Walking the Cruise Ship

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No place to walk?

It was an enormous cruise ship. There should have been plenty of walking places built into the design. There weren’t. The Promenade, that ever-present feature of cruise ship fame had been cut down to a single-lane path that wove in, out and around small launches and electrical fittings. It didn’t circumnavigate the ship.

Who’s complaining? Me. I know that being able to travel to many of the world’s note-worthy places is a wild piece of luck, and I shouldn’t complain about any part of it. We plan our travel carefully, weighing cost versus comfort. And when we search for good deals, taking a cruise keeps popping its head up as the most economical way to get from point A to many many other points around the world. I am a reluctant cruiser, but as long as I can tolerate the short visits to interesting places, we will probably continue to book our interior rooms occasionally on these enormous floating hotels. It’s just not a perfect situation. What is?

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Lots of fun

We had signed up for a trans-Atlantic cruise that included a route into the Baltic region. It allowed for 11 different stops in 26 days. It’s a bit of ‘if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium’, but when the price is right, I can adjust to almost any travel style. And when we get to those points along the way, I can walk my heart out for a good morning and afternoon in each port, which is really what I like to do when I travel, so that’s all good. But what about those ‘at-sea’ days? On this ship, a big, beautiful new one, there was the down-sized promenade and a small running track on one of the top decks. So, looking for a better stroll, I took to the stairs.

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The running track was nice, just short and often crowded.

From our pleasant small cabin on deck 11, I could climb the stairs to deck 15, loop around from the retreat pool to outside the always-crowded fitness room, up one deck to the surprisingly small running track, down again to the deck 15 loop, descend the stairs to the tiny little promenade on deck 7, up again to deck 14 where I could grab a cup of tea and find a solitary spot on one of the exterior lounge areas. It turned out to be an invigorating walk, and there were always plenty of places on the ship where I could find privacy afterwards for some reading or relaxing.

It was interesting to me that as I walked, and as I lounged, I noticed that many other passengers were finding their own ways to get in their exercise. As I looked for books in the library, I noticed a couple walked by four times. They had devised an indoor walking route around the many interior lounges. Then, in my ‘secret’ spot at the very back of the ship where there was a lovely dead end and few people, one man walked rapidly past me, where there was no more ship, turned around and walked just as rapidly away. He came back about 15 minutes later, with the same routine and again 15 minutes after that. On another day, it was a woman doing the same walk. On the days when I sat away from the crowd in my corner at the retreat pool, I noticed an intermittent stream of walkers, one or two or three at a time, looping through the area, returning about every 20 minutes.

I was stuck on the ship for 26 days. Six of those days were traveling across the Atlantic Ocean from Florida to the Azore Islands of Portugal. I knew I had to figure some outdoor routine for exercise and escape. Even though the routine did not include the usual promenade walk, as things turned out, it did include great exertion and lots of pleasant relaxation. I even found empty hot tubs for a satisfying rest after my walk if I went early enough (so I did.)

Taking a cruise has an odd reputation that I find doesn’t have much to do with the way we experience it. We have been able to bend the cruise experience to our own idea of travel – economical and comfortable sojourns to interesting locations. A nice walk and a hot tub waiting when I’m done is nothing to complain about.

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Next stop: Ponta Delgada, Portugal

 

 

Stop by Restless Jo’s Monday Walks for more…

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Walking Paso Robles’ Lavender Festival

From one side of the country to the other, I am still loving lavender. I had just returned from Ohio, where I fell in love with the herb. I knew California was a much more friendly climate to the plant, so I looked up local lavender and found an entire festival to celebrate it that very weekend.  Central Coast Lavender Festival, in Paso Robles, was only a 40 minute drive from home, so of course, I made plans to attend.

The town of Paso Robles is just over the coastal hills from us, a hotter and drier climate, perfect for lavender cultivation. I had driven through Paso Robles hundreds of times and visited other areas of the town, but never had I seen the lovely central downtown park. I had heard of its charm and of its many restaurants, so I was eager for the visit.

