Although I’d bought (2nd-hand!) a very good Bradt Guide, I really didn’t know what to expect of the Ukraine. I was either brave or stupid enough to be not only Nataliya and Kie’s first volunteer for their proposed and meticulously planned holiday, but also to ask them to arrange a further 2 weeks in the village of Nizhnie Selische, our destination. I think I speak for all of my fellow adventurers, in saying our stay with families was very interesting, most hospitable and welcoming. Personally, I’d much rather live amongst “real” people, than stay in a same old, same old Holiday Inn, which could be Disnayland.
As far as I could tell, this was authentic, the real deal. The successful efforts of the village community to improve its quality of life, and general circumstances, were most impressive. The various social projects, such as “The club” community centre, the cheese farm and the renovation of buildings, to name a few, are obviously of benefit to all.
Perhaps my only criticism is that, trying to show us all the many varied and fascinating facets of the area, Nataliya and Kie tried maybe a little too hard! Of course, ours was rather a trial run, but I was happy to be a guinea - pig. Some of our group said they would have liked to have a bit more free time.
I brought with me half-a-bagful of various tablets, plasters and ointments. I came back with half-a-bagful feeling unusually healthy. The food was very good, pretty much everywhere: even catering for my semi-vegetarian foibles.
A distinct lack of traffic, especially trucks, on the dreadful roads (with exceptions, of course, such as the road we took to Lviv), together with the vast forests and mountain ranges, few factories in the area, and a much more relaxed lifestyle all made for low pollution and low stress-levels.
There isn’t enough space to describe all our well-organised outings and visits. Highlights for me would include the local bee - hives, the volcanic lake, horse-&-cart ride, & the Ukrainian party, just prior to our departure for Lviv. The local band at the party was good with Jurgen an excellent clarinetist, & the senior ladies in local costume put us all to shame, with their dancing!
I am a keen walker, & love to lie in the countryside, so the Mala Uholka primeval beech forest was something else. The steep gradients up to visit the natural Karst stone archway were a little challenging even for 65-year-old on 18 fags a day. But, hey, I wasn’t last! And it was easier coming back down, of course; though I would have liked to catch glimpse of the odd bear or wolf, or especially a lynx.
I’d need to write a whole chapter about Lviv. I was enchanted by an exotic mix of architectural styles, evidence of many different nationalities, minorities, religious faiths and different periods. The museums we saw there, together with churches, as elsewhere, were all fascinating.
I was particularly interested in the Jewish and Armenian cultures, and could well have spent month there. It reminded me a little of Prague, soon after the fall of communism, perhaps somewhat more cosmopolitan and sophisticated. I’ve had to miss out so much, like the actors we met there, but from the village I returned to, with them.
Like all the kindness shown nearly everywhere, Nataliya & Kie’s friends. Like the following 2 weeks solo. Altogether, a very rewarding and memorable holiday. Best wishes
Tuesday 1st January 2013 (Trip in 2012)