December 29th, 2008. Ukraine Day 2: Kozelets to Altynivka.
We started the day with something akin to pierogies. They were stuffed with potatoes and served with onions. It was a little odd to have onions as a breakfast, but I can’t complain because they were so absurdly tasty. We also had some instant coffee. I washed my face in cold water and Jess & I left.
We were driven to the bus by a friend of Slytvana. A bus ride later and we were in Kiev. Jess and I stormed around a bit before finding the correct train platform that would get us to Altynivka. Finally we got on a train car and sat down for the 4 hour ride to Altynivka.
Train aside: Whenever the train started up it banged and clanged to the point where I was a bit worried about the structural integrity of the train car. Still, they always seemed to get where they were going. In a way, I suppose this parallels a lot of things in Ukraine in that if youâ€™re low on cash you keep things operating and sometimes sacrifice the luxuries. In this case, the luxury was smooth starting.
Let’s look at the map again. I’ve added in an orange line, that’s the path to Konotop. We stopped briefly there on the way to Altynivka (shown with the red X). In Konotop Jess and I got a snack: hot dogs. The hot dogs were curiously topped with ketchup, mayonnaise, and shredded carrots. wait… what? Shredded carrots?? It was a bit strange. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll bring this culinary trend back to the United States.
The Konotop train station – home to shredded carrot hot dogs.
Adding to the food mayhem, Slytvana gave us a big bag full of treats on our way out the door. Just before writing this we snacked on really really delicious pizza and a crazy apricot dessert thing that I can only describe as unexpectedly tasty.
After Konotop we went to Altynivka. Snow covered the ground and it was both really beautiful and really annoying because I brought a rolling suitcase (ugh – so dumb).
Me and the Altynivka train station – together at last
Altynivka is a small and old fashioned. Iâ€™m not sure of the exact population but if I were to guess, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s around 1000 or so. As shown in the map, Altynivka is in the north eastern corner of Ukraine. When I was preparing to go, Jesse M. mentioned my trip to one of his coworkers. The coworker responded sharply that this was a foolish trip â€“ that there were no roads and no food where I was going! Jess read that comment and laughed, guessing that Jesse Mâ€™s Ukrainian coworker must have been from either Kiev or Odessa where sometimes the small towns get little respect.
In fact, Altynivka does have roads and does have food. More importantly though, they have a whole heap of fantastic people. As we walked through the snow for the 3 kilometers from the train station to the house, a man pulled over and kindly offered us a ride. I sat in the car as Jess and the man chatted and determined that the manâ€™s son goes to the school and is in Jessâ€™s baseball club. Altynivka truly is a small town. Many of the people in the town knew I was coming so frequently people referred to me by name or simply as â€œJessâ€™s friend.â€
The big travels ended when we finally reached Jess’s apartment. More about that tomorrow.