This page is a partial gallery from my cycle tour of Ukraine (and surroundings) with my partner Nastia in Summer 2019.It was last updated on June 9th, 2020.
This project is currently on an Autumn/Winter/pandemic hiatus, and I’m stationed in Stryi. To be notified when it resumes, sign up for my newsletter — meanwhile, you’ll get notes and updates on my other ongoing projects.
Digests of my essays on select features from each administrative region of Ukraine we visited on tour, in reverse chronological order (click on the headings to get to the full-length versions):
A colorful linguistic map of Ukraine had been in my mind since my first visit to the country in 2017 — of special notice on the map is the historical region of Budzhak or Southern Bessarabia, as the segment between the Danube Delta and the Dniester Estuary is sometimes called:
Back in 2017, I went through Odesa and left the region oblivious to this ethnic kaleidoscope. The present tour seemed like an excellent opportunity to redeem that omission. Although that meant a bit of a detour from our ambition to eventually cross into the eastern side of the Dnieper, we took our time in Bessarabia, along the way documenting some of the various languages (broadly construed) used in Odesa at home, on the street, or at church.
We spent four gruesome days riding up and down the steep Podolian Uplands’ valleys along the River until inconspicuously passing into the Odesa Region via the village of Bashtankiv (Kodyma district). From a riding perspective, the hills of Vinnytsia were the most unforgettable aspect of our time in the region — if I’d systematically captured them in some way, that’s what this essay would have been about.
No document, no essay — the next candidate was lingering Soviet symbols, the first I’d ever noticed on public display in Ukraine. I found them perplexing and fascinating at first, but then learned most of them are still legal, even after the Decommunization Laws of 2015.
That brought me back to the markers often found welcoming one’s arrival at a populated place — although most of the signs were not as monumental as I’d have expected, the whole process led me to learn a bunch about how nations are constructed and maintained.
After leaving the city of Chernivtsi, we noticed that some bus stops in the villages were decorated with colorful mosaics. This prompted me to document bus stops along our way, and I stopped to photograph at least the ones on top of which the name of the village was shown.
Locals old enough to remember told us that they were made for the 1980 Summer Olympics, held in Moscow (then in the Soviet Union) — the road between Chernivtsi and Mamaliha (along the Ukrainian-Romanian-Moldovan border) was part of the Olympic torch relay route from Athens to Moscow.
I was surprised by how different the bus stops looked from one another, and the sentiments underlying how some of them are decorated. I hope you’ll enjoy the photos and notes/thoughts accompanying them — click on the photos to see them enlarged, and with their respective descriptions.
Note: I used this as a reference for Romanian/Moldavian names of the places in the photos that could not be ascertained on-site.
SUMMARY OF DISPATCHES
Everything I’ve written and shared along the tour so far, in reverse chronological order:
October 25th, 2019 – Encore: Water — Lots of photos and a few stories of our sources throughout the Odesa Region — springs, wells, people, bottles, cisterns, taps, and everything in between and around them 🙂
October 15th, 2019 – Still in Odesa — a real-time update rounding up the tour so far, entering a hiatus, and sharing my plan for this break.
October 8th, 2019 – Some languages used in Odesa — a slice of the region’s ethnic and linguistic variety — and yet a few more thoughts on identity.
September 25th, 2019 – Location markers in Vinnytsia — the second in the series inadvertently started with the bus stops of Chernivtsi, this time accounting for the monuments often announcing populated places along our route — plus further notes/thoughts on national identity.
June 27th, 2019 – If only this were just an extended vacation — a reflection on my travel process, particularly on how it depends to some extent on the kindness of people i meet along my way, and how I may want to deal with it going forward.
June 21st, 2019 – Polishing it up! — a quick update from our first few days on the road after getting Nastia’s bicycle.
Unfortunately, I don’t have anything I could share in the same format about our time in the L’viv and Ivano-Frankivs’k regions earlier in the tour. And because of the pandemic, I don’t expect to have anything to show about other regions of Ukraine any time soon either.
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___ * The of this project is an intentionally mistaken translation of “у країні” (in a country), a play on words with “Україна” (Ukraine) — unfortunately, declensions in English and Ukrainian don’t quite map into each other, so I had to take some liberty — after experiencing some of its multitudes, challenges, and uncertainties, I also decided to relax the article from definite to indefinite ?