Title

We had varied experiences – all good – in Ukraine.

 

Ukraine is written in Cyrillic on the top of the building in the background.

 

Country names and borders on this map (Poland, Belarus, Russia, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine) are in the map’s original tiny yellow font.

The red lines show where we were driven, the blue text shows places where we visited.

BelMolUkr-all-tracks

 

Uktaine-all-tracks

We drove from Brest, Belarus (off the map to the left) to Lviv, Ukraine (to left of map).

 

From there we visited Bukovel, Chernivtsi, Kamianets-Podilskyi before visiting Moldova (which is described in a separate webpage).

 

After leaving Moldova we drove through Transnistria before resuming our tour of Ukraine, with Odessa on the Black Sea. From there we headed back north visiting the ICBM museum, Kiev and the Chernobyl site.

 

P1110552

After crossing the border from Belarus into Ukraine, we first visited Lviv, which was founded in the 13C and has a UNESCO Old Town Square.

 

Lviv survived the Soviet and German occupations largely unscathed so the city is interesting to visit.

 

This building has very interesting sculptures between the windows.

 

 

 

Another Lviv-ian style is to use tile as decoration on the facades.

P1110571

 

P1110558

The St. Eucharist Church built in 1748.

 

The Assumption church (1591) is older.

P1110568

 

P1110553

Lviv is known for chocolate.

 

This chocolate shop specializes in making chocolate look like old tools and metal objects.

 

They had examples of chocolate right next to a rusty original and it was difficult to see the difference.

 

Lviv was a very artsy place with lots of fun things like this!

 

We were lucky as the day we toured Lviv was National Ukrainian day, so many people were wearing traditional clothing.

P1110561

 

P1110564

Famous naďve painter Nikifor (1895-1968) is a popular place for photos (see above).

 

These sculptures are very popular in Ukraine.

 

We liked the dragon coming out of this interesting façade!

P1110574

 

P1110576

This is a typical street in the old town. That word on the building on the right is “laboratoriya”.

 

This is a memorial as this place was a synagogue in a former Jewish ghetto before the Nazis destroyed it.

P1110572

 

The carrot red hair was very much in fashion.

 

That is not a radiator! It’s a bike stand.

P1110584

 

P1110585

This is part of the town square.

 

This is an old pharmacy that is now a museum.

P1110590

 

P1110603

Armenian Cathedral of the Mother of God’s Assumption started as a small Armenian church in 1363.

 

We found the murals very unusual.

P1110605

 

P1110614

This roofline is in Lviv.

 

What the posters say:

 

Putler = Putin + Hitler

 

PUTIN KHYLIO: Putin dickhead.

 

Below right: Ukraine (upper panel) not Russia (lower panel)

P1110596

 

The central area of Lviv was always full of walkers.

 

P1110618

P1110634

P1110629

 

 

We just photographed random people because we liked their traditional clothing.

 

There are a lot of young people in Ukraine.

P1110631

P1110630

 

 

 

 

P1110643

The Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet opened in 1900.

 

Nothing was playing when we were in Lviv.

 

Lviv house of scientists (1897) is a former casino for the nobles.

 

The building’s façade and interior were based on European palaces of the time.

P1110656

 

P1110649

The ground floor has a large lobby with this magnificently carved wooden staircase.

 

Until 1939, this building housed a casino and the city’s most popular brothel.

 

In 1948, it became the House of Scientists. It is currently used as a setting for historical movies as the interior hasn’t changed in the last 100 years.

 

More views of locals and Lviv.

P1110632

 

P1110683

 

 

This old store’s sign is in both local language and Yiddish (sounding out the Hebrew characters in second row from top on the right gives “milch” which is the German word for milk).

 

Yiddish is a German-based vernacular fused with elements of Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic, and Romance languages. It’s written with a Hebrew alphabet – from right to left).

 

P1110666

We went with a tour that turned out to have many more participants than we expected (about a dozen).

 

Most of these people have been many places with our tour company – even Iraq and Afghanistan! (we’ve been to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Sudan with the company – each with about 8 people).

 

Our meals were often in very picturesque restaurants.

 

We spent a few days in the Bukovel area in the Carpathian Mountains.

