Sunday, January 16, 2011

A 3-Day Trip to Kamianets-Podilskyi

Kamianets-Podilskyi (some write "Kamyanets-Podilskyy") is one of my favorite spots in Ukraine. It's a small town of roughly 100 thousand people with a large old town located on a rocky outcropping surrounded by a scenic bend in the river Smotrych. The approach to the historic town is guarded by one of Ukraine's most expansive fortresses. The old town is gradually undergoing restoration and is a real pleasure to visit. (Ukraine's old historic towns are really beautiful — especially the Polish ones.)

With a 9-hour overnight train ride from Kiev, one can arrive here early in the morning and spend a day, or two, or three enjoying the locale. Not far away are Chernivtsi -- another gem of a city -- and the Khotyn fortress.

Our plan for the trip was to combine work with relaxation. We would need to stay somewhere with Internet in order to spend several hours a day working on our laptops. Seeing that this is Ukraine, we made no plans in advance and decided to just scope out the options along the way. All our stuff packed into two small backpacks, and we dressed warmly. It was -17 C when we arrived...

After stopping by a couple places we settled at "Kseniya" motel behind the fortress for 200 UAH a night for a double room (25 USD). The motel has wi-fi in the reception area and in the restaurant, and it was very convenient to use.

Since it was cold and we had a lot of work to do online, we planned to spend about 4-6 hours a day sightseeing. Kamianets-Podilskyi is perfect for this. One day we focused mostly on the old town, the next day we visited the castle and parts of the old town that we had missed. On the third day we took a minibus to Khotyn and walked down to the fortress — one of Ukraine's most famous. It was a 45 minute walk.

The pace of these towns is much slower than in Ukraine's big cities. There is not a place I would rather visit to get away for a "working holiday" than Kamianets-Podilskyi. And since this is Ukraine, I don't need a car to get there, I don't need to rent a car once I get there, I don't need to book a hotel in advance, and I can figure out everything I need to do on the fly. That is among the greatest advantages of living in Ukraine.

There's also plenty to do besides walk around. One night we went to the "7 Days" hotel for a little jazz concert. I saw a flier for it on a post shortly after we arrived. The entrance fee was 20 UAH (2.50 USD). The evening of our departure we spent a few hours hanging out in the London steak restaurant where there's wi-fi and a wide choice of relatively inexpensive dishes, tea, and coffee. If we'd had time, we probably would have gone bowling at a widely advertised bowling alley in the center.

It turns out there is also a small youth hostel in Kamianets-Podilskyi. I am curious to check it out, but it wasn't the best option for a couple.

Photos from our trip at

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