Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ukraine adventure: Ternopil

Our next stop was the city of Ternopil (Тернопіль), which was the shortest visit of all the cities I saw. Ternopil is the capital of the oblast Katie's city is in, with an oblast similar in administration to a state here in the US. One thing I've noticed about every time I mention the word Ternopil is people here in the US automatically hear "Chernobyl". No, Ternopil is not Chernobyl. Chernobyl is still within the Exclusion Zone (meaning no one but a few older people even live there) and is a nearly 7-hour drive from Ternopil. Chernobyl is actually far closer to Kyiv than any other major city, about 60 miles north.

 Much of Ternopil was destroyed in World War II as the city was a major industrial center. Some 85% of the city structures were destroyed during the effort by the Soviets to take the city back from Nazi Germany. While the city center was largely rebuilt and has some historic character, the rest of the city definitely has the old Soviet feel with block after block of the huge Soviet microdistrict apartment complexes. What was surprising to me was not only were there huge apartment buildings seemingly everywhere, but many more were under construction. We stayed with fellow Peace Corps volunteer Kathleen, who lives in one of those apartments. Like in Lviv, while the outside of the building, and even the hallways and stairwells, appeared neglected and run-down, the inside of the apartments were rather nice with hardwood floors, textured wallpapers, and detailed woodwork (especially some of the doors). Ternopil also has an enormous bazaar (which you can easily get lost in), where I bought a new dress shirt.

Inside the apartment we stayed in. Note the bathroom door and the textured rose wallpaper. The outside of the building and the outer hallways and stairwells were dark and Spartan in their appearance.
The apartment complex we stayed in. This was one of dozens of these old Soviet "microdistricts" on the fringes of town

Ternopil Lake. I found out later this lake was created following World War II basically to cover a destroyed residential area. Made me think of the old "in Soviet Russia" jokes. "In America, you go to lake. In Soviet Russia, lake go to you!"

Just one part of the huuuuuuge Ternopil bazaar

Katie in the bazaar

Finally found a "Katie" Ukraine license plate. And yes, she bought it! The closest they have to my name translates to "Ivan"

Another section of the bazaar. The photos I took do not really give an idea how expansive the place is. Quite easy to walk in and get completely lost. 

Walking up the road from the bazaar, with apartment construction in the background
With my new dress shirt that I bought at the bazaar for 450 UAH (about $17) noting the guy in the ad wearing a very similar shirt! I would've liked to have gotten that tie too if I found it. The tie I ended up getting in Berezhany, though, is MUCH better! :)
 My first impression of Ternopil wasn't all that spectacular, mostly because when we arrived at the train station, we needed to take a small city bus to Kathleen's apartment. I wouldn't have minded too much being on the crowded bus, but having just arrived, we both had our luggage, so I had a full backpack and my rolling suitcase (which looks more like a duffel bag). We made it OK, but it was obviously less than comfortable. Katie let me know in advance that would be the case, but I was still glad once we got to the apartment and could drop off all the luggage. Once I was without the luggage, it was a much more enjoyable visit (same thing happened in Kyiv at first!). I also was coming down with a cold as we arrived, so was pretty exhausted, especially the 2nd day we were there. 

Architecturally, the city's main cathedral was quite the sight. The outside looked almost east Asian, while the inside was absolutely beautiful. It appeared a christening was going on while we were there, so I tried to be very subtle in getting photos of the interior, especially the ceiling. Ternopil also has a city square with an opera house/theater that reminded me of the one in Lviv, just slightly less spectacular. One of the attractions we visited was a display of miniature art. These were sculptures that have to be viewed under a magnifier. All of them were incredible, but what was even more astounding to me was the level of detail. Some of the detail on these would be hard to sculpt at regular size, but in miniature form? Yikes! No pictures allowed there (not that I could've gotten anything decent), but enjoyable.

Ternopil scene

Looking on the main town square towards the theater

Statue of famous Ukrainian opera singer Solomiya Krushelnytska with the theater in the background. It stuck out to me since it seems rare to see a monument like that for a woman. 

Ternopil Theater with Independence Monument in front

Ternopil Theater. Reminds me of the Parthenon in Athens

Detail of the theater

Ternopil town square from the theater
Statue on the main square in Ternopil...she just would NOT stop talking LOL
 While there were some really beautiful sights to see in Ternopil, the highlight for me was all the people I was able to meet. There are four other Peace Corps volunteers based in Ternopil, so Katie sees them regularly either when she visits Ternopil or when they visit her in Berezhany. The very first night in Ternopil, and not too long after we arrived, I met with the Peace Corps volunteers and their regional manager at a restaurant designed to look both on the outside and the inside like Noah's ark. Quite the place! And the dessert (eclairs) was one of the best desserts I have ever had. WOW. The next night, we met at another of Ternopil's many eccentric and unique restaurants. At our table (in a room designed to feel like you were under water) were all the Peace Corps volunteers, a fellow American student, two Germans, and a Ukrainian! The conversation was fascinating and the food was wonderful. I particularly enjoyed explaining to one of the German visitors (who is currently living in Vienna, Austria) the various regional differences in culture and accents in the US.

Katie with Megan, a student from North Carolina, and Kathleen, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer from Wisconsin who we stayed with!
Group after dinner...picture from Olesia Goncharuk (second from left...she's from Ternopil!)

In the restaurant that looked like we were under from Megan Bennett

At Ternopil Lake with Kathleen, Megan, and Celyse
 We also got to have a nice little LDS church service on Easter Sunday. Most of Ukraine uses the old Julian calendar, so Easter there isn't until May 1st. Instead, we met at the Ternopil Hotel and had a wonderful Sacrament Meeting with the mission president (Lviv Mission) and his wife, the Lviv District first counselor, three fellow LDS members who are students from Ghana. We couldn't stay for the second block of Sunday School, but I really enjoyed the meeting. Turns out the mission president and his wife are from the Phoenix, Arizona, area and their son lives in Oro Valley, AZ, in the ward I started my own mission in (Catalina). Talk about small world.

 We had a little bit of trouble getting to the bus terminal as the city bus we got on was apparently going the wrong way. Katie was able to get the number of a cab driver and get us a taxi to the bus terminal in time, only to find that the bus we were taking was the "local" route, meaning we'd be taking the long way to Berezhany by stopping at every village along the way. They also have a more "express" route that only makes two stops between Berezhany and Ternopil, but the bus schedule does not differentiate between the two. Oh well. I didn't mind too much, but Katie was definitely ready to get back to her own apartment, a feeling I know well!

Heading to the bus stop with Kathleen

Katie is NOT pleased

One good thing about taking the wrong bus was I got to get a picture of this monument. Didn't have time to find out what it was for exactly, but it looked interesting, though probably needs some restoration work. It's located in the National Revival park, but I haven't been able to find further info about it online. UPDATE: After I first published this blog post, I heard from one of Katie's friends in Ternopil (Kateryna Zablotska) that it's actually a real plane and is a monument to the Soviet pilots who liberated Ternopil from the Nazis in 1944.

Finally on the bumpy bus ride to Berezhany!

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