Khotyn & Kamianets – Podilskyi

The trip just got even better.

Chernivtsi is an ordinary Ukrainian town, off the tourist route. Come to think of it, so is Ukraine as a whole. Anyway, Chernivitsi has only been under Soviet influence since WWII, prior to that it was part of Moldavia and then the Habsburg empire for quite a number of years.

The architecture reflects this, with all sorts to see, all in various states of repair or otherwise. From the fully restored, to the being restored, to the decaying to the being demolished. A really interesting mix and a reflection of Ukraine today. There were also a couple of regional museums thrown in for good measure, along with numerous churches, from 17th century restored wooden to brick built Armenian.

Oh yes and internet cafes of course. Just watch out for the mad rush of teenagers to come flying through the door after school. Even a power failure of all the PCs half way through playing games and surfing brought nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders from all of them. Grounds for a mini riot in the UK?

Once again the food has been excellent more fish and some chicken in some sort of white sauce. I have not had a bad meal yet. The service is very prompt as well, again something of a surprise. The hotel was not up to much. A typical Soviet 1950’s monolith, with service to match, no hot water until 07:00, no breakfast until 07:00. My bus departed this morning at … 07:00, so something of a problem. No discount either, however hard I tried. Remember, never to stop at the hotel bukovina in Chernivtsi.

Therefore, the initial start to the day was not good, but the rest has simply been superb. The bus set off at 07:00 (like it said on the ticket and timetable) and I arrived in Khotyn at 09:00. A very small village with an interesting fort. I had not intended to stop here at all, it only gets a cursory one paragraph mention in my guide book. However, Taras (from the Kiev to Lviv train journey) insisted I stop and take a look. He was not wrong. It was only a quick half hour walk in the cold crisp morning air from the bus station, where I had persuaded the ticket office staff to look after by bag for me.

You do not see the fort until the last minute as you enter the outer defensive walls of the fortification, and there before you just down the hill is a fantastic fort. Originally built out of wood in the 12th century it has been sacked and rebuilt numerous times. But in the cold morning air, under a clear blue sky I was the only one there and was left to roam around to my hearts content. I sat on the top of the ramparts smoking a cigar watching the locals one hundred feet below, fish through the ice on the wide and frozen river Dnister.

Simply great!!! just what I had come to see, even though I had no idea at the start of the trip I was even coming here.

Once back at the bus station in Khotyn I chanced upon the food bargain of the holiday; tea, water, salad, borscht, and a main course for $2.5, all whilst waiting for my bus to Kamianets – Podilskyi. The ladies who had been looking after my bag ensured I got on the right bus to my next destination.

Kamianets – Podilskyi also has a fort and a history that goes back to the 11th century. I managed to do a bit of it this afternoon. As well as an afternoon snack (fruit salad with ice cream topped with cinnamon) and a relax in the basement of the 16th century town hall. Not far away there was a great view of the fort and the river far below, looking out onto the rich fertile plains of Ukraine as the sun set behind it. I will explore more tomorrow before my overnight train back to Kiev.

As ever, the best travel moments you experience are, without fail, always unplanned, and this definitely falls into that category.

That should keep the travel batteries charged for a short while anyway.