Ukraine & Netherlands
A Warm Welcome
At the Lviv airport, a heartwarming reception there was waiting for me. I was picked up by my host Vasyl and his wife Oksana. They had told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about planning any activities because their program for me was already filled.
It is very exciting. I haven’t heard of anyone making the trip to Ukraine. I have traveled a lot, but not on my own. I am 69 years old and when I tell people they are often surprised at my undertaking to go to such an unknown country.
But what an undertaking it has been! The hospitality and kindness from the locals has been incredible. I was spoiled rotten. I stayed in their bed, allowed to sit in the passenger’s seat to see all the sights and everyone wanted to talk to me. This experience has been a totally new way of discovering a new country and new people. It was much more relaxed than my other travels.
Whilst I was there, I went with the flow. Life here cannot be compared to my life back home. In the Netherlands, I have many responsibilities, both social and personal. In the tiny village where I was staying, everyone was almost self-sufficient. Also, the entire family lives together. This idea of family is far more important here than back home. I hope I can hold on to the tranquility and peacefulness I found here when I go back.
During the five days of my stay, I experienced both the rural and urban lifestyle that Lviv has to offer. The village was nearly an hour from the city. The road to get there was little more than a sandy path with numerous potholes. In Lviv, I visited a number of themed cafés. The best one was the army café. The only way they let you in is if you toast to the Ukraine. As soon as they did let you in however, you would have to finish a glass of vodka. The café itself was hidden away, from the outside it was impossible to see that it was actually a café. In the basement, there were a number of rooms and bars. The other themed cafés we visited had themes like chocolate, coffee and stamps.
Ukranian food is both traditional and delicious. Everything is prepared with respect to tradition in an old-fashioned manner. Particularly tasty are the sausages that they make. After dinner activities are just as wonderful as the dinner itself. Usually, a traditional dance is performed or a number of songs are sung.
A large part of the Ukrainian culture can be seen in their churches. The practicing of religion is evident and is taken very seriously. During my time there, we went to a healing spring, which is more of a traditional remedy than modern medicine. Along the roads to and from Lviv, there are people who gather berries and mushrooms in the forest to sell them alongside the road.
All the beautiful things I have seen during my trip don’t compare to the feeling that I was able to experience. It was very special to be able to experience how someone else lives in a completely different country and a completely different culture. Traveling alone helps because it is easier to interact with people versus when you travel in a group. Thankfully, some people spoke English or Dutch, making it easier to interact with them. If there had been a language barrier, then it would have been more difficult. Even without a shared language, I was able to explain diabetes to the grandmother. It wasn’t easy of course, but it is still possible.
My hosts also enjoyed having me visit because they could show their culture to an outsider. They had vacation as well. By showing me their city they also had something exciting to do.
The impression that I have of Ukraine now is that it is a wonderful place and the city of Lviv is a beautiful place to visit. Everyone should go and visit! I know I definitely will be there again.
Experienced and written by Maddy