Ex­plore hid­den gems in Ukrainian Carpathi­ans

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle -

BY ALISA MALA Think of the Carpathi­ans, and chances are that two things will come to mind first: Hoverla, Ukraine’s high­est moun­tain, and Bukovel, the fa­mous ski re­sort.

But there’s a lot more to Ukraine’s western moun­tain range than just th­ese fa­mil­iar land­marks. Off the beaten path there are some hid­den gems that even some Ukraini­ans have never heard of, in­clud­ing en­chant­ing for­est paths, breath­tak­ing moun­tain views, mys­te­ri­ous pet­ro­glyphs, an­cient monas­ter­ies, bub­bling streams and tum­bling wa­ter­falls.

A good jump­ing-off point for a tour of the Carpathi­ans is the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, a city of 223,000 peo­ple 600 kilo­me­ters west of Kyiv and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by plane, train or au­to­mo­bile.

Sit­ting in the plains about 40 kilo­me­ters to the north­east of the foothills of the Carpathi­ans, Ivano-Frankivsk is a lively, bustling oblast cen­ter, fa­mous for its exquisite churches and wind­ing streets. Es­tab­lished in the times of the Pol­ish-Lithua­nian Com­mon­wealth, and flour­ish­ing un­der the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire, the city has a charm­ing Cen­tral Euro­pean am­biance akin to that of the larger Lviv to the north.

Here, sit­ting at one of the cafes that dot the cen­tral Rynok Square, dom­i­nated by the strik­ing Art Deco Ra­tushka town hall, built in the 1920s when the city was un­der the Sec­ond Pol­ish Re­pub­lic, one can plan a tour of the moun­tains.

Th­ese are the Kyiv Post’s sug­ges­tions for such a trip.

Manyava

The vil­lage of Manyava is a wor- thy first stop on a trip to the Carpathi­ans. It stands on the banks of the Manyavka River — a per­fect place for a cool­ing dip on a hot summer’s day.

The main at­trac­tion is the Or­tho­dox Chris­tian monastery, Manyava Skete, which is owned by the Ukrainian Or­tho­dox Church of the Kyiv Pa­tri­ar­chate, and is also known as the Ukrainian Athos. Built in the early 17th cen­tury, it has a mix of stone and wooden build­ings. En­trance is free, while a tour costs just Hr 10. The monastery hit the head­lines in Ukraine due to its al­legedly “weep­ing” icon of the Vir­gin Mary, which is said to have dripped myrrh in 2004 and again in 2012.

Near to the monastery is the Blazhenny Kamin, which means “blessed rock” in Ukrainian. Stand­ing un­der it and reach­ing up to touch it with both hands, one can ask god to forgive one’s sins. Many claim to feel hap­pier and re­newed af­ter­ward.

A nearby restau­rant, Monastyrska Trapezna (or the Monastery Re­fec­tory) serves a veg­e­tar­ian borscht, gnoc­chi, coleslaw, uz­var, and wine.

Also nearby is the Manyavskiy Wa­ter­fall, the largest and most beau­ti­ful wa­ter­fall in the Carpathi­ans. Set in a spec­tac­u­lar gorge cut by the Manyvka River over mil­lions of years, the wa­ter­fall is sur­rounded by green­ery, and has a fairy tale look.

Manyava is lo­cated an hour’s drive south­west of Ivano-Frankivsk: Head first south along the H09, then turn west onto the P38.

Vorokhta

Vorokhta is a vil­lage lo­cated near

Hoverla, the tallest moun­tain in Ukraine at 2,061 me­ters, but it also of­fers eas­ier hikes along the banks of the Prut River and through the forests of the Carpathian Na­tional Na­ture Park, lo­cated to the south. A Ukrainian folk song com­pares the Carpathian Moun­tains to a crown, with the vil­lage of Vorokhta be­ing a pearl in that crown. In­deed, the vil­lage feels like a pre­cious gem in the fresh morn­ing sun­rises over the moun­tains, and when sun­set casts soft light and shad­ows into the val­leys.

Vorokhta is also rich in the Hut­sul cul­ture, typ­i­fied by the will­ing­ness of lo­cals to stop at any re­quest, their hospi­tal­ity, and their de­sire to share their love of the re­gion by telling sto­ries.

To reach Vorokhta, drive south from Ivano-Frankivsk on the H09, then take a left turn at the fork in the mid­dle of the vil­lage of Tatariv.

