Sunday, November 22, 2009

Glimpse of Village Life

I'm generally following the right bank down the Dniepr River, though it's got pretty swampy edges so I stay a kilometer or two inland from the flowing water. I try to avoid busy roads, instead, sticking to the forest paths - that many people seem to fear - and small roads connecting villages of a hundred inhabitants or so.

Villages that I've seen consist of cottage houses of white-washed brick or block with colorful trim and metal roofs. Each house has a large kitchen garden. Chickens, ducks, and geese abound through out the village. The main road is paved but the others are packed earth, so near to the river, this means sand. Occasional pigs and goats wander around as well. Ornate exterior doors stand isolated from each house and lead down a flight of covered stairs to a root cellar. Water wells with pitched wooden roofs and great metal windlasses also occupy each yard. Outhouse latrines stand behind the houses.

If there's a church in the village, it's a small one. So far, each I've seen has been padlocked, so I haven't seen the interior of any of these village chapels. The onion domes are metal like the rest of the roofs of the clustered houses. Like the grammar schools, if there is one in the village, outhouses are in the corner of the yards.

If there's a shop in the village, it's identified only with a small sign over the door - 'magazine', written in Cyrillic; otherwise, it looks pretty much like any other house. There's a surprising variety for such small shops - some fruits and veggies, lots of bottled drinks, both alcoholic and non... a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi, for example, sells for about 1 USD; a 1/2-liter bottle of beer, about 0.60 USD, also bread, candy, sundries, and buckets of fish, [almost] live, pickled, or salted, salamis, cheese, chicken, but no other meat. I've seen some balance scales with removable weights for measurement and some electronic, but every shop I've stepped into has had an abacus for tallying up the bill. Although the little shops are not cafes or bar, each time I've asked for a cup of tea, the woman who runs the shop makes one for me as I sit and rest on an upturned crate or small plastic chair. I've not seen a man in any shop, either as a customer or worker. The shops are definitively for the villagers, not really for passers-by.

Grown men wear enormous fur hats or small leather ones; women colorful kerchiefs; children knitted caps. Everyone I pass smiles and either offers a 'dobry dehn' greeting or replies likewise if I offer it first. Many elderly people have added something in German, schoolkids in English, reflecting the fact that I'm immediately taken as a foreigner.

Dogs abound throughout the villages to stand guard, but though some bark with an annoying intensity, none has been aggressive toward me. Cats equal dogs in number and come begging for food and a loving pat. I've seen few other animals in the forest - the odd red tufted eared squirrels and plenty of small song birds. Stork nests stand empty - at least one in each village. The storks, I was told, return in spring to have families.

With one week's walk behind me, the greatest concern I had - finding lodging - has been assuaged. Each priest calls the next and tells me which village to walk to. What a relief! A few priests even came out to meet me at the edge of the village - no doubt having some look-outs sentried to give him the word that I'm arriving. No one has heard of a foreign pilgrim before, so I've been the welcomed oddity of each town I've stayed in. Several times, the English teacher has been called in to translate, but a few times only the German teacher was available. No matter, we talk in a very friendly way and I'm treated very cordially. Soup, bread, cheese, all homemade; a cot by the central firebox keeps me warm all night. Very nice.


Compostelle 2008 said...

On days like today when I am catering to my husband because he twisted an ankle, the dog is barking his head off outside and I am behind in a promised report, I envy you out walking with a pack on your back and no one else to report to or be responsible for besides yourself. Keep on trekking and I will be forever a virtual follower.

Michèle (Ottawa, Canada)

Ukiefriend said...

Uff...what a relief! Glad to see your post! Sounds like your journey is faring better than anticipated other than finding churches padlocked. You might want to add one more word to your vocab.."mozhna?" (можна)which means "may I?"
So where are you now? Near what bigger village? Hope you're staying fattened up to reach your goal. Guess it's not too haven't mentioned it. Did you see Vera's comment? Rooting 4U and following U.
You go, girl oddity!

Ukiefriend said...

Ok, I see your km pedometer on the right side of page. Don't forget to try the herring with onions and vodka, haha...

Sylvia said...

So glad that Ukrainian hospitality hasn't let you down. You are really making great progress! I have been to Cherkassy, and I loved it there. They have a huge Orthodox Cathedral. Did you go there? Sendin our best from Denver. Sylvia

Sil said...

You are my escape from the glare of the monitor, a deadline urging me to keep writing, a husband needing my attention and a grandchild to be baby-sat later on. Thank you for sharing your journey with complete strangers!
Keep safe - keep warm - buen viaje.

The Solitary Walker said...

I like your style, WP. Am following your adventures with great anticipation and pleasure.

ukieartist said...

Hi Ann!
Finally have a chance to catch up with you. Been very busy with our Nov. concert (which was very successful, according to the number of glowing comments received).
This is a very nice reportage, makes for great reading. :) Glad you got the problem of housing resolved. Unfortunately, the problem of the padlocked churches hasn't been resolved, yet.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest...
A footnote: the name of the great Ukrainian river is DNIPRO.
Keep trekking and God be with you!

Ukiefriend said...

Hi Palomnytsia! Get some great watercolors so you can exhibit them at the Erie Art Show! This trek will make for a wonderful're an amazing writer! I think I will google earth and see if I can find you in the forest or in the banks of Dnipro River!

Anonymous said...


I continue to enjoy reading about your walk. You have a very nice writing style. I feel as if I am walking with you. Yes, the animals are hungry, the ones that don't have a home. I encountered a small dog limping when my American tourist (SCOPE) group were having a picnic outside Lviv. The small dog wouldn't come near us when we threw him some food. When we were leaving, I saw him limp out of the forest to the meadow where we had our picnic for the left behind food. Vera from Erie

Ukiefriend said...

Anna, hope you got my email with info re Zaposizhia from Pani Olenka.
She is such a dear and so into what you are doing! Can't wait for the next post!