Just a quick update here.
After much hand-wringing and research, I’ve decided to forgo the customary excursions to Budapest and Bratislava. Yes, they’re beautiful, and I’m sure I’d have a great time. But they’re too far away, and too difficult to reach from the region of Ukraine I’m in. Bratislava requires half a day to get to on its own, and my loathing for public transportation and my experiences on the last train from Kyiv means I’d rather fuck a cactus than do that again.
So after looking into the options, and considering advice from locals, I ended up going to Yaremche in the Carpathian Mountains. It’s not an area I know a lot about, but Ukraine doesn’t get as much press in most history courses as does, say, England or Germany or France. But it’s still a crucial place in the history of Europe, and I’m loving getting to see it first hand.
After deciding on that route, I also chose taking a taxi from Lviv to Yaremche–a 3 hour drive for $70. Not bad, when the alternative was a 12 hour bus ride for $10, or a 5.5 hour train ride for $50. God, that last train ride has burned itself into my mind forever. However, while my driver and his van were most pleasant, I have to say–Ukraine smells. We got off into the countryside, and for three solid hours we were choked by fumes from farmers burning their fields, or from cars with no pollution controls, or from seriously enormous power plants and factories. I’m not joking–it smelled the entire way, and combined with Yaruslav’s (my driver) nauseating, artificial cherry-scented car air freshener, I had quite a headache by the time we arrived.
But I’m here now! It’s a lovely little hotel, and as the sun comes up over the hills (we’re buried in a quaint little valley), I’m getting a pretty picturesque view of the Carpathian landscape. I ran into the hotel owner getting sloshed at the bar when I checked in last night, and he invited me to come with him and a friend on a hike up to see the traditional Hutsul shepherds in the mountains. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, so that worked out perfectly!
I’m off to grab some brekky, and then hit the hills! If you hear some yodeling, that’s probably not me. Probably.