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Charming dowtown Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a wine-country destination, famous for its vineyards. It draws people from all over the world to visit the wineries. The food scene there is keeping up with the call from the tourists: fresh, local, organic meals that compliment the local wines. I knew that several of these restaurants were in the downtown square. Lavender and a good meal? It would be a pleasant Saturday.

As we drove into town, I wondered if I should have gotten more specific directions. I knew basically where I was going, but the details were hazy. Actually, since I’d never been to this particular area, the details in my head were non-exsistent. But it seemed like it would be simple, and it was. Up ahead as I drove into town was a throng of people. Logic would have it that that was where the festival would be, and today, logic prevailed. I found easy parking nearby, grabbed my hat, and walked toward the crowd. Just down to the end of the block was one of the most pleasant downtowns I’d ever seen. Why had I not visited before?

Paso Robles can get hot in the summer. I left home enjoying 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) and arrived to the festival in 90 degrees F (32 degrees C.) But the downtown square was designed to keep people out of the sun, with trees shading the sidewalks and a huge canopy of greenery towering over the entire park-like square. Today, the aroma of lavender pulled me toward the booths, laid out along the walkways of the outdoor plaza.

Lavender-colored bags were handed out to everyone, encouraging us all to fill them with not only live plants, but also lavender essential oil, lavender soap, lavender spray, lavender sachets, lavender tea. Then there were all the other items that accompany festivals in California: hand-crafted wooden bird houses and cutting boards, hand-crafted beads and jewelry, hand-made hats and baskets and clothing.

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Under the cool oaks

Under the enormous live oaks, people cheerfully sold and others bought whatever their desires or pocketbooks allowed. Entertainers took their turns providing music and dance and authorities gave information about the benefits of lavender. Apparently, it helps every known ailment. As I walked the pathways, I enjoyed the outdoor scent of lavender, the sound of people enjoying themselves, talking and laughing, and the sight of a California main square restored to perfection.

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90 degrees F or 32 C, it is pretty hot without the shade

 

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lots of lavender stuff, but lots of all sorts of stuff, too.

I escaped the growing heat by sitting down to a nice lunch at the corner deli. A crowded gathering had enticed me to finally visit this buzzing downtown. Why had I waited so long? Now, I looked around the square, planning my next visit. Which restaurant would I try on my return?

Walking with Wildlife

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Rugged with a capital ‘R”

At times, I complain about our rugged American walking life. We have trails, not walking paths. We walk in rustic, remote national parks, not through our cities. I have even – a time or two – been driven away from a walk by nature itself. But today, I am offering a tribute to walking with wildlife all around. It can be a remarkable and reviving experience of renewal. Isn’t that exactly why we walk?

I take a daily stroll around my central California coastal neighborhood. After four years living here, it still is refreshingly new. It is also more rugged than refined. The first thing I do is cross the famous Pacific Coast Highway, State Route One, always on the list for the world’s most beautiful and dangerous highways. The second thing I do is head for my usual path to the beach, filled with sand and stickers and the changeable route through the dunes.

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just another rustic path?

Today, the third thing I did on this walk was stop in the middle of the path for this:

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S/he’s a beauty.

S/he didn’t move, and I worried. Should I just step around? Should I be concerned for its health? It wasn’t a rattlesnake, so I wasn’t afraid. It – a gopher snake? – looked to me like it had just eaten something quite big,

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there’s a big lump right there

so I knew it might just be in that after-glow of a good meal. Snakes don’t loosen their belts, they lull.

I retreated, and took a different path through the dunes.

Horses have accompanied me on every single walk I have ever taken on this beach. One or two or sometimes three ride along together. Today, a herd was there.

Look closely, some were riding bareback. They frolicked and circled and raced and the riders hooted and laughed. When there are twenty horses and twenty people involved in this amount of hoop-la, it’s noticeable, even above the thunder of the surf. And then the horses and riders actually did surf. Or very nearly.

My usual walks also include a lot of this

and that

And if I am lucky, I can climb the steps up the bluff at the turn-around point of my walk, sit for awhile and watch nature’s show. Today, the show was spectacular.

As I sat, I laughed at the antics of the dolphins: dance routines, couple jumps, splashes that looked like pure fun. I admired the skill of the pelicans: their patient search and precise spray as they entered the water for the catch.

