Ukraine – First European Country in 2019
I really don’t know why I came up with the idea of traveling to Ukraine.
Actually there is a good reason for visiting. I have now been to Vernadsky Station in Antarctica twice and it is run by Ukrainians. Last year in November, I met Ivan in Bali and we went diving together in Tulamben and Amed. Being convinced that I have met so many friendly and cheerful Ukrainians, I thought why not travel to Ukraine for 8 days.
I did Couchsurfing again this time and stayed in one of the suburbs of Kiev. The first day I wanted to walk from Pozniaky to the city centre (10 km). I met another Couchsurfer at my host’s place who was from Belarus and we decided to explore the city together. Somehow we got lost and covered in dust along the way. And on top of it, we got hunted by some wild street dogs. So I definitely don’t recommend you to do the same. Kiev city centre is pretty and you can have a good walk around the center and grab some local food at Puzata Hata (a traditional food franchise chain).
I have to admit that this time I didn’t explore much of the city, because I was more into hang outs with my host and Ivan.
The city is dotted with churches and great architecture. You can walk around easily and no one will bother you. Why? – Ukrainians are superficially very cold – in my opinion. I really had a little bit of a problem in understanding their hospitality. Especially coming from Colombia, it can be hard to adapt to that environment.
Rarely anybody smiled back at me when I tried to elicit smiles on their faces. I am sure they thought I was a dumb little tourist. Anyway, as far as I understand: In their mind, it is considered as fake when you’re smiling for no reason.
Hitchhiking To Eastern Ukraine
My host invited me to come and visit his hometown. This is a tiny town no tourist would ever visit on purpose. It actually has nothing, but I was keen on seeing this town and meeting his grandparents. So we decided to hitchhike first to Charkiw and then take a train to this town called Rubezhnoye. Meanwhile, he was trying to teach me some Ukrainian words, but I totally failed with the pronunciation.
Hitchhiking was the best part of my Ukrainian trip. It took us 9 hours to hitchhike from Kiev to Kharkiv. The drivers were incredibly friendly, we didn’t have to change much because we hitchhiked with a truck driver who brought us, in the end, directly to Charkiw.
I saw Charkiw only at night and the next morning its train station. Hence, I can’t really say if I can recommend the city or not. In Rubezhnoye, I really felt like I immersed myself more or at least I got a glimpse of the life of Ukrainians in a small town. This was quite interesting to me; I even got to meet a friend of my host who was very sweet and hospitable. The two days I spent there I will always keep as great memories.
Lviv – Western Ukrainian
After the hitchhiking trip, I decided to visit one of the most beautiful cities (very touristy though) in Ukraine. It’s name is Lviv. The city is very small compared to Kiev but you can visit it for 1 or 2 days. There are plenty of little cute cafes around Lviv, it’s like a perfect getaway for the weekend.
I “hiked” to the castle in Lviv – there is a viewpoint of the city, which is beautiful and I recommend it. At night, you can stroll around the center, watch and listen to some live music played by street artists. Just get a little bit away from the hustle and bustle of Kiev and enjoy this city to the fullest. I imagine how beautiful it must be in the summer time.
Next Stop – Egypt
Ukraine is a very interesting country to me, even though I stayed less than 2 weeks I am really grateful I got to see the rural part of it too. I don’t think I will put Ukraine on my list of returning countries. But it is a country you shouldn’t miss on your world travels as a backpacker. Cheers!