Ukraine - when it was still calm ... (part 2)

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Ukraine: stage four - a trip to the Crimea, Feodosia

And it was a long way. We spent over half a day resting on train beds. Once it was worth getting up from the bedclothes to admire the otherworldly views outside the window, which passed while crossing the bridge on the narrow Perekop Isthmus. Water on both sides, and our train seems to be hovering over it, going towards the land - a beautiful place. In the morning we found ourselves at the bus and train station in Simferopol (the capital of Crimea), dark with people. There we managed to buy a ticket (about PLN 10) for a cruise bus to Feodosia, the destination of our wandering. During the nearly 100-kilometer road, we could admire the wonderful Crimean landscapes, i.e. endless steppes and massive hills growing out of them. In Feodosia - which I already know well - we waited a long time for the taxi driver to find a tiny alley on the map where our hotel was located. In fact, a house with a large garden, which Mrs. Ludmiła, who speaks good Polish, rents to tourists - and most preferably to Poles.

Feodosia is a typical seaside resort, full of stalls with soap and jam. You can buy ice cream (marożenoje) and the local kebab in batter (szarma) everywhere. We dined every day in the same place - in a Tatar restaurant recommended to us by Mrs. Ludmila. The service there was extremely gloomy, but the delicious food compensated for all the moral losses resulting from the bored look of a hungover waiter in a stale tracksuit. We ate various dishes there - we could identify some by the names on the menu - such as the well-known Ukrainian dumplings - others we tried on our own skin, or actually on our taste buds. We especially like lamb, solidly dipped in strong spices, so hard to find in Poland. Interestingly, we paid much less for all these delicacies than in Kiev - so we could afford a lavish dinner with drinks every day (I recommend strong dark wines of Ciorny Polkownik and Ciornyj Doktor) and solid desserts.

It is difficult to find a place on the not very attractive - because it is rocky - beach during the day. It is a better attraction at night, because you can relax on it with a bottle of delicious wine in your hand, watching the lights of ships move in the distance. During the day, I recommend going on a hiking trip to the Genoese fortress located on the picturesque steppe hills - from the time when Feodosia (then Kaffa) was a colony of this Italian city-state. Unfortunately, hardly anyone cares about these ruins - they deteriorate more and more every year. Anyway - the view is worth seeing. There is a curiosity about the fortress - when it was besieged in the 14th century by the Tatars, biological weapons were used for the first time in history. Plague was then spreading among the attackers. To weaken the defenders, the Tatars began to eject their dead behind the fortress walls. The Genoese who fled the encircled Kaffa dragged the plague to Europe, thus starting a terrible epidemic. Another place worth seeing is the local cemetery, located near the bus stop. A visit to the eastern necropolis is an unforgettable experience.From each tombstone, the image of the deceased looks at the visitors - often smiling, sometimes sadly pensive. The eyes of the dead give unpleasant chills and intrusive thoughts about the fragility of human life.

Feodosia is a great starting point. From there, we went on a trip to the nearby Kaktjebiela (about 20 minutes by marshrutka) - a town famous for its wineries. If you are lucky, you can come across local wine tasting at one of the company's shops. Unfortunately, such an opportunity did not come to us - we decided to buy a few bottles at random, judging them only on the basis of the types. Sweet ones are salads, dry ones are dry ones, and dry ones are semi-sweet ones. Crimean wines are delicious, and at the same time extremely cheap - a bottle costs an average of PLN 10. Having been to Feodosia in previous years, I once went on a trip to Bakhchisaray, the former capital of the khans. There, you first visit the phenomenal palace of the Girey family, the Tatar dynasty of the rulers of Crimea. Then it is time for a long walk along the great ravine, where you can admire the city carved in the rock - houses, chapels and even entire monasteries. The final stage of the trip is the abyss in Czufut-Kale, sung by Mickiewicz in the Crimean Sonnets. The steppe landscape seen from this height remains in your memory forever.

From Feodosia, you can also set off with a marshrutka to Yalta, a very significant city for Poland. It was there in February 1945 that Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt determined the post-war layout of the map of Europe. The agreement was concluded in a palace in Livadia, located some kilometers from the center of Yalta. Nearby, there is a botanical garden full of exotic plants - it's a real treat for fans of flora. The city itself is not very pretty - only the beach is worth visiting. It is also nice to take a walk on the pier where Stiopa Likhodeev woke up in Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita". Much more interesting than visiting Yalta is a boat trip on the Kara-Dag reserve. It is a coast full of interesting volcanic rock formations and a massive mountain that was once an active volcano.

Ukraine: stage five - Odessa, Lviv and the return journey

We had to leave Theodosia by bus, rented quite expensive (about PLN 30 per person), because the cruise coaches were completely full - this is a very common situation in the summer season. In Simferopol, we boarded a train (shopping class) to Odessa. The journey was quite long - it is worth noting here that - contrary to popular opinion - this famous city is not located in Crimea, but a few hundred kilometers to the north-west of this Ukrainian peninsula. From the windows of our train one could see the Akermanian steppes praised by Mickiewicz, great grassy wastelands situated between Odessa and the departure from Crimea.

