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Victoria Varvariv Markowicz

Skiing, Eating, and Shopping in Ukraine’s Carpathian Winter Wonderland
Submitted by:  Victoria Varvariv Markowicz, PhD

For our second winter holiday season in Ukraine, my daughter (Maryna), husband and I spent four nights, five days in December 2008 at the lovely ski resort of Bukovel in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine. We took a direct train from Kyiv, reserving the whole wagon’s compartment and were in Ivano-Frankivsk 12 hours later.  It was then another 2 hours by car to Bukovel.

Bukovel is said to be Ukraine’s first world-class resort with 14 ski lifts on beautiful slopes covering 50 kilometers.  Its base elevation is almost 900 meters above sea level, making it the second highest ski resort in the Carpathian Mountains after Drahobrat.  The slopes accommodate all levels of skiing and snowboarding experience.  There is a nice ski school for children, and lessons for adults are also available.  Night skiing is another possibility - this can be very “romantic.”  The resort has snow making machines that can provide “fresh snow,” no matter what the weather forecast is.  

Bukovel visitors can rent what they need for skiing, and items that can be purchased at the one and only pricey boutique include ski clothing, gloves, goggles, and sun glasses.  The resort provides the option of buying ski lift passes for a variety of time periods including mornings or afternoons (half days), a day or for several days. There is also a small grocer, pharmacy and ice skating rink open daily and in the evenings in Bukovel.


Last year, we made reservations at the resort’s Bukovel Hotel and were pleased.  Breakfast was in the Restaurant Kozachok, housed in the hotel’s reception “main” building. This year we noticed that the hotel capacity, composed of many log buildings, had expanded during the past year as a result of new construction.  We were unhappy with our room this year because of its distance from the main building and our favorite ski slope. Last year we were next to the main building. As a result, I insisted on another room and after some persistence on my part, we were offered a room at the new Shelter Hotel located right by our favorite ski lifts/slopes.  

We were delighted with our room at the Shelter Hotel even though we had to pay an upgrade.  My husband and I had a double bed, and there was a very comfortable “fold-out” in the adjoining room for our daughter. We had a huge bathroom with tub, telephone shower, sink, and WC, and in our room there was a large flat screen TV mounted on the wall, a CD player, and mini-bar.  In addition, there were two tiny balconies from which I could observe my daughter and husband on the slopes. These mini balconies also doubled as a “refrigerator,” where we stored our water, juices, and snacks.  This new hotel was still unfinished when we were in Bukovel in December 2007, so it really is very new and as I said, at the foot of the one of the higher ski runs.  
On the ground floor of the Shelter Hotel is its cafeteria style restaurant/bar.  There are also tables under an awning just outside where you may take your food and/or drinks to dine.  You may, of course, eat indoors as well.  Downstairs in the hotel is another restaurant/disco noted for grilled items on the menu.  It is also where the breakfast buffet is served every morning.  We really preferred this breakfast buffet to the one we had at the Kozachok Restaurant last year (offered when you stay at the Bukovel Hotel).  The Shelter’s breakfast buffet is more of a brunch/lunch, offering shashliks, roast chicken, grilled fish, fish burgers, pan fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, buckwheat (kasha), sausages, yogurts, fresh fruits, fruit juices, coffee, tea, bread and sweets as well as the traditional eggs (either sunny side up or egg whites omelets) that you would expect for breakfast.  This was enough to keep us well nourished until dinner which we usually ate at the Kozachok Restaurant.

Our favorites at the Kozachok were Ukrainian borsht, Pampushky (rolls with garlic butter) and the restaurant’s mushroom soup with dumplings.  Their potato pancakes (Deruny) with onion and sour cream were delicious and came as a large portion that we shared.  I really enjoyed the Banosh (corn meal) with bryndza cheese that reminded me of one of my favorite Romanian dishes – Mămăligă.  The varenyky with meat, potatoes or cabbage were delicious and were served in little ceramic pots.  An interesting dish which all three of us enjoyed and I made my own version in Kyiv is Potrocha – a stew of chicken hearts, livers, gizzards, and mushrooms in a cream sauce, also served in individual ceramic pots.  The corn meal Banosh was a wonderful accompaniment to absorb the lovely sauce of the Potrocha.  These are just a few of the specialties that we tried.  For dessert we only tried their homemade cheese cake and our daughter had ice cream (vanilla only with chocolate sauce).  Kozachok offers wine, vodka and beer together with a variety of cocktails, juices, teas, and coffee.  The menu was in the Russian language only.

On the way back to Ivano-Frankivsk to get our direct train back to Kyiv, we stopped, as last year, in the picturesque town of Yaremcha (30 kilometers from Bukovel). There we visited the outdoor market stands near a fantastic waterfall and had a nice lunch at the famous Hutzulshyna Restaurant, which is classified as an historic landmark since this beautiful wooden building is all built without a single nail.  The wooden ceiling and walls are all beautifully hand carved, and the dishes used to serve the food are hand-painted Ukrainian ceramics.  The four of us (we invited our driver) all had an excellent cream of mushroom soup.  My husband and daughter had a schnitzel, and the driver and I had fresh river trout.

The market stalls at Yaremcha offer Ukrainian embroidery, ceramics, beaded necklaces, amber, coral, and Ukrainian costume dolls (I purchased several last year) and .lots and lots of sheepskins and slippers. There is also a souvenir market at Bukovel which I visited daily, but there is a much larger choice at Yaremcha.  

I highly recommend this Carpathian winter wonderland - with its ski slopes and wonderful food and shopping opportunities - to all, but remember your stay must be longer than a weekend to make it worthwhile!    You can read more about the Bukovel Ski Resort in English on its website (http://bukovel.com/en).



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