I stared into the horizon, hoping to see evidence of those enormous creatures that inhabit our coastline in the summer. I know they are there. But sometimes, I have to be satisfied with that knowledge, and not the sight of the blue and humpback whales.

This summer, I have seen a lot of them. They have been almost too close to the shore at times, almost dangerously close. Today they stayed in the hazy distance, treating me with occasional evidence of their seasonal trip. Like the human vacationers who come in droves, the whales come also each summer.

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look at the very left hand side for the last bit of spray from the whale’s spout (and the whale, of course)
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These two are so, so much larger than the photo shows!

While I sat, a three-ring circus entertained me, including a pod of dolphins, fishing pelicans and whales in the distance. On the way back home, I checked on the overly-full snake, but found it wasn’t blocking the path any longer. Today’s walk was filled with the wildlife I have seen all my life. Not a city-life walk, but a walk peopled with creatures that have been my walking companions for a long, long time.

 

 

Walking along fields of lavender

 

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if only you could smell the aroma

Every summer I visit Ohio, and every summer I am amazed. This time, fields of lavender took me by complete surprise. First of all, I have never been a fan of lavender. The scent, that astringent clear-your-head aroma and its ability to hang around uninvited, had never for me been the pleasant experience it seemed to the rest of the world. Secondly, Ohio? Lavender, the little I knew of it, would seem to be a dry weather, everyday sun, never near ice kind of thing. In other words, not for Ohio.

But we heard about a nearby lavender farm, and farms in Ohio are something worth visiting. My friend Debbie and I got out the map and went.

 

Luvin Lavender Farms in Madison, Ohio is a tiny spot of heaven on earth. Bee-friendly, organic and enticing, the display garden is home for row upon row of lavender plants. Before our visit, I had only known vaguely about this herb, but now I was being introduced to specific types: mailette, provence, hidcote and edelweiss. Each variety had a row, a signpost and a special reason for being at the farm. One had a unique aroma, another a special flower, a third was long-lasting. As we were introduced to the marvel of lavender, bees flew by to show us how important the plants were to their busy summer season.

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Luvin Lavender

The day we visited, an entire row of  twickel purple lavender was being harvested by hand with a scythe. As the flowers waved in the breeze and the bees dropped in on the plants, sachets of cut lavender lay atop the shrubs and added their scent to the fresh air. I sniffed. I couldn’t get enough of that luscious smell. When had I become a fan of lavender? Somewhere between the cozy gift shop and the informative tour, the aroma had hit me and I had been won over.

Sipping on lavender tea in the gift shop, I took my time picking out the supply I would take home. Because, once a fan of lavender, always a fan of lavender…and the soap that is made from it, and the body butter, and the sachets…and the shampoo. I’ve always liked farms. Now I can say I like lavender, too.

 

Afterward, we drove a couple miles west and enjoyed a refreshing lunch alongside Lake Eerie. Ahh…Ohio. Always a surprise. Thanks, Debbie.

Linked with Jo’s Monday Walks.

Walking with Sea Gulls

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Breezy

June is an odd, unpredictable month when it comes to weather. Here, on California’s central coast, we complain if the temperature varies by more than 5 degrees F, and we complain a lot in June. But today, I find a nice hour in the afternoon when the wind settles and the sun is mild. I go for a walk.

I want to see what is happening to the seasonal ponds in the dunes. These low areas fill up with water after it rains, but we have had a month of sun and wind, and I am thinking that they will be dry today.

When I reach the dunes, I find a little water, but it has turned swamp-y. I think that the mallard ducks I noticed last time have found a better place to settle. I see several curlews sticking their long, curved beaks into the sand of the dunes, and I wonder if they are testing out potential nesting places. Then I think more likely they are scrounging for the little plover eggs that I have never seen, but are said to be everywhere on this protected area. Curlews, apparently, ignore the warning signs.

