Potatokraine

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The trip to the Ukraine was the beginning of the short period of travelling with my friend Ada. Everything started with the Erasmus recruitment. We asked in International Office how we can earn some additional points for the Erasmus exchange and one of the ways was to take part in short term student exchange. I didn’t really know that our University offer such kind of stuff. We got qualified for the trip to the Ternopil in April 2012. The agreement of that exchange is very good idea – student needs to pay 100 PLN (about £20) on the account of University and pay for the transport to the place of exchange, the rest is paid by University.

 

Before the trip the biggest problem was how to get to Ternopil (Ukraine) the cheapest way. Most of the people in our group who has already been on such exchanges wanted to go there by car, but there wuldn’t be enough space for us all. Our supervisor informed us that apart from us there is another group of students from another University in our city that is going for that exchange as well. Supervisor of that other group offered renting a bus which was supposed to take us to Ternopil and back for 200 PLN (about £40). Actually everybody agreed for that option and it wouldn’t probably change if not the fact that when I asked that supervisor for the invoice for those money, he started to explain that not all of those costs are able to be invoiced (like bribes in Ukraine an stuff…) and he would not be able to give the invoice for all the money we would pay. That was very suspicious so we decided to resign of his offer and get to Ukraine by ourselves by train to Przemysl, and from there take the ‘couch’ to Ternopil. But the supervisor of the other group held his own and kept calling me every time giving the lower price from the previous one…

 

All in all after a small before trip party we got onto the train station almost losing half of the group which wouldn’t be on time in the train at 4 am. During the transfer in Przemysl, lovely dirty post-communist city, we treated ourselves with underdone scrambled eggs in dingy bar neraby the station. Right after that we found our ‘couch’. So that ‘couch’ turned out to be a dilapidated per city bus ‘Ikarus’ (old, but I mean really old Hungarian model of a bus), filled up to the roof with different food, meant, vegetables, fruits packed even into the holes of air condition regulators, very well camouflaged to confuse the scary boarder agents. Despite the Spartan conditions in the bu our trip was not that bad, after all everybody survived. It was my first time when I travelled to the east of Europe and I must admit that just after getting a stamp in the passport I was shocked by the culture differences. This time the border was actually a border. Right behind the borderline I got punched in the face by a total different world. On our route we were passing only fields and little towns with the domination of fields. Like if there were no villages, suburbs or anything – void and then couple of blocks and again and again. Situation that I will probably never forget – our trip was in April right before the Euro 2012 (in Poland and Ukraine) – we are driving peacefully on the riddled road and then on the horizon there appeared something big and grey. That construction or whatever it was started to grow as we were getting closer. After some time it seemed to be even something nice and… pretty? Next to it there were two massive hills of sand and a couple of blocks of flats, but apart from that all around fields and nothing. I got really confused so I asked one old lady in the bus what is this thing and what response I got… ‘stadion, Kiev’. Didn’t ask for anything else 🙂

 

How about the Ternopil by itself. There is a big lake inside of the city dividing it into two parts. It’s really useful thing especially in the summer, I guess. Unfortunately we in the April had no choice but wearing jackets and coats. The University we came to visit offered us some kind of educational-cultural programme. About all those more formal meetings like conference and stuff our group was not really positive, we did not really attend these. We have been on a couple of trips around the area, in Zbaraz, Krzemieniec and … BEER FACTORY!. Ukrainian students turned out to be really nice company and took care of our entertainment. Well, the stereotypes about drinking are really true. I had to be really assertive in that situation cause I am not the biggest fan of alcohol, and their propensity to drink is insane. I guess Polish have the same abilities, guys from our group were delighted by the drinking company. I am not the fun of clubbing as well however, Ukrainian clubs are probably the best I have visited so far (even better then Sasazu in Prague!). Long kilometres of dance floors, plenty of people, good music, charismatic DJs and other good stuff and good fun.

 

Of course very important part of every trip is the cuisine. Well, in our case it wasn’t great. We had dinners in the University’s canteen but every after we had to eat up some more because of the tiny portions, but even there it was possible to notice the characteristics of Ukrainian cuisine. Considering the portions of food on the plate it was more or less like this: meat was about 1/8 of the plate, some kind of poor salad ¼ and finally ¾ if not more was potatoes! Yey for potatoes, they are EVERYWHERE! Every single thing in Ukrainian cuisine might be connected with potatoes, it’s simply the base for that cuisine. We went on one city trip to the bakery to have a snack, my friend took a filled bun, you know like those normally served with cheese and ham or something sweet like jam. He got bun stuffed with… yes, potatoes :).We went to Italian pizzeria, the speciality was the Ukrainian pizza – with potatoes and onion, mmm yummy! Voda, of course made of potatoes as well :). So gourmets without excitement :(.

 

We had with Ada very ambitious plan of making a reportage about mass murders of dogs in Ukraine before Euro 2012 however, we didn’t have enough time to collect the material, but when we finally had some, our translator was busy. We were meant to prepare this after the trip but the enthusiasm went down and it didn’t happen. And that was pretty much out week in Ternopil. For some in our group every day ended with a party, other were a bit more exhausted so they were falling asleep before 9pm. Last day we even managed to get lost getting into the wrong bus, unfortunately that was the only one rainy day, but really rainy. Farewell was sweet and lovely. We met fantastic people but then the time came to get into the same old Ikarus bus, hide some illegal extra packages of cigarettes into underwear to be able to take them through the border and get back. We are so lucky people so to have some more adventures we got a flat tire and missed the last train to Krakow. We spent a lovely night on the train station in Rzeszow then and in the morning finally got back home. Very nice trip :).
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