Ukraine

Oh Ukraine, what an adventure. It started off with a night bus from Krakow, Poland to Lviv, Ukraine. The bus was to arrive at 11:15pm, but at 11:10 it still didn’t even have a stall dedicated to it at the outdoor bus station. A little worried we had missed something (our tickets were in Polish), we asked a young guy if he knew anything. Turns out, he was from Ukraine and had traveled that route quite a few times. He said “oh don’t worry, this bus is always a couple hours late. The worst case will be 2am.” Luckily (specially since we were standing outside in the freezing rain), it came by about 12:45. We, and 1000 others (it felt like), crammed onto the tiny bus. It had no bathrooms and very little leg room (even for a shorty like me!) and the smell of garlic and sausages was …prominent (at least to my sniffer, Dane can’t smell anything). We were evidently the only tourists on the bus. I had heard horror stories about getting pick-pocketed, and carrying my big camera I was kind of in cautionary defense mode. So we rode along in the middle of the night and I hung onto my purse/camera bag for dear life, hardly sleeping a wink. A few hours in, we were at the border. We sat for 3-4 hours just waiiting and waiiting and waiitng some more. Finally, we got our Polish exit and Ukraine entry stamps, and were on our way. Only another few hours to go. ukraine_0146When we arrived to Lviv, we dumped our stuff off at our hotel and went to find some food. And coffee. These were good ones from Cafe Centaur.ukraine_0147 ukraine_0148Hallelujah, I finally made a winning choice from the menu! Poached eggs benedict on croissant.ukraine_0149 ukraine_0150Dane had some traditional Ukrainian “pancakes”. Quite a bit smaller than he anticipated! He had to order more later. These were stuffed with some sort of ricotta cheese blend. Pretty yummy. ukraine_0151We strolled through the streets of Lviv. This particular courtyard caught my eye, with it’s colorful string lights, graffiti, rough-looking buildings…ukraine_0152Quite a striking combo…ukraine_0153Speaking of striking…what a striking young lad. ukraine_0154 ukraine_0155 ukraine_0156Finally, it was mid-afternoon and we could actually check-in to our room. We were in dire need of a nap from the lack of sleep on the night bus. We found this hotel online (Guest House Inn) and I would highly recommend. It was quaintly but tastefully decorated with very well-done paintings throughout the entire place. It was all renovated but tried to maintain qualities of Ukrainian style. And best of all, it was cheap! It is nice traveling in countries where you get a lot of bang for your buck. ukraine_0157 ukraine_0158 ukraine_0159
We flopped on the bed and said goodnight to the world for a couple hours.ukraine_0160 ukraine_0161Rested up, we walked back to central Lviv to the famous Opera house. We booked tickets earlier in the day to attend The Merry Widow. We’ve done ballets, plays, and orchestras… but the Opera was a first for both of us.ukraine_0162 ukraine_0163What a beautiful building. ukraine_0164And on the inside, even more-so! We were a little nip-and-tuck getting there so I was only able to sneak a few photos before the cameras had to be put away. ukraine_0165 ukraine_0166 ukraine_0167To be honest, I thought an Opera was kind of a one-woman show where she just Fa-La-Las in Latin for an hour or so. But this was an actual play with lots of talking, more like a musical, and then there was Operatic singing in between. It was certainly cool (amazing costumes and setting), but it was performed in Ukrainian so we couldn’t understand a thing. After about 1 hour the first act of three was done, and our tummies were grumbling something fierce. So we said “hey, we’ve seen it. realistically we’re not really catching any of the jokes, let’s go get some supps!” and peaced out a bit early!ukraine_0168 ukraine_0169We found a charming restaurant in Rynok square…ukraine_0170 ukraine_0171 ukraine_0172 ukraine_0173Dane monkeying around again. Me not so sure if Dane knows how to get the exposure right in the low light :) ukraine_0174The Borscht arrived! Best Borscht we had… mmm mmm.ukraine_0175 ukraine_0176Dane had a rack of lamb…ukraine_0177And I had pork ribs. Both were delicious since we hadn’t eaten since morning, but if I was being picky… not the most flavorful.ukraine_0178Oh boy, next morning, we went back to the bus station! I didn’t want to be flashing my camera round so Dane caught a few snaps of our ride.ukraine_0179And our coffee from the vending machine :S ukraine_0180Dane tried to learn the Ukrainian alphabet a bit, but 2 days was just not quite enough time!!ukraine_0181
Once in Lutsk, our lively tour guide took us through local supermarkets and other places. One thing strikingly different in Ukraine is their insane selection of sausage!ukraine_0182After good visits, we checked into our fancy-schmancy hotel.ukraine_0183 ukraine_0184Oozing with style… haha. ukraine_0185The next day we toured and visited people all the day long.ukraine_0187ukraine_0190I loved the decor in this little Ukrainian perogie chain!  ukraine_0188We visited the Lutsk Castle with these friendly folks. ukraine_0189  ukraine_0191 ukraine_0192 ukraine_0193ukraine_0195 ukraine_0194  ukraine_0196 ukraine_0197 ukraine_0198 ukraine_0199And they showed us the town’s crazy sculptor – who locks himself in this house and just creates and creates and creates. ukraine_0200 ukraine_0201 ukraine_0202Back at the hotel being real stupid. ukraine_0203Our weekend was full of meeting new people who are particularly special. I’ve decided to be a bit discreet and not post photos of them all as I don’t know them all well enough to know how they’d feel about it. But it was full, eye-opening, heart-warming and made me realize how good we have it.

Sunday night we took the bus back to Lutsk and checked into a hostel for the night. Then we took a suuper early train back to Budapest. It took 13 hours. But we had this little cabin all to ourselves. Much better than the bus.ukraine_0204 ukraine_0205 ukraine_0206
Our view out the muddy train window…ukraine_0207Then at the border, they had to switch our train wheels! In countries that had Soviet-rule, the tracks are a different size. So whenever a train crosses the border in and out of Ukraine, it has to switch out the wheels. The process took 3 or so hours. And you can’t get off the train. And there is no food or water served. So we know for next time: bring food, lots of water, and books. ukraine_0208 ukraine_0209 ukraine_0210 ukraine_0211 ukraine_0212 ukraine_0213IMG_0384

Finally we arrived HOME – to Budapest.

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2 thoughts on “Ukraine

  1. Hey nice pics and cool post. I had a question did you buy just a regular ticket from lviv to budapest on ukranian railways and got that cool cabin? We are planning to take that train this week.. Thanks :)

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