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even other birds shouldn’t trespass

I tab back through my photos to find an earlier picture of the ponds, and compare to what I see now. The potential duck home then:

and now:IMG_2010

My attention is called skyward when a large group of sea gulls flies overhead. I turn south to see wave after wave of the birds all flying north past me toward the town of Cayucos, maybe even farther. I wonder what would have caused this. A cluster of seafood in the waves farther north on the beach? As more and more make the flight northward, it is apparent that the birds know something I do not, and it makes me curious. Blue herons and a vulture or two join the flight north. The sky is so filled that I get distracted with the sight and forget I have a camera in my hands. By the time I have things in focus, the migration has passed.

If I could fly, I could find out where the gulls and their companions are headed, and maybe the reason for their flight. But I am feet-only today, and it is time for the walk back home. I often wonder about measuring my afternoon walks, curious as I am about distance and time. Then I decide the better measurement is in pictures, however flawed and intermittant. Happy walking!

Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

Walking with Pelicans

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The return of the pelicans

To my knowledge, pelicans don’t walk much. But I love to walk alongside them as they fly, out above the waves. These sergeant-majors of the seas patrol our area, and they come out in force during springtime and stay all summer. I welcome their return with my walk today, and was fortunate that they were in a mood to entertain.

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On patrol

How can people say they are not beauties? Their over-sized beaks and broad wings reward them with a beautiful catch, over and over.

Watch for the splashes. My camera and I do not agree about push and click. By the time I pushed, the pelican was probably already diving, and by the time the camera took the shot, there was only splash. Two different times, with two competent pelicans. They tried to make it easy for me.

The second one stalled to let me gather my failing photographic skills. He is the one lifting off again after a successful catch, ready to scout the area for more.

Watch this magnificent dive. I love the way they search, spot and then set-up their dive. The final upside-down reverse puts them head first into the water. Amazing creatures.

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As I walk, I see some tag-a-longs. The gulls must have noticed the school of fish. They follow the skillful pelicans, landing nearby for a chance at left-overs.

The pelican entertainment today makes my walk a bit longer in time, not distance. But who can resist stopping and looking at these spectacular birds, to say nothing of the other sights along the way. Hope you have a great walk today.

 

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Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

Walking Brasov, Romania

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taking off from Bucharest

If you come by train from Bucharest to Brasov, Romania you have already had a mountain-side seat to view the Carpathians. Legendary mountains of beauty (true) and vampires (maybe not so true), you have already formed an opinion about the countryside you came to see. Transylvania. It is truly pristine, with tall triangled pine trees, rock-tiled streams, and towns along the way that make you question your choice to visit Brasov over the many other cities and villages out the window of the train.

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There are castles,
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and more castles along the way

But I had done my research and picked Brasov for what I hoped would be a classic Transylvania visit. There is always a gamble in traveling to places you haven’t been before. I simply had to let this adventure play out. After the train reached the Brasov station, I hailed a taxi and asked the price to ‘Piata Sfatului’, the Old Town Hall Square, doing my best with the pronunciation. Thankfully, the driver answered in English, and we set out. After a five minute drive through the soviet-era apartment neighborhood, I was delivered to the town square and back into Medieval Times. If it weren’t for the people, dressed as if they were from today’s world, I would have looked for someone lighting a candle in a store window as the afternoon began to give way to evening. romaniamoldova 040romaniamoldova 048romaniamoldova 049

The streets were so walkable they beckoned my footsteps to add to the multitude that have passed this way over centuries and centuries of people going about their every-day lives. There was a procession in the late afternoon of Medieval soldiers who walked the Romanian flag to the Main Square in a casual arrangement of mismatched footsteps. They chatted along the way and passersby watched for a moment or two, then proceeded with their own business. It was an encouraging mood, a daily ceremony to be enjoyed but not taken too seriously.

Walking into the older neighborhoods, I found tiny streets not much wider than the span of my arms. The polished stone underfoot reminds travelers how many others throughout the centuries have walked these steps. That constant march of people, only the soles of their shoes changing with style and technology, leaves a sheen of history. Looking up at the road ahead, as it climbed into a tighter and tighter twist of ancient homes, gave me a respect for the workers who built the steps so long ago.

