Ukraine – What An Exceptional Journey
January 8, 2020
This morning after breakfast we headed to a nearby community so we could visit their Yaremche market which attracts locals by the bus load and tourists from around the world. The vendors carry all kinds of items – handicrafts, homemade liquors, dried berries, honey, souvenirs …. the list goes on and on.
Last time I was in Ukraine I purchased small handmade hutsul figures made by a talented man from a mountain village. I went back to the same market vendor that sold them and when he learned I returned from Canada he went in the back of his shop and brought out the finest work from this artist. I purchased a few more them to add to my collection.
Lunch was in a beautiful restaurant that has been visited by many Ukraine Presidents and Celebrity’s. Once again a superb meal.
This afternoon my passengers had time to enjoy the spa and pool area at our hotel. Some enjoyed people watching in the massive lobby – the hotel attracts a trendy international crowd.
Dinner was at a quaint, very special restaurant that overlooks the ski village. There was a sign saying that it is only open in the winter. We have enjoyed so many excellent meals during this tour but the cooks in this restaurant prepared for us one of of the tastiest feasts. Its common in many of the restaurants and at homes that you start with the First Table – a variety of cold dishes – salads, pickles, fish, cold meats…. Soup often follows and mushroom seems to be the most common one. The entrees were excellent. The dessert was a pumpkin cake that our guide. Taras grew up eating – its called Zapikanaa (means baked). I want to see if I can find a recipe when I get home.
January 9, 2020
We said farewell to the staff at the Radisson Blu, Bukovel. We got to know a few of them during our 4 night stay.
Through the night there was enough freezing rain to make the ski hills very icy. I went out on my hotel room balcony and as the skiers passed I could hear how icy the conditions were.
We ended up departing on time but our driver had to take his time driving through the mountains. There were a number of car accidents.
Chernivtis is known as the “Small Vienna in the East” – its our home for 2 nights. Our charming boutique hotel is located on one of the town squares. It’s interior is very ornate – lovely.
Today is the 3rd Christmas Day Celebration – “angel day” – named after Steven/Stephanie.
Our elegant luncheon featured a shrimp/salmon salad and bbq pork chops – enjoyed by all.
We explored the pedestrian street before our special evening.
Tonight we savoured cuisine prepared by a popular Ukrainian chef in a traditional, beautifully decorated traditional restaurant. At the next table was a young man from Western Australia who is touring Ukraine for a month.
It’s customary that different groups entertain for donations after Christmas. Members from the local Philharmonic entertained us. They were terrific.
As a “Travel With Bradley” SURPRISE the very talented group “Gerdan” performed for us for over 30 minutes. These are professional locals (doctors/lawyers etc) that sing because they love it. There harmonies were so beautiful. Just fantastic!
An exceptional evening – a tour highlight for sure!
January 10, 2020
The breakfast room in our boutique hotel is a very relaxing space. Oversize plush dining chairs add to its elegance.
Our bubbly, local city guide also teaches German at the local university. She was wearing a traditional Ukrainian head scarf that was handmade and painted in Canada many years ago. At that time it was considered a valuable work of art that showed wealth so one would be willing trade five cows in order to get one of them. To this day her Grandmother cherishes this scarf and didn’t want her to wear it but her Mother said go ahead.
She did a wonderful job showing us the city sights. I was surprised when she received permission for us to enter the synagogue – a first time experience for all of us.
We toured the most impressive University buildings and the adjacent Orthodox Church.
Lunch was in an awesome modern Jewish Restaurant. This restaurant was not kosher. It’s interior design and cuisine impressed all of us.
After lunch we toured a display that highlighted Ukrainian Canadians – made us feel proud.
We then continued to one of the largest markets in Ukraine. This one attracts more locals than tourists. It was interesting walking through its maze. Those that needed to buy “new suitcases” to hold their many purchases found deals here.
Dinner was in our boutique hotel. Once again an impressive affair.
January 11, 2020
On our way back to the beautiful city of Lviv we stopped at a Christmas Orthodox Church. This is the second one we visited during this journey. There are a handful of them throughout the country.
When we reached Lviv we dined in a very unique restaurant that highlights the Masons. It’s design is one of a kind – this is one of the priciest restaurants in the city. It’s cuisine is top notch.
After checking into our hotel there was some time to explore the Christmas and handicrafts markets before we boarded a tourist train for an informative city tour.
Dinner was in one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. It’s another really unique one. For the size of Lviv its impressive how many world-class restaurants there are. This one is known for a number of things including a multi-story shark aquarium, variety of live music, thousands of plants and a brewery!
January 12, 2020
After breakfast we boarded a “private for us” tourist coach for a tour. We stopped at a famous cemetery which was unlike anything we have seen before.
The Christmas theme of this tour continued when we took our prime seats in the glamorous Lviv Opera and Ballet Theatre for an odd time 12 noon performance of the “Nutcracker”. It was worth the admission just to see the stunning theatre and the “Nutcracker” ballet was the icing on the cake!
I loved where we dined for lunch. It was a very small, intimate restaurant with so much character. Chicken Kiev was the main course – the best ever!
We had a bit of time in the afternoon for last minute shopping or exploring. Taras kindly took me to see the newest 5 star hotels in the city and we rushed through the local brewery so I could see what it had to offer.
Tonight was our farewell banquet and it was so impressive. First of all we were in an special space that a tourist would never know exists. As a “Travel With Bradley” surprise there was a 6 piece band hired to entertain just us – they performed a variety of music using traditional instruments. Some of us were up dancing. The cuisine was exceptional and the wine flowed.
I could have easily promoted this journey as a culinary one. The cuisine in the top restaurants we visited easily compares or exceeds the quality of the “finest” big city restaurants (like Toronto) at home.
January 13, 2020
We didn’t need to leave for the airport until 11am this morning so many of my passengers slept in and enjoyed a late breakfast. Some grabbed some last minute souvenirs when the stores opened at 10am. Our boutique hotel was so centrally located in the old town, the stores and markets were just a few steps away.
It was a teary farewell – thanks to our amazing local guide, Taras and coach driver, Paul.
Lufthansa airport check-in was tardy but that is typical in Europe. We still had ample time to grab a snack of coffee before our flight to Munich. The flight was full. We had to go through security once again (EU Country) after we landed and that was a tedious process. It was a hike to our connecting gate.
We flew a Lufthansa A350-900 aircraft to Montreal. The crew and food they served was really good – yes, we were pleasantly surprised.
Poor wintery weather conditions in Montreal delayed our arrival in Toronto where there was no snow.
What an amazing journey – one of the finest yet!