What I expected to be a quiet and productive Sunday at home ended up being a 12-hour excursion through my region of Ukraine. Iryna called on Saturday evening and invited me to go with her and her son 28-year-old Yura “to the forest” the next day. Having been told by multiple people never to refuse an invitation while living abroad, I immediately said yes. And was I in for a treat — it was a long day, but everything we did was new for me; I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to see so much in one day had they not invited me along. Below is an outline of our day; refer to the following map as needed.
First stop: Городенка (Horodenka), about a 40-minute drive north of Sniatyn through beautiful green fields and rolling hills. The goal here was to see an old cathedral designed by the same architect who designed the famous St. George’s (Yura’s) Cathedral in L’viv. This cathedral was built in 1760 and is a bit run-down but absolutely gorgeous. Greek Catholic services are still held here; Iryna and I sat and listened to part of the service while ogling the inside, which has been kept relatively — shockingly, for Ukraine — plain.
Next stop: The village of Гвіздець (Hvizdets’), where Iryna lived from ages 3-7. She pointed out her old house and we walked around another beautiful old cathedral where she used to play in the yard. This cathedral was built in 1725. I love the unpainted walls, parts of which have chipped away to reveal the brickwork underneath. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Up next: A quick stop in Коломия (Kolomiya), a small city (ca. 70,000 people) where two PCVs live. I’ve been here before but hadn’t been to the folk museum or big, brightly-painted church that Iryna, Yura and I went to. Nice to see some new things in a place I’ve already been.
Back on the road to: Княждвір (Knyazhdvir), a village not far from Kolomiya where the forest begins. First we stopped to visit Slava and her husband Volodya, who used to be Iryna’s neighbors in Sniatyn. They’re a vigorous couple in their 70s who live in a beautiful place. After a brief visit (during which we ate our picnic lunch), Volodya accompanied us up the road to the forest, where we stopped a couple times for short walks. This forest is known for trees called тис (tys), which I just looked up and realized are yew trees. In the forest they aren’t that big and are flat-topped. Also abundant in this forest are дуб (“doob,” or oak trees) and бук (“buk,” or beech trees). Two interesting tidbits: my clustermate Andy lives in a village called Дубівці, which roughly translates to “oak place.” Also the Chernivets’ka oblast (the oblast to the southeast of where I live) is known as Буковина, which roughly means “beech tree region,” because there are a lot of beeches in this area. I like how Ukrainians name things.
Last stop: Iryna decided she wanted to take a more scenic route home and not go straight back through Kolomiya. So we set off for Косів (Kosiv, where another PCV lives) at 6:30pm. By this point I knew I wouldn’t make it home for my family skype date so decided to enjoy the company and scenery. We stopped in a village called Шешори (Sheshory) for a tasty dinner of бануш (“banush,” the polenta-type dish that I really love) and ice cream at a restaurant overlooking a clear river with a small waterfall. On a warmer day it would’ve been a lovely place to swim. By the time we left it was 9pm so we didn’t stop in Kosiv but had a beautiful drive home.