 

Bukovel is the largest ski area in Eastern Europe. In 2012 it was named the fastest-growing world ski resort.

 

The area is rural and beautiful.

 

This is a typical scene.

P1060264

 

There are many outdoor adventures available in the area.

 

This is a poster advertising “RAFTING”

 

They use the English word – of course spelled with Cyrillic letters.

 

Occasionally, we found words on signs, etc., that we could translate, like this one!

 

We passed this wedding party on their way. It was very picturesque.

P1060258

 

P1060260

 

 

We spent a day climbing on a mountain on a 4WD tour. The vehicles were old Russian jeeps. Here we’re at the very top.

 

We had a bit of a lunch in one of those buildings at right.

 

 

 

P1060278

 

P1060271

This was on the way to the top. It was fun sloshing through puddles and over rough rocks.

 

Here’s lunch in the hut.

 

It was windy and quite cold – being “inside” didn’t help much.

P1060275

 

P1110685

The next day we had lunch at this traditional farm which has gotten into the tourist business.

 

This is Mukola Illyk and his Museum of Hutsul Life and Art.

 

He was funny as well as a good folk musician. He demonstrated the use of many different instruments.

 

Click here to hear a sample of his music. He plays the fiddle and sings too.

P1110703

 

P1110715

Our guide was a young woman who skipped her computer science final to accompany us (get cash when you can).

 

We took her photo because she wore a traditional headband that day.

 

This is a former noble family’s vacation home.

P1110716

 

In 2014 Bukovel opened the largest artificial lake in Ukraine. It is up to 45’ deep with over a mile of “beach”.

 

The water is warmed to 70 degrees F and warmer.

 

At our hotel we noticed activity in a fish pond.

 

As the female appeared dead and the male was very “active,” we researched it.

 

We found it not uncommon for some male amphibians to compete for females causing them to drown. Some males continue until they squeeze the fertilized eggs out!

 

P1110755

Chernivtsi is a city of about 240,000 and is one of Ukraine’s educational and architectural sites. This is a building on the main square.

 

The Chernivtsi City Hall is also in the main square.

P1110754

 

P1110743

This is the Residence of the Bukovinian Metropolitans – Chernivtsi National University was finished in 1882. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

After this area was incorporated into the Habsburg Monarchy in 1782, the seat of the Moldavian Eastern Orthodox Bishops was moved here.

 

During WWII it came under Soviet control and the theological faculty was closed. The building was used for storage and murals were painted over.

 

After the war the building was transferred to the town’s university.

 

 

P1110736

 

 

 

The building’s grounds are a popular place for wedding photos. We were lucky enough to see a wedding party being photographed.

 

The characters on the bottom line transliterate as SUSHI CLUB.

 

Another lunch. This one came with 5-sample beer sets, visible at the left of the table. Those three guys are widowers.

 

Kamianets-Podilskyi is considered one of Ukraine’s prettiest cities.

 

An early morning view from our hotel window of garbage collection.

 

The city was clean.

 

P1110797

The main attraction here is the fairy-tale Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle.

 

People lived here from 12C, but the castle was started in the 14C.

 

The castle was initially built to protect the bridge that connects the mainland to the city (to the top in the map at left). The city is surrounded by steep hillsides.

 

The town was on major crossroads and was repeatedly attacked: just the Tatar hordes attacked a total of 51 times. Those attacks damaged the castle and the city but were successfully repelled.

 

This photo shows the castle and the bridge between it and the mainland.

 

This photo was taken with a telephoto lens of a building far in the distance.

 

Later we determined it to be the 19C Orthodox St. George Cathedral.

 

This is the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral (Catholic) in Kamianets-Podilskyi.

 

The Islamic minaret was added during the Turkish occupation when the church became a mosque.

 

During Soviet times (1946-1990) the church housed a museum of atheism.

 

Now it’s a church again.

 

Recycled belief systems.

 

Notice the minaret is now topped with a golden statue of the Virgin Mary.

 

The Turkish minbar (pulpit) is still inside the church.

 

We thought these trash bins were nicely “camouflaged”.

 

We really enjoyed Ukraine’s imaginative statues in the cities.

 

This shows an interesting old water spout.

 

There was a small stage in the main square (the castle picture is on the back wall of the stage).

