Friday, August 12, 2011

Day 10: Chernivtsi and a very long journey

Here I am a couple of hours in to what will be a nineteen hour trip to Odessa, eep! I had thought it was fourteen hours, and even that seemed daunting, but 19, yipes. I'm very glad I decided on the first class ticket, even though it was very expensive compared to second class (but not really compared to Western prices, about 60 euros, which for an overnight trip in first class is pretty decent). This train is not as nice as those that ply the popular Kiev-Lviv route (or Kiev-Odessa, so I'm told), even little touches like the biscuits and tissues I got given on the Kiev-Lviv aren't provided. On the other hand, so far I appear to be the only person in first class, so other than the creaking of the train, it's nice and quiet! I'm assuming that even if we do stop at other stations, it won't fill up. It would be pretty cruel anyway to stick someone in with me when the rest of the entire carriage is empty! Update, a few minutes later: Bah, a child has taken occupancy of the adjoining carriage. At least it's not in here. We just went through Kolomya, which is in the opposite direction to where we want to be going, so I guess looking at the map in my guidebook we're backtracking the whole way to Lviv and then going south? Joy. That also makes it more likely that people will get on at Lviv and I'll end up having to share my compartment.

Anyway, trying to amuse myself by reading and sorting some of my photos, and writing this of course. I don't think I brought enough food with me, I waited for like 20 minutes in this little minimarket for someone to serve me on the deli section but there were like 4 of them just wandering about and no-one helped me so I gave up in disgust. Thus I have 5 litres of water, a packet of chips, a loaf of bread, and some chocolate which turned out to be all white and crumbly and has been rejected. Boohoo :( It may become unrejected depending on how hungry I get over the next 16 hours. The train is doing a lot of annoying sitting about in sidings – I heard a long time ago that they maintain impressive punctuality by building in a ton of waiting around time on the way. I mean, the train's slow enough as it is, especially if we are going to bloody Lviv.

Anyway, I fell asleep last night pretty much right after uploading my last Lviv trip report and slept right through to the morning, when I got up bright and early, blogged about Khotyn and K-P and then headed out to take a look at Chernivtsi. Amazingly enough, this small city no-one's ever heard of (or I hadn't anyway) used to be the third largest in the Austro-Hungarian empire (after Vienna and Prague), when it was known as 'Czernowitz'. However, before that it was founded by Galicians, sacked by the Mongols, and under Moldovan control in the Middle Ages. From 1918 to 1940, the Romanians (Romania and Moldova are very close, we drove within sight of them on the trip yesterday) had control of 'Cernauti', before the Soviets got their hands on 'Chernovtsy'. How cosmopolitan... Most of the nice old buildings around the place were built under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so it has a similar look to it as Lviv. Basically I just walked around for a few hours in the sunshine and checked out whatever interesting churches and buildings my guidebook told me to:

602 years seems an odd milestone to celebrate

The university

The university gates

The outside of the local art gallery

Close-up of the mosaic on the art gallery

The Armenian church, built by the same architect as the university

The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit - described in my guidebook as 'pale pink' - I think shocking pink is more accurate, although it might not look it so much in these photos

Cathedral with the statue of some Metropolitan (like an archbishop) or other

Me in front of the cathedral

Inside the cathedral

I think this is a cafe, interesting building anyway

The town hall

A nice building on the town square

Inside the Church of the Assumption

A pretty effect of the light coming through the windows in the Church of the Assumption

One of the windows in question, kind of 'The Scream'-looking I thought

The 'drunken church' of St Nicholas, so called because of its unusual cupolas. They're actually straight, they only seem twisted because of the windows. You can insert your own joke about how in Ukraine, even the churches are drunk...

Inside the 'drunken church'

I think this is an icon of Tsar Nicholas II? It's written in Old Church Slavonic, so it's hard to read, but it definitely said Nikolai on the right and on the left it looks like Tsar but I can't be sure. Looks like him anyway

Pearls before swine?

1607 old church of St Nicholas. I was disappointed that the gates were locked, so I couldn't get a good look at this. Still, it's interesting to see a glimpse of what a simple, country town church would have been like back in the day - very different from the ornate, befrescoed, onion-domed numbers!

At about 11, I had a brunch of sorrel soup (erm, interesting) and varenniki filled with cottage cheese. You may recall I quite enjoyed my varenniki in Lviv, but these were awful! Unfortunately the cottage cheese had an odd sweet flavour, but they were smothered with sour cream. Blech! I ate one and gave up. Luckily the whole meal – soup, bread, juice, and varenniki – cost 2 euros, so not too much of a loss. My train left at 2.10, so I just had time for the aforementioned unsuccessful food shopping before picking up my bag at the hostel, where the owner very kindly gave me a lift to the station. The hostel was TIU Chernivtsi in case anyone reads this who's planning a trip – definitely deserve a plug.

The next day :

A Ukranian girl got on at Ivano-Frankovich (or something like that, I forget), about 3 hours into the trip. So I did have to share, but it wasn't too bad. She was nice, but she had for some reason elected to come on a 16 hour train trip apparently without any reading material, laptop, ipod, whatever. I think she had been banking on talking to me the entire time, but while we did chat a bit, my level of Russian (and, frankly, unwillingness to struggle through a conversation for 16 bloody hours, presumably left her disappointed on that front. Turns out we did go all the way back to Lviv, where we stopped for an hour and I got a snack, so didn't end up having to raid my meagre supplies anyway. The trip wasn't nearly as bad as you'd think for a 19 hour train journey, I slept averagely I suppose, woke up about 7 and got into the station at 9. Went out this morning for a bit before coming back to the hostel to check in, will grab a shower and probably head for the beach. I think my priority here will just be relaxing!

PS I'm adding photos to my last day in Lviv as we speak!

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