Carpathian Ruthenia – the other side of Bieszczady Mountains

We are located on the border of Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Nowadays Carpathian Ruthenia is a part of Ukraine. However, over the last centuries it has been under the control of neighboring states including Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Hence the multiculturality and rich history of this place. From today’s perspective, it is also a picturesque, extremely wild and relatively inaccessible land on the southern slopes of the Eastern Beskids.

In some way the inaccessibility is due to the very small number of passable roads. Even those passable road are generally of poor quality. Now it feels strange to have any remarks on quality of Romanian infrastructure. In Ukraine things get different. Firstly, it is impossible to overlook a faulty part of the road, as it is quite difficult to ride more than a few hundred meters without riding into a hole. The driving that requires constant attention and making left or right turns all the time. Moving at speeds not more than 20km per hour has also good sides: you are not likely to miss anything interesting on the way.

Every now and then there are road construction teams but it’s not enough given the amount of work that is still to be done.

I would also like to point out that it’s not only the holes that are slowing us down…

At some point we supply ourselves with water. The water comes from the source allegedly having special healing properties. Apparently it contains a lot of iron. I have no doubt about that, because the next morning there is a layer of rust sediment deposited on the bottom of our plastic containers. I do not know if it’s really medicinal water, but we’ll see.

It is worth to come here to see the mountains. Apparently bears are also possible to be encountered on the trail, but they look so innocent and friendly – just like the one below living in a bear reserve.

We travel and discover beautiful areas that are in a way a mirror reflection of Bieszczady Mountains, across the border on the Ukrainian side. There is even a better version of the famous Morskie Oko in Tatra Mountains. (a lake, literally translated to “Sea Eye”). The one here is called “Senevyr” or Ukrainian Sea Eye.

It is located in Senevyr National Park. This is probably one of the most interesting areas of Zakarpattia region. The place has enormous tourist potential, but the lack of infrastructure and relatively difficult access make it rather rarely visited by travelers, except a handful of local tourists. Maybe that’s why Senevyr is so special.

In the current economic conditions, Ukraine is also very affordable. It is widely avoided by foreign tourists, seriously for no reason, as it is a very safe and interesting country. Since there is no mass tourism, we can expect a lot of individual experiences while traveling. Everything is worthwhile. I recommend embracing temporarily weak local currency and get hryvnia very cheap. Let our expenses go where they are most needed. Optimally, directly to the people.

A few hours later (and several dozen kilometers further) we reach Lumshory. We get to a little eco-resort run by a young married couple. They are just about to open it officially in the coming days, so we will be one of the first guests. They ave a spacious campsite, a restaurant and ‘czan’, a traditional Ukrainian hot-tub that is the main attraction.

This is an unusual experience. According to the oldest tales, it has been believed that the use of hot-tub guaranteed the eternal youth. The baths have been used for a variety of medical applications since the 17th century. It’s believed properties of sulfur-rich water from the stream in Lumshory. The iron tube is first filled up with water and then there is a mixture of herbs and twigs added to compliment the brew while it is heated up to about 40 degrees, sometimes even more. When it gets too hot, you just jump into the cold creek beside, take a sip of beer, jump into hot water and repeat the sequence again.

The staff adds uniqueness to this experience. As a matter of fact, there are five persons involved to make sure we have a good time. Is water hot enough? Would you like to have one more beer? What time would you like the dinner to be ready? Would you like me to put some extra wood under the tub?
This is how the evening goes and it is finished off by an excellent dinner of various grilled meat types.

It is very easy to wake up early after such a relaxing evening.

After a hearty breakfast we pay for all the services (about €30) and make ourselves ready to go.

This location is also a great place to work.

The regions is worthwhile not only for amazing nature or traditional hot-tubs. We come across interesting wooden architecture and well-preserved stone castles.

When leaving Carpathian Ruthenia, it is worth to visit Uzhhorod, the capital of the Carpathian Oblast. It is an interesting historical city with predominant stone architecture. The 16th century castle houses the Transcarpathian Museum of Regional Natural History with thousands exhibits from various epochs and aspects of life.

Having visited the museum I definitely recommend strolling along the picturesque coast of the Už River. Perhaps it is time to make a choice of restaurant to taste local cuisine.

Crossing the borders that are not the most typical sometimes arises excitement. Will there be a long waiting line or are we going to face a long list of formalities? This time it is not the case. It took us just fifteen minutes to entered Ukraine from Romania and we enter EU in Slovakia in just as little time.

Last thousand kilometers

We are about a thousand kilometers away from home. It is worth to split the distance and spend few more days to visit some interesting places in southern Poland.
In the Magura National Park we manage to hike a part of my sentimental trail running event Łemkowyna.

We stop by at the Błędów Desert and visit our friends to stay for a couple of days in the northern part of the Trail of the Eagles’ Nests.

This is how our next Eurotrip comes to an end, but no worries, more adventures are waiting on the horizon :)