Homyak Moun­tain

This steep, rocky, 1,542-meter-high moun­tain, which has slopes close to 50-de­gree an­gles near its peak, re­wards those who fol­low the ser­pen­tine path to its top with in­cred­i­ble views. On reach­ing the sum­mit, it is com­mon for peo­ple to sit by the rocky pedestal of the statue of the Vir­gin Mary that crowns the moun­tain to eat and en­joy the panoramic view of sur­round­ing towns, moun­tains and mead­ows.

The name of the moun­tain is lit­er­ally “The Ham­ster.” It may have come from a landowner of that last name, or per­haps is named af­ter ham­ster-like crea­tures that used to in­habit it. How­ever, the most pop­u­lar opinion is that peo­ple, hav­ing hiked up, start to “homy­achyty,” which is a Ukrainian slang word for “hun­grily con­sume food.”

The hike be­gins at the road­side in the vil­lage of Tatariv, a one-anda-half-hour drive south from IvanoFrankivsk on the H09.

Rakhiv

This town in Zakarpattya Oblast, lo­cated near the Ukrainian-Ro­ma­nian border, has an ex­otic feel. The mar­kets are full of Mid­dle-East­ern spices and del­i­ca­cies, and a very un­usual Ukrainian dialect can be heard spo­ken among the traders.

The town’s land­marks in­clude Ro­man Catholic and Or­tho­dox churches, and it is one of the con­tenders to be the ge­o­graph­i­cal cen­ter of Europe (along with the nearby town of Dilove). It fea­tures a large Musey-Kolyba, or a mu­seum-restau­rant, and its lively open-air mar­kets con­trast with sur­round­ing tran­quil shad­owy streets. A cen­ter of the Hut­sul cul­ture, Rakhiv is also Ukraine’s high­est city, at 430 me­ters above sea level.

Rakhiv can be reached by driv­ing south­ward on the H09 for two-and-ahalf hours from Ivano-Frankivsk.

Pysanyi Kamin

The blue­berry-strewn route to Pysanyi Kamin ( In­scribed Rock) an out­crop of rocks which of­fers a broad view of rolling hill­sides and far-away moun­tains, is one of the most pleasant and scenic hikes in the re­gion.

Many tourists as­sume that the des­ti­na­tion point gets its name be­cause the boul­der is en­tirely cov­ered in writ­ing and draw­ings. How­ever, lo­cal le­gends say that cen­turies ear­lier, this land was oc­cu­pied by a tribe of giants, and as its leader was dy­ing, an enor­mous boul­der was set up to com­mem­o­rate his life. The top of the boul­der has small, wa­ter-filled wells that are said to never dry out. More­over, dis­turb­ing th­ese wells is said to bring a change to the weather, and bring mis­for­tune on one­self. The mark­ings carved in the rocks near th­ese wells are what make this boul­der pysanyi, or in­scribed. The in­scrip­tions are thought to date from Kyi­van Rus times, in the 10th cen­tury.

The start­ing point of the hike is in the vil­lage of Bukovets, a two-hour drive from Ivano-Frankivsk: Drive south on the T0906, then turn east onto the H10, and then turn south onto the P24.

Moun­tain Pip-Ivan

The 2,022-meter Pip-Ivan Moun­tain usu­ally only sees only a hand­ful of groups at­tempt­ing to reach its peak each year, com­pared to the thou­sands of tourists who tramp up Hoverla Moun­tain each day. The hike fea­tures ex­treme winds and steep spots with 45–50-de­gree slopes, but more daunt­ing is the sheer length of the hike — 15 kilo­me­ters from the start of the trail, to the peak of the moun­tain, and then back again to the start. The hike takes an en­tire day, and that’s only if hik­ers keep stops to a min­i­mum.

On the other hand, the long route of­fers some of the most scenic sights in the en­tire Carpathi­ans. The White Ele­phant ob­ser­va­tory on top of the moun­tain of­fers a 360-de­gree view for hun­dreds of miles around, and the sat­is­fy­ing fa­tigue of the hike are worth it. Eu­pho­ria on reach­ing the top, and gid­di­ness from ex­po­sure to the purest Carpathian air, are also the re­ward.

The start­ing point of the hike is in the vil­lage of Dilove, a three-hour drive south on the H09 from IvanoFrankivsk.

Pip Ivan is a 1,938-meter moun­tain peak in the Carpathian Moun­tains lo­cated in Dzem­bro­nia vil­lage, Ivano-Frankivska Oblast near the Ro­ma­nian border. (Ukrafoto)

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