Back in the Square, I noticed the slogan on each wide umbrella covering the tables outside every restaurant: Brasov – Probably the best City in the world. At once humble and proud, who could deny this charm? I was certainly convinced, and happy with my travel choice.romaniamoldova 039

Biserica Neagră: The Black Church, watched attentively from the end of the square, a dark gray menace next to so much optimism. Continuing to walk, I was drawn to the darkness of this church’s entrance, feeling insignificant next to the enormous doors and heavy rock exterior. So imposing, the church itself seemed to challenge my plan to chance a visit inside. But, curiosity won and I passed through the massive doors into the 14 and 15 centuries. Tall, slim windows along the sides let in very little light. Benches close to the doors were meant for peasants, while the seats closer to the altar for richer folk. The gloom of the interior matched the outside threatening look of the church. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the legend of Dracula, and had been told by several Romanians that they weren’t too fond of the connection. But here, in the Black Church of Brasov, I nearly believed.

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quick rainstorm

I walked outside in the midst of a sudden rainstorm. The streets filled with run-off and people had fled. But it passed, the waters receded from the streets and I continued walking to reach the city wall. Constructed  hundreds of years ago to keep residents safe from outsiders like myself, I walked along the grassy top and looked back to brick-roofed buildings and cobbled streets. As I looped back to the town square, the encroaching darkness reminded me it was time to search out the hotel.

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steps worn through the centuries

I wanted to congratulate myself for an excellent choice in finding this lovely walkable city. But I know the truth, that I have simply had some wonderful travel luck in picking Brasov. Like the slogan says – probably the best city I will visit in the entire world. Or, at least until the next one.

Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks, a wonderful way to find walks all over the world:

 https://restlessjo.me/

 

 

 

Walking Moldova

tanya'sdachaand all 059If you live in Ukraine and travel to Moldova, you are warned by people who care for you. The borders are contested, they say, and crossing them can be a problem. The Moldovan people are not friendly, there is no place to stay, it is such a small country, why do you plan to go? At this point, you wonder about your plans, but since you want to go to Romania, and Moldova stands in your way, you go.

And never regret the visit. The bus ride from Odessa is through rolling hills that become lined with vineyards the closer you get to Moldova.

At the border, the bus driver collects all the passports, hands them to an official-looking man, who hands them back to the driver in a short time, who then hands them to the woman sitting closest to the driver, who opens each passport to the photo page, and gives them back precisely to each traveler on the bus. It seems everyone but you knows the routine, and you are grateful you are in the company of people who know what to do.

You pass through village after village of beautifully-organized streets with one-story houses that are well-cared for, each seemingly with a new roof that gleams in the sunlight. The houses, all rectangular tile-roofed and designed simply with rows of windows along each side, have tidy gardens that surround the houses and grow flowers and vegetables. You see fruit trees as your bus passes by, thinking maybe they are peach or apricot.

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Boksol – Train Station

When you arrive in Chisinau, you are delivered to the front of a beautiful train station. You walk around the interior, dazzled at the architecture. Just before you begin to worry about getting a taxi and finding a hotel, a driver waves you over to his taxi. You wonder what language to use. Perhaps neither your sad attempts at Russian nor your English will be appreciated. But your concern comes to nothing as the taxi driver knows better than you where you belong, and verbal language is not necessary for communication. He talks the entire way with hand motions, and you understand a good deal of it. Very quickly he delivers you to “Hotel Cosmos”, really the best place in town for travelers like you.

The hotel is a humorous short story come to life in plaster and crackle-mirrors. You remember reading that the hotel has certain floors that have been renovated, and that it is essential you request one of those floors. But you can’t at the moment recall: is the 4th-7th floors to be avoided or the ones you should request? Regardless, you are given a key and directed to the elevator. When you arrive, you decide it is to one of the newly renovated rooms, but wonder about some of the furnishings.

You have a view out the window that helps you get to know the city, giving you a nice introduction to places you want to walk. Most people would not consider Chisinau beautiful, but you feel its charm as you take your first, tentative walk around. Just outside the hotel, there is an enormous concrete street corner that seems to be more a monument than a street corner, with steps and a statue, and that ends in a busy traffic round-about.

Which way should you walk? You let the traffic pull you up the hill, and walk toward the modern shopping area. You see all the usual stores and the glass and steel architecture, but there are also lovely overhanging trees that make your walking pleasant.

