Sunday, May 22, 2016

Underrated Ukraine

A few weeks ago was Constitution Day in Poland so that meant a four day weekend so obviously when in Poland and faced with how to spend a free four days, you can’t resist the call of Ukraine. Are they currently at war with Russia? Sure but the term war gets thrown around a lot these days and it didn’t deter our group of 12. Getting to Ukraine is not as easy peasy as you might think so we needed a first stop in Zamosc before leaving for Lviv, Ukraine the next morning. What is Zamosc Poland like at the end of April? Superb!

Zamosc is a small Polish city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is built as an ideal town based on Italian theories that involve a fortress, a residence and an urban ensemble. 

We had some friends who let us stay at their place and we set off first thing in the morning for Ukraine. It was coincidentally Easter in Ukraine so tons of Ukrainians who are living in Poland, make the trip back for the long weekend which meant insane backup at the border. I mean insane. We were parked for about half an hour and hadn’t moved an inch. As we were waiting at a standstill and me pondering why I make certain life choices, a string of cars was driving on the wrong side of the road and essentially trying to cut the line. Sidebar: A classic move my dad would have certainly employed.

It didn’t take long for our group to decide that we could follow suit. We drove for a few minutes, passed the honking horns of increasingly angry Ukrainians. I’m under the impression that Ukrainians are almost always angry and multiply that when people in a 1988 Uno go flying passed them filled with obviously non-Ukrainian bearing passport holders. After driving past hundreds of cars and still no sight of this illusive border, some sense of order was restored when someone in a uniform and in the possession of a gun, told us to turn around.  Yes sir. Does this mean back to Zamosc for vodka and pierogis? Of course not! Let’s take a google maps direction through backroad forest Polish/Ukraine!

When people speak about the road less travelled, they were talking about this road. How it was on a map, I’m not completely certain. We were a convoy of two cars, one sort of made for off-roading, one meant to be put down in the early 2000’s. I was in the latter. We needed to take a small break to let the engine cool off and write any last words down for anyone to find and pass along to love ones if we didn’t make it out of this forest that is certainly used a passage way for human and drug smuggling. We eventually hit paved roads again, saw a glimpse of a border but nobody wanted to let us into the line because they thought we skipped the queue. We earned the right into that line but the anger had only increased with this second Ukrainian border we have tried to come into contact with. When trying to skips queues, always use your trump card: being Canadian. Our Polish friend casually strolled to the border agents, informed them that a small group of Canadians only had two days in their endearing country and we were allowed a not so speedy entry into Ukraine which certainly saved us hours upon hours in that line. Rumour has it that the first line we were in, it would have taken us 20 hours to get through. It takes about 15 minutes for them to process each car because obviously, Ukraine offers a better life than other European and North American countries.

Moments that stand out:

Disaster roads. Entering a time machine to see people plowing their fields with their bodies and tools from 60 years ago and without the aid of horses. Cheap. Ukrainian money I would later find out cannot be exchanged in Poland due to war which was a fun little timbit of information to acquire. Going to a country during a holiday lets you see traditions in public you would not normally see but it also means massive store/restaurant/everything being closed which puts an interesting twist on a weekend. Overall thoughts on Ukraine is that there was more of a difference between Poland and Ukraine than I had anticipated but was pleasantly surprised with its beauty and user friendliness. Would certainly explore and want to learn more about Ukraine if given the opportunity. When Ukraine calls, you always pick up.  


“Think continually about what you want, not about the things you fear.” Brian Tracy

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