Khmelnytsky and KP
According to the Bradt guide to Ukraine, Khmelnytsky “could very well be the least exciting place in western Ukraine. Most Ukrainians feel the same way, including those who live here.”
I would like to respectfully disagree. (and besides that, who writes things like this in a travel guide??)
To be sure, I have not been to all cities in western Ukraine. I have not been to Lviv, which is the biggest draw in the area. But Khmelnytsky has a lot of history and for me, there is the added draw that I know someone who lives there, who invited me to visit and who also brought me to see Kamyanets-Podilsky (or what I am calling KP).
So it was on (last) Monday evening that I took a train from Kiev to Khmelnytsky and was greeted not only at the station, but right outside my train car by R. He carried my bags back to his apartment for me, where I was promptly fed a proper (and delicious) meal. After some discussion, I was left to my room, where it did not take me long to write my last blog post and then fall asleep.
Tuesday dawned sunny with beautiful fluffy clouds, and we got on a marshrutka to KP, to see a few of the sites there. After stopping at the church, we walked through the park with the fountain, where I made an idiot out of myself by singing Laura Branigan’s “Self Control”, which was playing on the radio while we were walking around the park. Luckily for me, R did not embarrass easily.
After finding the botanical garden and exploring it (pretty, but we were a little late or early for most of the blooming plants. Ah well), and not finding a bridge to which we had been directed, we made our way to the castle.
According to the “travel to Ukraine” web site, “Kamyanets-Podilsky, one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, is considered a phenomenon of great cultural importance.” No one knows exactly how old the city is (they think it dates back to the time of Old Rus), but it is quite lovely, and is perched on a bit of a rocky island on the Smotrich River.
The city was a cultural center for many years, and UNESCO has proclaimed the old city a World Heritage Site because of the high concentration of preserved architecture styles. The Ukrainian government ranked KP third in importance after Kiev and Lviv (before Odessa!).
Today KP is a rayon center (instead of the oblast capital, which was moved to Khmelnytsky).
The castle actually reminded me of the castle in Lutsk, as it is more “functional” and more like a fortress than a castle like the ones that I have seen in western Europe.
After the castle we walked through the old town, but were, unfortunately, not able to see it in depth because we did not know when the last marshrutka back to Khmelnytsky was to leave. But we did see a Ferris wheel, which was part of an amusement park (and I was told that Dendro Park was the only one in Ukraine!).
The next day we took care of some “business”, then were left to explore Khmelnytsky. Part of this exploring included walking through a beautiful park, which also had rides (and a small mini-golf section!), and many waterways. We brought bread to feed to ducks, and ended up seeing cygnets!
We also ended up feeding bread to a goat (R fed it from his mouth – I was not so creative and fed it from my hands), and rented a rowboat, which we took out on the river. Okay, R rowed and I enjoyed the ride (I also took photos).
After a long walk back to his apartment, we turned around and picked up Theo,
who was joining us on our Carpathian excursion the next day. And oh what a trip that turned out to be! Must be something about getting Theo and I together that always brings some crazy fun. More about that in the next post.
More photos from Khmelnytsky and Kamyanets Podilsky can be found on Picasa.