Easter in Ukraine on a Cobblestone Tour


Driving through the mountain country villages in Ukraine.

Taking a tour through the Carpathian Mountains in western Ukraine.

Finding Easter Eggs in Ukraine

By MaKayla Allen

A celebration of Wet Monday in Lviv, Ukraine.

A celebration of Wet Monday in Lviv

Cobblestone Freeway tours seek to bridge a path between tradition, and modern experience.

Offering an array of tours to different locations, I interviewed the founder of the travel company to discuss their Easter Ukraine tour. Despite the country being in the news recently over Russian incursions and the takeover of Crimea, Cobblestone’s tours take place far from these war zones. It’s a big country.

Vincent Rees, owner, and founder of Cobblestone Freeway, a Canadian tour operator, became interested in Ukraine because his grandfather emigrated from the country in 1911.

After visiting Ukraine for the first time, Vincent explains how the country caught his attention, “”I fell in love with the place, it’s so fascinating and interesting — life there is just so alive.”

Enjoying local delicacies.

A Pathway from the Past

Enjoying local delicacies in Ukraine.

Enjoying local delicacies in Ukraine.

Vincent explains the metaphorical name of the company, employing the symbol of a cobblestone road as a pathway that was laid in the past but has carried travelers of the past, as well as carrying travelers in the present.

This interaction of the ancient and the modern being combined in an experience is the sensation Vincent hopes for with his tours.

Cobblestone tours focus on crossing the average line of tourism. The Ukraine tours emphasize what Vincent refers to as “bringing travelers into the minds of the locals,” hoping to do more than just show the attractions of a destination.

Through forming relationships with locals, Cobblestone hopes to give travelers more than a material souvenir to bring home, but instead the memory of a true experience.

Fetching directions……

Easter in Ukraine

Being welcomed into the home of hospitable locals in Ukraine.

Being welcomed into the home of hospitable locals.

One of the company’s five tours to Ukraine is the 15 night/14 day Easter in Ukraine excursion. Travelers begin in the city of Lviv, where they see sights including the Lychakiv Cemetery and St.George Cathedral.

Vincent explains that the experience of the city isn’t in just seeing its sights, allowing that the architecture is average for that of a European city. But, Vincent describes the spirit of the city, “Lviv is just one big festival.”

In Lviv, the day after Easter Sunday is celebrated as Wet Monday. This means exactly what it sounds like — an entire city flinging water at one another. “You knock on a door, someone will open the door and chuck buckets of water on you,” Vincent tells.  On this day, there’s massive water fights throughout the city.

One notable celebration of this holiday included an incident where locals threw water onto the police, and for a minute everyone thoughts things had gone too far. Instead, the police just threw water right back; this seems to just show Lviv’s taste for celebration.

Meeting the Locals

Making traditional Easter baskets in Ukraine.

Making traditional Easter baskets.

The tour then takes visitors out into the country, into villages of the Carpathian Mountains. There, travelers partake in some authentic Ukrainian traditions. Vincent emphasizes, “Where you really get a sense of the spirit, of the culture, of the people, is when you get out of the city and into the country. There, you feel their traditional folk culture – you experience it live.”

Cobblestone’s Easter Ukraine tour boasts the holiday activity of making your own Easter baskets, but Vincent tells stories that go beyond this activity. He talks to me about the sweet hospitality of the locals.

“They invite you into their home,” Vincent tells, going on to detail having spent an evening eating and drinking after an Easter meal in a Ukranian mountain home. He even shares a story of being personally given an Easter egg by a host.

In Ukraine, Easter eggs, called pysanka, are given away as a blessing. Eggs are created with decorations of specific symbols that represent what you wish for that person.

A pysanka, or Easter egg.

A pysanka, or Easter egg.

As part of this tradition, Easter eggs are spiritual and ornate, far from the cheesy plastic eggs people in the US hide for the kids during the holiday.

A Bird’s-Eye View of Tradition

Talking of other Ukraine traditions, Vincent explains the feeling of visiting the villages and witnessing the different religious traditions, “You experience the traditions for what they are — with a bird’s eye view.”

He details watching church processions and the eye-opening experience of new traditions that he doesn’t even know the significance of. “There’s one tradition where kids take their belts off and whack each other with their belts.”

A bottle of Ukranian home-brewed Vodka.

A bottle of Ukranian home-brewed Vodka.

Being integrated into the life of Ukraine, there’s always new learning occasions that arise. One tradition that is always a treat to experience hands on is Ukraine’s commitment to home brew vodka.

In Ukraine, home distillation is currently legal. The vodka is made with all different herbs and spices, for everything from medicinal to celebratory use. With the personality of Ukraine, being welcomed to eat, drink, and celebrate with the locals it’s hard to not enjoy yourself. Vincent swears that you end up feeling right at home.

Another amenity of Cobblestone tours that makes this sort of interaction possible is the constant company of an interpreter throughout any tour. This translator also serves as a full-time host and guide. This way, Cobblestone ensures a tour with flexibility.

Witnessing History in Ukraine

The tour then makes its way to Chernivtsi, in the western region of Bukovina. There, visitors are impressed by the site of the Chernivtsi University, established as a Germanophone University in 1871.

Then, visit the fortress of Khotyn on the Dniester River, and see the Old Kamyanets Castle of Kamianets-Podilskyi.

The Castle of Kamyanets-Podilsky in Chernivtsi Ukraine

The Castle of Kamyanets-Podilsky.

The castle is a relic in the historic city of Kamianets-Podilskyi, being a well-preserved medieval construction. The castle is recognized as one of the seven wonders of Ukraine.

Stopping in the city of another of the seven wonders, the Easter in Ukraine tour’s final destination is the capital of Kyiv. Partaking in more tradition, the tour stops at the historic site of Andriyivsky Uzviz.

The area is packed with cafes and restaurants, but its more exciting attractions are the galleries and museum.

The historic hub is noted as a place where local artists prosper.

Visiting the Capital

Mentionable famous attractions in the city also include the famous Kyiv Pechersk Lavra Monastery, the Golden Gates of Kyiv, the shopping district of Khreschatyk Street, and the street-perfomance packed square of Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

Enjoying a traditional musical performance in Ukraine.

Enjoying a traditional musical performance.

Cobblestone Freeway tours include more than just their full-time host and translator. Included in your tour package will also be the guarantee of a city tour guide and all land transportation.

For your convenience, the tour prices also include two meals a day (with snacks). Also, the promise of three (or four) star hotels. The fees and admissions for all mentioned sites, or events, as well as

For your convenience, the tour prices also include two meals a day (with snacks). Also, the promise of three (or four) star hotels. The fees and admissions for all mentioned sites, or events, as well as admission to special events, are also included in the package prices.

Contact

Cobblestone Freeway Tours
Website
10515 – 111 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, T5H 3E8
780-436-7482 (toll-free: 1-855-787-7482)

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