04 June 2013

Yaremche and the Carpathian Mountains, 4 June 2013

Today we headed out on a longer (and more arduous than expected) drive to the Carpathian Mountains in southwestern Ukraine. I had heard from others that the roads in Ukraine were terrible and that travel time per travel distance would be much more than one is used to in the United States. But after many years driving unpaved roads for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, I was not quite sure what the problem would be. Now after seeing, considering, and bouncing along the "paved" roads from Lviv to Yaremche, I firmly believe that Ukrainians would be better off if the pavement was removed.

This past winter was tough on the roads, with a great deal of freezing and thawing. Potholes were a huge problem before. Now, there is often no pavement in which to develop a pothole. For me, one of the more amusing sights was the work crew patching pavement. This is the only one we saw. They had one truck and several workers with shovels. We reached them after an extended slog through the muck that used to be a road. Somehow I think they will need more than road patches to fix the problem. Alex is not optimistic.

Due to road conditions and inclement weather, I did not take many photos along the way. The landscape outside of Lviv is rolling hills with numerous fields, some of which are being cultivated. The area is green and lush. 

Every few kilometers another small community comes into view. Most have an interesting mixture of older (late 19th - early 20th century) buildings and post World War II Soviet boxes. Many have several brick structures started, but needed finishing. There is no evidence that they are in the process of being finished. Ivano-Frankisvsk is mostly post WWII architecture because much of the town was destroyed during the war.

As one moves further south, one rises in elevation, the trees are taller and the forest thicker. Narodna was a village with a large Jewish population before WWII. Its proximity to the mountains, made it a favored location for vacations and second homes for the wealthy. 

Yaremche which did not have much of a Jewish population, stretches along the Prut River. As one nears Yaremche, brick homes give way to wooden structures, more in keeping with the forested environment and the Hutsel culture. Unfortunately, our view of Hutsel culture was in the realm of chatzkies (tourist trinkets). We resisted most, but Katherine did purchase some local tea and I purchased a wooden basket.

A local restaurant exhibited some wonderful wood carving.

We had a late lunch at another restaurant and tucked into a bowl of meat borschch (of course only so we could compare to last night's fare  ;-), banosh and drank uzvar. 

The borschch was excellent, though very different from the vegetarian version we had yesterday afternoon. Yesterday's was creamy and smooth with several dumplings. Today's included grated beet, chunks of potato and a dab of sour cream. More in keeping with what mother used to make.

Banosh is similar to Romanian mammaliga or Italian polenta. We ordered ours with a creamy mushroom sauce.  Uzvar is a drink made from dried fruit, principally apples and pears. The fruit is placed in water, boiled and strained. Ours was served cold.

My only regret is not trying some Hutsel cheese, which, I understand, is similar to feta.

We headed home through Bolechow, the town at the center of Daniel Mendelsohn's book, The Lost. It was interesting driving through the town after having read Mendelsohn's description. The main street had several older homes in seemingly good condition that Alex identified as former Jewish residences. What I didn't expect were the Soviet style buildings behind them on some back streets. They seemed architecturally jarring to me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey with us! The wood carvings you posted are amazing, and once I finish packing for drive to SCGS Jamboree tomorrow, I'll be googling Hutsel, and recipes for uzvar & borscht :-)


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