 

We noticed a couple lift this little girl onto the stage and photograph her in this beautiful dress.

 

She already was an expert in posing!

 

…isn’t it funny that Mini-miss is in English?

 

This old tower was at the bottom of the cliff that surrounds the city.

 

 

P1110956

We spent a little time in Moldova and Transnistria in between Kamianets-Podilskyi and Odessa. Those photos are on another part of this website.

 

Odessa was another fun city in Ukraine.

 

This façade was really something!

 

 

P1110947

 

P1110949

 

 

This part of the Passage Hotel is a shopping arcade surrounded by shops.

 

The 162-room hotel opened at the end of the 19C and was the best hotel in Odessa for many years. It had electric lighting provided by its own power plant, a steam heating system, elevator and telephone lines.

 

But it has not kept up with the times. This arcade is maintained and was lovely.

 

The Odessa Opera house opened in 1810, was destroyed by fire in 1873, was rebuilt and opened in 1887, was burnt in 1925, and was remodeled in 1960. The building was sliding downhill toward the sea so expensive supports were added. It is now again sliding.

 

The acoustics are excellent.

 

We really wanted to attend an opera here, but unfortunately, nothing was playing the night we were there as a Turkish official was going to visit (he didn’t).

 

 

 

 

 

We wound up taking a tour of the opera house instead. It was beyond lovely.

 

So much gold!

 

People enjoy the parks.

 

The teacher lined these kids on a little bridge to take a photo and we took advantage of the opportunity.

 

Part of Odessa Harbor which continues around the bay to the land in the distance (at left).

 

This is the top of the Potemkin Stairs (called that due to being in the Russian director Eisenstein’s famous 1925 silent movie “The Battleship Potemkin”).

 

These steps had just been restored and were to have a big unveiling ceremony the next day.

We took this photo through a hole in the fence.

 

We walked down to the harbor by a different way, climbed a scaffolding, and took this photo through yet another fence.

 

A little part of Odessa harbor.

 

We felt lucky that there were no cruise ships in port that day.

 

An important word when travelling in Russian-speaking countries:

 

Pronounced “spaseebo” it means “thank you.”

 

This was a plastic bag containing something we purchased.

 

 

One of our favorite meals of the entire trip was in the Restaurant Mozart (in Hotel Mozart). This is the ladies’ room decoration!

 

Our dish was trout, opened up and laid on its side, arranged like a round bowl, then filled with a clam mixture. Wonderful!

 

Also wonderful was the view from our table out the window to the opera house, which was very nearby.

 

The Strategic Missile Forces museum is located at a former ICBM site for SS-24 missiles (Perwomaisk, 190 mi south of Kiev). It contains the complete missile silo and control center. It also has a large display of rocket engines, auxiliary vehicles, and mock nuclear warheads.

 

The Russians are not happy that this former top-secret place is now a Ukrainian museum, but the Ukrainians don’t care.

 

The men who work in the museum were the actual military guys that put in long hours at the consoles there.

 

The museum has a large display of missiles and rockets including ones that played a key role in the Cuban missile crisis.

 

This base was one of the most top-secret bases in the world during the cold war.

 

This is an ICBM that would have had 10 nuclear warheads.

 

Isn’t war fun....

 

Various missiles.

 

The major purpose of the site was to launch SS-24 ICBMs.

 

On the left is a model of the SS-24 ICBM deployment profile. It has ten independently targetable reentry vehicles with 350-550 kt. nuclear warheads.

 

Below are models of the launch control center bunker and the actual missile silo. We visited the control center and walked to the (now empty) missile silo.

 

 

The entire launch control center is housed in a shock absorbing underground facility. A 450’ long underground tunnel leads to the entrance on top of the center from where an armored elevator takes one down to the different floors.

 

Yvonne is just exiting the elevator, ready to go through cypher-locked double steel doors and is about to enter the launch control room which is one floor above the bottom floor (145’ underground).

 

Elevators, air delivery systems, telephone, all work due to the guys working there. We wonder what happens when they retire.

 

Juergen sits at the actual launch console and is pushing the launch button. Another person must push a similar button on an adjacent console within 2 seconds.

 

Yes, this is not a mock-up, it was the actual launch control.

