castles of Ukraine

Again, a short but amazing journey. The plan was to make a round trip across Ukraine, having a base in Kamianets-Podilskyi, and to see a lot of places of historical significance for Poland on the way. I happened to get offered a place on the bus by chance but didn’t hesitate for a single second to agree. I’ve never travelled east, so these three days abroad were going to be all the more exciting.

This time, the route started in Nisko – a small town in Subcarpathia, in neighborhood of which I spent my childhood by the way (don’t forget to visit the place when you’re around). At first, I was a little bit concerned about getting through the Polish-Ukrainian border, as I’ve heard stories about waiting at least three to four hours before crossing it. After finding out to be on the other side after only an hour, I was glad to have heard these stories before – otherwise it probably wouldn’t make me as happy and surprised as I was.

My first impression of Ukraine: its landscapes are so vast and empty… I’d say it looked marvelous and terrific at the same time. Our two stops for the beginning were Olesko and Pidhirtsi. As mentioned in the title, the main target were castles and palaces, thus in almost every town we found one. The one in Olesko was quite interesting, because of the museum inside it, but even though we couldn’t enter the one in Pidhirtsi, the second made a bigger impression on me. It was situated in a perfect place: there was a forest in front of it and tens-of-kilometers flat area view on the other side – adorable. After that we went straight to Kamianets to be able to go for a short walk around the town before dawn. Actually during this first day (Friday) we didn’t have a chance to see too many places, i.a. because of the roads that made our drivers confused every once in a while. Honestly, if you’ve ever complained about the roads in your country, you’ve probably never been to Ukraine (and if you have and still complain – go again, and take your own car with you). These are called “roads” only on a map – in reality they’re somewhere between Swiss cheese and craters on the Moon. T.R.A.G.E.D.Y. It’s funny to watch cars in a traffic jam though, they don’t differ from ants trying to go between holes on a tennis racket, at all. The other reason of the delay was our tour guide that came with us and had plenty of interesting things to say. He used to live there, and he’s a passionate historian, which made him a great companion to travel with.

For both nights we stayed in our “base”, so on the second day we just visited the most interesting places within a thirty-kilometer radius (like Khotyn with its castle, right by the Dniester River) and finished doing sightseeing in Kamianets. There is something unique about this town. Hundreds of years ago it used to be a great fortress surrounded by deep natural moat and the only way to get in was to go through the castle. Unlike most castles and palaces that we saw on this trip, this one was being taken a great care of. It had been renovated, was clean and had an imposing illumination at night. And this wasn’t the only thing in Kamianets that had a big role in the night play of lights – but more on that on one of the pictures below. On Sunday, on our way back home, we managed to visit four places: Skala-Podilska, Zbarazh, Kremenets and Zhovkva. Each one of them was around two hours away from the previous one, so we had a lot of useful breaks between fighting with The Swiss Cheese, again.

In general, this part of Ukraine appeals to me a lot, including the fact that this was Polish territory at one time – some of it centuries ago, some of it decades – and in a way I felt like I’ve been there before. Not physically of course, but while reading some of the books they made us read in high school. I’d lie if I said I read them all, in fact I barely read anything that days (which I obviously regret now), but such a piece as The Trilogy by Henryk Sienkiewicz for instance… I just couldn’t miss. And thanks to all the tales our guide got us familiar with in these very once-to-be battlefields, this journey made me even more aware of how brutal and dangerous these times were, comparing to nowadays. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to try living in that world – maybe it wasn’t ideal, but still sounds fascinating.


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