There is a group of people setting up for an outdoor concert, and people beginning to bring a dinner to sit and enjoy. You begin the walk back to the hotel, searching for food along the way, intrigued by a sign that seems to be advertising burritos, Mexican style. You follow the signs and your appetite and wonder about tortilla chips in Moldova.

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time for dinner

No need to worry. Up a concrete ramp way, across the traffic circle from the hotel, you sit in an authentic-looking Mexican restaurant and order burritos. They come with tortilla chips and salsa, and you are very happy. It’s not that you wouldn’t have wanted a Moldovan meal, but that it’s nice to see a bit of the western hemisphere well-received so far from home.

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busy

The next day you walk toward the farmers’ market. Along the way, you see the more typical eastern-Europe cityscape, with tall apartment buildings, each apartment with a small balcony dangling from the living room. You see a mass of electrical wires and a mish-mash of vehicles crossing the streets. And at the market, you walk past stall after stall of all those luscious vegetables and many fruits that you saw growing on your ride into the city.

A woman walks up, greets you by grasping both your forearms, talks in a language that is not quite Italian, and pats you on the shoulder as she leaves. The woman completes what the city has begun. You feel you have been welcomed to a country that is very pleased to have you pass through.

 

Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

Walking Kherson, Ukraine

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Ushakova Boulevard

Ushakova Boulevard in Kherson runs straight from the railway station to the Dneiper River quay. Along its sides, many of Kherson’s important buildings have stood for decades. The street is lined with broad pathways and sidewalks, covered by enormous green leaves from chestnut trees in the summer, made dangerous by ice and snow in the winter. If you walk one street in Kherson, it should be Ushakova, and it should be in springtime.

Like many post-Soviet railway stations this one impresses you with complex walkways from the many possible railway lines. There are overhead walkways, round and about walkways and zig zags. Follow the other passengers exiting the train, and you will soon enough find yourself in the reception area, filled with high ceilings, wooden walls and Cyrillic-lettered notices. Pass through the station, head toward the sidewalk and soon the street becomes a grand Avenue. Ushakova.

Near the station, the buildings that line the street are Lenin-era buildings, kinder and gentler than the newer concrete-block buildings. The Stalin-era buildings, the concrete ones, were built to last not built to be loved. The Lenin-era buildings were built with love, wood, and high ceilings. Many are beginning to slowly crumble, waiting for someone to decide their future.

Soon, you pass by one of those newer concrete buildings, and notice that even it is beginning a slow crumble of neglect. Other buildings, the Music College for example, are loved and well-tended.

There is an extravagant Naval College and a long, industrial-looking post office. From your sidewalk, you peek though an open lot and see a beautiful little Orthodox church. Tall feathered stems from grasses wave between you and the church, surrounded as it is with a graveyard that grows field grasses high during a quick and vigorous spring.

Ushakova here becomes a true boulevard. Benches for sitting divide two wide walkways that line each side of the street. The traffic portion of the street itself is wide, but not so wide as either of the pedestrian walkways. More buses than private vehicles fill the avenue. But there are many, many people, like you, walking. You have to set a truly fast pace to keep up with your Ukrainian sidewalk companions. If you want to just sit and watch for awhile, pick a bench and rest.

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The former Lenin Square

But don’t stop yet, for farther down the boulevard is Lenin Square. When I was taking this walk, in 2010, a huge statue of Lenin stood in the middle of the expanse of concrete. I have seen You-tube videos of the statue being pulled down during the Maidan protests of 2011-2012. Whatever else is left in the square, the size of this rectangle of concrete will impress you. Massive public areas, a leftover of the Soviet Union, are here and there around Kherson. Once a city of 500,000, now retreating to near 200,000, this amount of common space seems almost overwhelming.

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Suvarova

All along Ushakova, you have passed restaurants, many with cafe tables along the sidewalk. Now, as you pass the pedestrian street of Suvarova, you see there are many more, as well as shops and perhaps some sidewalk artists and vendors.

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Dneiper River walk

The street begins a fairly steep descent to the Dneiper River. There is a beautiful wharf walk along the river that runs through a park that is allowed to grow wild with spring grasses, then just in time, trimmed with weed whackers in a fit of tidiness.