 

We were told that if those buttons had been pushed, lots of Europe and North America would have been destroyed!

 

One time the order came to fire and the man in charge determined that there was only one missile on the way. He decided the U.S. would not send only one missile, so he refused the order. He got in trouble even though it was determined to be a false alarm due to a bird! So close!

 

ICBM transport vehicles and lid of the missile silo which weighs 121 metric tons.

 

Several of these transports moved missiles around Ukraine every night so no one knew where they were. Village streets were sometimes widened so these huge trailers could go through.

 

This trailer was designed to place the missile in the silo very easily.

 

ICBM missile silo.

 

These were two of our museum guides. They were in the USSR military here when it was one of the most top-secret places on the planet. It was on no map and in the middle of nowhere. The roads leading to it were long. They sat for 4 hours at the computer at a time, seat-belted in.

 

They were not unfriendly, but they were very serious. Due to these guys, the place is “real” and everyone learned a lot. They were no nonsense, which probably reflected their many years under the stress here. They were as interesting to be around as the site. We wonder what they were thinking!

 

We could tell they took great pride in the condition of the museum today.

 

Kiev, Ukraine

 

Independence Square, referred to as Maidan (square).

 

The Independence Monument was built in 2001 on the 10th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine from the Soviet Union. It is topped by a figure of Berehynia with a guelder-rose branch in her arms.

 

Berehynia is a traditional Ukrainian goddess of waters and woods, now heightened to national goddess stature, as protectoress of mother earth.

 

Guelder-rose is a bush with snowball white flowers and red cranberry-like fruit. It can be found throughout Ukrainian folklore, in songs, and in embroidery.

 

In 2014 Ukraine had an uprising that resulted in the ousting of the president.

 

There were a series of violent events involving protesters, riot police, and other shooters. Many people believe the Russian government’s support of the president led to his ousting.

 

In the background of this photo is the very large main square where the protests took place. At the right are some of the photos of people killed in those protests.

 

 

 

 

 

About a hundred protestors were murdered. Today the side of the walkway down to the square is lined with memorials to those who died.

 

 

The Post Office in Kiev. On the left the German word postamt (post office) is in Cyrillic characters.

 

Kiev is a nice city for walking around as it has various styles and flows up and down hills.

 

The buildings are very interesting.

 

Kiev has a delightful outdoor market that starts at the top of a hill by a cathedral and winds all the way down the hill.

 

These are traditional Ukrainian harps; these guys were playing nice folk songs.

 

This is a telephoto across town to our hotel.

 

We loved this sign:

 

Sushi and Burger – such a combo!

 

 

Love Ukrainian sculpture! The above “nose” is referencing a famous novel where a nose looks everywhere for its body. These “noses” are all over Ukraine! 

At right is the architect Horodetsky, people love to sit and have tea with him.

 

Fortunately, Yvonne can again climb towers – just very slowly.

 

We climbed the 230’ high Saint Sophia Cathedral’s bell tower to take photos over the city.

 

In this photo Juergen is at the level of bells.

 

From this tower we took photos to St Michael’s Monastery on the next hill.

 

 

 

Tele shot of still-functioning Orthodox St. Michael’s Monastery, which was founded in the 12C.

 

This has been carefully restored after being pulled down by the Soviets.

 

Our view from the tower without using the telephoto lens.

 

Kiev’s Orthodox Saint Sophia Cathedral was begun in 11C and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

Entrance to the Kiev Monastery of the Caves, a UNESCO WH site.

 

We went through the caves (no photos allowed) on narrow winding tunnels, looking into tiny rooms.

 

Kiev’s wonderful skyline.

 

Monument to the three brothers who founded Kiev.

 

This monument was installed in 1982 to honor the 1500th anniversary of the city.

 

We took a river cruise in Kiev. It was nice seeing the city from a boat.

 

The Motherland Monument celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.

 

It is 180’ high and can be seen from many places in Kiev.

 

Locally they call the statue “Brezhnev’s Daughter”.

 

We found this labeled specimen of tamarisk.

