When Tori and I finally made it home to Sokyriany, our first order of business was not a town tour. It was not a fantastic home-cooked meal. It was going to bed and sleeping 12 hours straight, shortly following showers so we could feel clean again. Only then could I introduce Tori to the wonder that is Sokyriany, my hometown in Ukraine.
We started out with introductions to my closest Ukrainian friends; she met Olha Petrivna and her sons, Slavic and Petro (whom I like to call Petunia), as well as some of my students, my fellow English teachers, and even the shop assistants who have become my friends over the course of two years. Then Tori got a tour of town; she got to see my school, the Administration where Olha has a coffee shop, and Slavic’s office, where I spend time getting tutored in Ukrainian and being impressed with his English.
We also spent lots of time in my apartment just relaxing, enjoying fast Internet and planning the details for our Euro-trip. It was much easier to plan some of the fine details with Tori present, such as which hostels to book and what sites we had to see. I also worked in some quality time in the kitchen, and to my delight I found that Tori and I are very compatible cooking companions. She’s one heck of a sous chef, and we also have similar appetites so she liked everything I proposed cooking.
My favorite night (and one of Tori’s favorite recipes) was Vodka Penna Pasta. I can’t share the recipe with you, because its mine and I’ve perfected it and I don’t want anyone else taking credit for it. So if you’re intrigued by this dish, you’ll just have to have me make it for you 😉 Tori made a yummy tomato and cucumber salad while I did the pasta, and we had quite the evening.
We even had a little party at my apartment when Erin and Michelle, two of my favorite PCV friends, came for a slumber-party. We made tons of yummy food (five courses, I believe), and capped the night off with a showing of Moulin Rouge. It was a great day, to say the least.
This was perhaps the hardest week of the summer for me, emotionally speaking, because I finally worked up the courage to end things with the British guy. But I’m just thankful I got to be home for a while and surrounded by the love of my friends. One of my favorite authors said that “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love,” and I totally agree. Couldn’t have said it better myself (hence the quote). Or if we take The Beatles’ perspective, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Amen to that.
And I’m not just referring to my American friends here; one of my favorite days in Sokyriany with Tori was when we went to the nearby Dniester River with my Ukrainian friends, Slavic and Petro, and their friends Artem and Ksusha. We packed a picnic and spent the day laying in the sun, swimming in the river, and generally having a wonderful day. Slavic took care of all the details, and all I can say is that he is an incredible planner. He thought of everything, even down to all the food, and arranged transportation to a “base” on the Dniester that he found. There are many “bases” on the river, but I’m not really sure what we’d call that in English… its kind of like a private campsite, complete with swimming area. The base we went to was located in the middle of nowhere, so it was completely unspoiled natural beauty. The weather was perfect too; low 90s (for those of you who appreciate fahrenheit) or 32-33 degrees celsius. I couldn’t have imagined a better day if I tried : ) I’m pretty sure it was one of Tori’s favorite days in Ukraine, too!
So Tori and I enjoyed summer-time Sokyriany for a little more than a week… and then we left for our Euro-trip! I wish we could’ve had more time in Sokyriany, but Europe was calling and we had to answer. We’ve been planning this trip since early in my Peace Corps experience; Tori knew she wanted to come visit, and we figured the summer after graduation and before college starting would be perfect. And I saved two weeks of my precious vacation time so we could do a little traveling outside of Ukraine while she was here.
This was a trip of epic proportions, years in the making and months in the planning. And it had finally arrived! Here’s an itinerary so you can follow where our Euro-trip led us. The following blog posts will be arranged by country, so you can have a peak at each of the places we stopped:
- Poland (Krakow, Auschwitz, and the Wieliczka Salt Mine)
- Austria (Vienna, a wine tour of the Viennese countryside)
- Slovenia (the capital Ljubljana and the Postojna Caves [the largest in Europe!])
- Croatia (Zadar, Split, Dubrovnik, Zagreb)
- Bosnia (Mostar and Sarajevo)
- Hungary (Budapest!)
- L’viv (Ukraine; our ending point, from whence Tori flew home and my personal favorite city in this country!)
Let the Eurotrip blog posts commence!