Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Chernivtsi and the Sunny Valley Marillella, are unique, and from the UK’s point of view, unchartered locations in an area of outstanding beauty.
...Sitting on Ukraine territory they’re our intended destination for the Drive Time inaugural Travel extravaganza planned for 2022.
Natasha Kuznetsova will be your local guide and hostess and at the hotel retreat ...director Vadim and his charming team.
Before this will be the all electric ‘Drive of a lifetime‘ including top-end stopovers in Kitzbuhel, Zell am Zee, Ist and Salzburg.
For me, right now, this continues to be an epic voyage of discovery where I have already found kindness amongst people challenged by pandemics, financial survival and politics during which I’ve also been fortunate in the search of:
suitable venues ...spectacular and the cosy,
and landscapes ...picturesque and the awesome.
The final visit to Sunny Valley meets with the chef preparing a mouth watering lunch ...in the process demonstrating a love and attention toward her art. Fast food but with sophistication and a prime ingredient ...the morning’s catch.
’Nadia, can we expect the same attention for our U.K. clientele?’
‘I love what I do ...can’t wait to feed Ukraine cuisine, my way, to your British mouths!’
‘I promise you as soon as travel from the U.K. legally allows, I will bring you the hungry mouths!’
Swan Lake Indeed!
In the distance two swans approach the lake before lowering their undercarriages like a pair of ‘Concords’, gently touching down as two ballerinas might.
A 3 km nature trail ...walk or bike, alongside the enormous natural wetland, with familiar and unfamiliar species, reminiscent of Minsmere, Suffolk on a fine day.
Skiing for fun in the winter can be had on the hills nearby and of course the limitless water-sports throughout the year are right on your doorstep. Ranging from scout and guide roping into the splash, fishing, sailing, boating, water skiing, giant landscaped slides, and paragliding.
An overflow pool and the natural lake caters for the serious and not so serious swimmer during the summer months. Skinny dipping. a cold tub and sauna can be had for the tough hearted in the winter ...also on tap throughout the year.
Waltz on the lake’s dance floor by day ...and polish the floor during the evening’s dinner and dance..
The resort’s location is ideal for direct flights into Suceava as well as being a terrific final destination to relax or revive the body ...particularly if you’ve arrived over land on ‘The Ultimate Road Trip’!
Minutes away from Romania the Ukraine police wave me down for driving at 70 kph along the recently completed border motorway. A costly trap to be aware of in the future!
An official at the Romanian checkpoint greets my return to Europe,
’you’re the first Brit I’ve seen driving out of Ukraine and probably the last, welcome pal!’
‘I didn’t expect a fellow countryman, you’re army?’
‘Her Majesty’s A.F. posted to watch border! ...U.K / Romania cooperation to strengthen defence!‘
‘What! ...Suppose I can guess why, but isn’t it jumping the gun!’
‘It is ...if you get my meaning!’
‘Something going on? ...Coz I plan on coming back!’
‘I wouldn’t count on it!’
Slap bang next to the border sits an Irish hotel and restaurant with the original name! ‘The Frontier Hotel’ where east once met the west.
Unable to resist a taste of European hospitality and purely for comparison purposes, you understand, I tuck into duck salad, new potatoes and a half pint of bud! A sunny day, a hospitable manager and I’m ready to begin the last leg In vengeance.
The hotel’s location and facilities make it ideal for a first night stopover after a flight particularly as a tasty Irish breakfast can be had before tasting Nadia’s magic in Ukraine.
The Corona Challenge
Throughout my travels, Covid chaos continues to be a strange phenomena that on one level has enabled this business challenge (a year in solitary confinement plus the gov finance to British companies), but on another, brought about confusion resulting from too many decision makers reacting in their efforts to deal with the bug: For instance, rules are misinterpreted or plain ignored by each country‘s variations on a theme. Essential shops are often closed irrespective of the rules in place, and those that are open, often refusing to serve because I’m not wearing a mask that conforms to a country’s particular code. Arriving in a city during a curfew that‘s preventing me buying food, is uncomfortable, but leaving me in a proper dire strait has been the inability to find an open loo when I really needed one... Surely, it should be addressed as a matter of utmost priority by every government instigating hotel and restaurant closures!
Eighteen months ago, this global scenario would have been unthinkable but as we all know, it’s our reality today ...I often wonder if I’ve slipped into some kind of parallel where the old world remains oblivious to all of the reactionary happenings here, but c’est la vie!
With the exception of wealthy ski locations, the Romanian landscape remains predominantly natural with uncut bush and grasses melding with immense forests. Unsophisticated but no less appealing for that. Add the friendly people and an inexpensive economy and you can see the attraction for travellers in the future.
Steptoe and Son
As in Ukraine, cart horses adorn the highways and the country’s lesser roads, blending in with the architecture and characteristics of old Romania.
In the forecourt of a gas station, come local store, a five minute break taken to stretch my legs, turns into twenty after a heavy footed dray stands on my foot while I’m feeding his partner lumps of sugar.
My route east to west toward France takes me along the south side of the Carpathians through the never ending panorama of Bukovinia.
Despite a long day driving, just a few miles away on the north side of the mountain range lies Ukraine and the Bukovel region I left behind earlier this morning. Political separation over the years hasn’t diminished similarities in culture and architecture, I guess, partly due, to a lack of financial injection from big business.
By late evening I arrive in Bia Mara where a much needed stopover awaits before tomorrow’s attempt to enter Hungary.
Having parked the car, the British plates attract two English speaking strangers, both eager to volunteer their help with the lingo and local territory.
The accomodation is great ...Westend London, furnishing ...stylish 1930’s Art Deco. I’m even woken by a world war 2 siren coming out of my iPhone at 7am alerting me to a Covid attack and imminent curfew within the city.
In times past I imagine Austria would have looked similar to the Romania of today.
Aged Tyrollean homes are dotted amongst ithe hills and mountainsides. Jaded yet attractive townships are situated alongside straight roads within grand valleys of some 50 kms in length. Back to back, well proportioned shanty homes serve a sizeable ethnic and Romany populous. Many small holdings and market gardens sit amongst them and yet all are without a distinguishable town centre. No motorways exist in the country but the ski routes and main roads are of good quality, the side roads, like Ukraine, are rough. Police don’t tolerate any alcohol and speeding over 40 kmh is strictly adhered to by a few drivers.
Next blog: The 39 coming soon.