Something invades your peaceful river thoughts – the Hotel Fregat. A futuristic design sixty years ago, the building and grounds now look like a sad mockery of the 1960’s. It hasn’t fallen into disrepair, just fallen wildly out of fashion. Maybe a little disrepair, too.

But the river is glorious. Ushakova ends here, at the wide, powerful, decisive Dneiper. Large and small outboard motor boats can take you back and forth to the islands just across the current. Large yachts sail by, but not often. Large commercial ships ferry goods occasionally. Most of the time, you can stand here at the quay with just you, your thoughts, and the steel-colored waves.

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Mighty Dneiper

 

Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks

Walking Chernigiv, Ukraine

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For a westerner’s eye, like mine, photographs capture the beauty of this city in northern Ukraine better than words. We have separated the world, giving an east/west classification that may be simple, but it is not descriptive. Ukraine is easily distinguished from many western countries, and Chernigiv is unlike any city in my home state of California in the USA. But different can be beautiful, and it is always interesting. Let’s prove that by seeing the sights  in Chernigiv. Let’s take a walk.

Drain spouts hang politely over the sidewalk, buses pass by, and you walk past forested areas as you near the city center. The season is autumn, and it is felt in your toes as they contact the stony cold of the street or sidewalk, and in your lungs as you breathe crisp cold. You feel the cold on your nose as you try to figure out ways to cover up in the coming winter. Autumn is coat weather, but pleasantly so. As you walk, you gather some steam, for there are hills to climb in Chernigiv.

chernigov8 014First, you walk past older homes, one-storied and rectangular. Their corrugated metal roofs are a study in geometry. Electric wires invade a building made before electricity, searching the easiest way to enter the home. Three-paned double windows line up along the houses’ sides, but only the smallest pane is open and only a few of those.

chernigov5 012A river rambles by. Or maybe it is a stream off the main river. There are so many trees that it is hard to get a view. Until you walk up to the top of the hill, and then there it is, a panorama memorialized by the residents of Chernigiv. A shrine is placed at the top of the hill, and the view is suddenly extraordinary. Orthodox domes, one after another line up into the distance. A wedding party gathers in the bright yellow fallen leaves, posing for photos. The houses nearby give off steam, adding to the mist of the day, swirling this landscape in a beautiful uncertainty.

You stop at the restaurant by the river, amazed at the fireplace in the center of the dining room, and grateful for the warmth. The meal is plentiful and robust. Dark bread and buckwheat, roast chicken with vegetables. You drink hot tea simmered with leaves still on the twig in a iron-wrapped tall glass.

Now, you walk to the main avenue of downtown Chernigiv. You can walk on either side of the street on the broad sidewalks, or you can venture down the promenade in the center of the street, passing water fountains that you are told shoot colored sprays during festivals. Of course, there is a statue of Lenin in the middle of this concourse, and several other statues. You recognize the name of a famous poet, but struggle to read the Cyrillic letters on the plaques.

Continuing, you pass a school, then the side street that leads to a large outdoor market, and the underground entrances to the walkways that take you to the opposite side of the avenue. You decide to use one of these underground crosswalks, and are delighted to find a string of small shops hidden beneath the street. You linger a bit and make some purchases. On the other side of the avenue, you wander into a large apartment complex and past a neighborhood grocery store.DSCN0373

You feel chill in the air and decide it’s time to return home. Past the apartments, through the forested area and back to the older one-storied homes, you are grateful for those two-layered windows. For the first time, you realize the significance of the complex design of the three panes and the double layers. You open the larger pane at the bottom of the interior windows, then reach through to the small pane of the outer one. You take off your coat and scarf and gloves and hat – your boots have already been left at the door – and let the steam leave through the window. Then, you close everything up again, and are grateful for the two layers of protection from the cold.

DSCN0154Residents of Chernigiv have structured their city in a way that makes sense. The cold, the ice, the beauty of the autumn leaves, the wandering river, the church domes all remind you that California is half a world away, and you are so lucky to be seeing this place that is new to you.

Linked to Restless Jo’s Monday Walks