Bathed in the still shy morning light, Odessa welcomed us with a monumental (no surprise) train station with an interesting track layout (blind) and a complete lack of openings with food at this time. Of course, we were saved by McDonald's - stormed by a group of not very fresh youth, hungry after a night of fun. After recharging the batteries, we went for a walk through the streets of the waking city. Admittedly, Odessa… disappoints. It is naturally a nice metropolis, full of beautiful tenement houses and fountains, but it does not attract any interesting things and does not intrigue its guests. We were counting on the fact that although the famous Odessa stairs, made history thanks to the moving scene in the film masterpiece "Battleship Potemkin", will arouse some emotions in us. Unfortunately - stairs like stairs. Tall and not very nice, in addition leading directly to a busy street. The spell of celluloid plates was broken.

We made our way around Odessa for a few more hours, finding nothing worth recommending. Later we went to the train station to buy tickets to Lviv. It turned out that only lux class remained in the pool for sale - PLN 240 per person ... Well, there was no way out. Later we found out that the price of this standard is completely unjustified - although there are only two beds in the range, this luxury worth a quarter of a thousand zlotys is not really visible. After a night (10 hours of travel) spent in a compartment with a very suspicious gentleman wearing gold, we finally got to Lviv.

This former Polish city welcomed us in a traditional way - with a beautiful, monumental train station and an absolute lack of open places with food. What to do - learned from experience, we headed our steps to McDonald's, located some 200 meters from the main place of the city, i.e. the beautiful opera house. From there we went to the Łyczakowski Cemetery, an old necropolis in Lviv. There are still burials there, which is why Ukrainian graves are mixed with Polish ones. Among the famous people who lie there, you can find, among others Maria Konopnicka, Stefan Banach, Artur Grottger

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and Franciszek Stefczyk. It is worth climbing the cemetery hill where the January insurgents are buried amidst the rustle of trees. Anyone interested in Polish literature will notice the tombstone of Colonel Julian Ordon, known from the poem "Reduta Ordon" by Mickiewicz. The proposer of this hero killed many wars in his work - although in fact he outlived the poet for many years.

The obligatory point is the cemetery of the Lviv Eaglets, located inside the necropolis of Lychakiv, where the young people who died during the Battle of Lviv in 1919 are buried. There is also a tombstone which is the remains of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier - it used to be here, not in Warsaw. Among the white soldiers' graves, you can sometimes see old ladies - Polish women from Lviv, who look after the cemetery. It's worth listening to what they have to say. One of them once told me that there are days when, while walking among the tombstones, she hears the laughter of children. And there is no living soul around - only she and the fallen Eaglets.

Lviv is a city that is difficult to get to know in one day. Its tastes, smells, views and attractions must be explored long and thoroughly, and there will always be something left that we have not seen. In short: you must visit the Armenian cathedral and the Boymys chapel. Another obligatory place is the Polish cathedral, located right next to the Market Square.

To admire the beautiful panorama of the city, it is worth climbing the Castle Hill. For those hungry for sensations and delicious food, I recommend the Jewish restaurant on (nomen omen) Jewriejska Street. You can eat there delicious specialties of this cuisine and - beware - bargain with the waiter when paying the bill. There is no point in looking for prices in the menu, everything is to be agreed with the service. In order to buy unforgettable souvenirs, you have to go to the market square near the Lviv hotel, where stallholders sell real works of art. Military enthusiasts will even find complete Soviet uniforms there!

On the way back, we spent some time waiting for our turn at the border check. The queue consisted mainly of the aforementioned ants. Suddenly a murmur of unease ran through the crowd. Someone exclaimed in a choked voice: "fierce Baśka is!" And people began to huddle around the garbage cans and the toilet entrance. As it turned out, it was about quickly getting rid of shabby goods - stuck to the thighs, hidden in bras, panties and shoes. The aforementioned Baśka was apparently an extremely perceptive customs officer who did not indulge anyone.

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Ukrainian customs officers were interested in what we were transporting, and Polish ones in what we were bringing. You need to remember about the limit - a liter of strong alcohol per head (over 23%) and 40 cigarettes. It is not worth combining or trying to hide the contraband in the bags - Polish officers carefully search each bag. It is also not allowed to bring or take away any antique items - keep that in mind when visiting the Lviv flea market.

Then we had a long journey through Poland on the Przemyśl-Szczecin train. We returned to our hometown of Wrocław tired but very happy. We discovered another piece of Ukraine - a country almost unknown in Poland. Now that our neighbors are on the brink of war, surely no one will be so foolish as to go on vacation there. But when the threat of conflict subsides, it is worth going east.