We learned to hate this plant that was introduced into the SW US deserts. It’s very invasive and displaced native plants. Tamarisks have long tap roots that allow them to intercept deep water tables and exploit natural water resources. They limit competition from other plants by taking up salt from deep ground water, accumulating it in their foliage, and from there depositing it in the surface soil where it builds up concentrations temporarily detrimental to some plants.

 

The spelling in Cyrillic script is tamariks. Some dyslectic must have translated it into tamarisk.

 

We’d never come across a dish made of rabbit’s tongues before, but here it is.

 

We liked it a lot!

 

P1120241

The sign reads ЧОРНРОБИЛЪ which is the infamous Chornobyl (or Chernobyl).

 

We carried Geiger counters during our entire time in the area.

 

The irradiation dose Yvonne received during the visit was 2 µSv (Sievert or Sv is the unit of measurement).

 

In comparison, a dental x-ray exposes one to double that amount and a mammogram to 300 times that amount.

 

P1060306

P1060305

The vegetation has come back and is very healthy. Nothing is supposed to be removed as it is radioactive. The newspaper that was on a floor shows Gorbachev responding to the disaster. The gas mask is left there. The amusement park bumper cars and all the other rides were set to open the next day as the park was brand new.

P1060340

P1060313

P1120235

P1060366

 

P1060359

The city was a model modern Russian city due to the nuclear power plant and the adjacent ICBM surveillance radar.

 

There used to be cruise boats on the river at left and many resorts.

 

The vehicles above and below are unmanned remote control vehicles for tasks

In contaminated areas.

 

P1120277

The Geiger counter indicates a radiation level of 9.33 µSv just over a radiation hot spot.

 

Fortunately, we were only allowed to go where the radiation was not very high.

 

In 2017, a $1.5 billion containment structure was placed over the remains of the No. 4 reactor that was destroyed in 1986.

 

This was constructed nearby and then pushed on rails over the remains.

 

From beginning to completion, the work took from 2004 to 2017.

 

The extremely high levels of radiation limits the time workers can be in the area.

P1120285

 

P1120288

 

 

On entry and exit to the area, and on entry to the cafeteria, we had to have our radiation checked.

P1120293

 

P1120303

A closeup of the new enclosure.

 

Prypiat (that’s what the sign says) is now a ghost town.

 

It was founded in 1970 as a nuclear city (a closed city) to serve the power plant. It had a population of nearly 50,000 when it was evacuated in 1986.

 

They gave each block of apartments a time for evacuation so one by one people left. The entire city was empty in 24 hours.

P1120305

 

P1120308

An apartment building that is still off-limits.

 

 

P1120309

 

P1120310

This apartment house is still so high in radiation that no one is allowed near.

 

This building was brand new and was one of the most modern stores in the Soviet Union; everything from groceries to furniture.

P1120315

 

P1120317

Graffiti.

 

 

P1120318

 

P1120328

Remains of the amusement park. The Ferris wheel is at the back at the right.

 

Very special was a visit to the Soviet over-the-horizon Duga-1 radar receiver which was part of the anti-ballistic early-warning network (the transmitter is located 30 mi NE of Chernobyl).

 

It operated from 1976-1989. Two of those systems were deployed, one of them here the other eastern Siberia. These extremely powerful radars (10 MW) transmitted in the shortwave band.

Their transmitted pulses sounded like a sharp, repetitive tapping noise at 10 Hz which led to it being nicknamed, by shortwave listeners. “the Russian Woodpecker.”

The random frequency hops disrupted legitimate broadcasts, amateur radio operations, oceanic commercial aviation communications, utility transmissions, and resulted in thousands of complaints by many countries worldwide.

P1120264

`

P1120257

The signal became such a nuisance that some receivers such as amateur radios and televisions included ‘Woodpecker Blankers’ in their circuit designs to filter out the interference.

The unclaimed signal was a source for much speculation, giving rise to theories such as Soviet mind control and weather control experiments. However, because of its distinctive transmission pattern, many experts and amateur radio hobbyists quickly realized it to be an over-the-horizon radar system.

While everyone was well aware of the system, the existence was not publicly confirmed until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

 

The receiving antenna system consists of a huge metal frame holding a large number of antenna elements consisting of pairs of cylindrical/conical cages.

 

There were two radars (different frequencies). One was over 100’ high and very long. 

P1120254

 

Thumbnail1