A leisurely tour of NW Ukraine in May 2013 with my Ukranian friends Oleksiy and Ivan. They gave me a fascinating introduction to the countryside and culture of this interesting country.
The western part of Ukraine is keen to join the European Union, but there was no doubting that I was in the former Communist zone as I arrived in a packed train at the grandiose railway station of L'viv.
Click on the photos to enlarge them...
I was led on a circular route through beautiful countryside and rural villages, on rough roads in, mainly, glorious sunny weather. This was cycletouring at its leisurely best!
We camped in some really beautiful places - in open grassland where there were so many cowslips that it was impossible not to pitch one's tent on them, and in airy woods bursting with springtime beauty. Ivan burned sticks and cooked on an ingenious motorised, foldimg stove he'd designed and made himself. We collected our water from holy wells that we stumbled across around almost every corner, or we asked at houses along the way.
Oleksiy and Ivan were keen to show me the palaces, monasteries and churches of the region. Some of the palaces had been restored and contained examples of exquisite wooden furniture, whilst others were in a poor state of repair. On the other hand, all the religious establishments were positively overflowing with riches.
Many Ukranians are openly religious, bowing and crossing themselves whenever they pass a church or holy well - I found this curious, given the fact that religion was actively discouraged during recent Communist times. The last photo shows believers cleansing themselves in a holy pool.
It was a great privilage to be shown round by two locals. Everyone I met treated me as an honoured guest, Westerners not being a common sight in this part of Ukraine. Strong home-made spirits were produced on several occasions, and glasses refilled as soon as they were emptied. And having been a practical subjects teacher myself, I was particularly interested to be shown round the craft department of the school where Ivan teaches. Finally, here's a chap in traditional Ukranian costume!
Thank you, Oleksiy and Ivan!
Total: 262 km / 164 miles 6 days, with Oleksiy and Ivan
© Di + Chris Bell