Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ukraine: When Travel brings Headlines Home

Travel not only makes the world feel smaller, it also brings the headlines home.  And with this week’s headlines, we are taking a brief break from our Hawaiian tales, to take you with us on a trip down our travel memory lane:

Back to Sevastopol, Ukraine.


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It has been three years since a Black Sea cruise introduced us to  Sevastopol, the city established in 1783 by Catherine II after Russia gained control of the region.

We spent but a few hours in this port city that figured prominently in the Crimean War (1854-55) and the Bolshvik Revolution.

Those few hours were far long enough, we had thought back then. 

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It was autumn. An incessant rain fell from a leaden sky. The sky and sea the same gun metal gray as the military ships docked not far from our pleasure craft.

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But have you ever found in your travels, there are a few places you visit - if even ever so briefly- that leave a  hauntingly vivid memory ~ the kind that keeps details alive in your brain and your soul? Sevastopol was such a stop for us.

As most of you know by now, we prefer to set off on our own to explore our cruise ports of call and this stop was no different.  We saw the usual ubiquitous influences of the Western World. . .

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They were ‘lovin’ it’ at McDonald’s and this hotel, (pictured below) the Best Western Hotel Sevastopol, was housed in a stunning building.

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We didn’t walk very far from the well-groomed flower beds of the park to find ourselves on  real neighborhood streets.

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It was the emptiness of the streets and the people,or the small numbers of them, we encountered that created the most vivid memories.  The rain perhaps kept people inside, but it was those few people we encountered that we we won’t forget.

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As we approached one trio I commented to The Scout that they had been staring at us – the hard penetrating kind, not the curiosity gaze - from the moment we came into view.  As we neared them, I smiled and they raised their eyes, focusing on some far distant spot over our shoulders; as if we’d ceased to exist.

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Another trio stood talking on the sidewalk outside this church – until I paused to take photos of the façade. They quickly disbanded. (I took this photo to capture the bullet holes that you see in the upper right hand corner.)

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In watching the news this week, I think back to the somewhat Pollyanna-like observation I made to The Scout as we walked back to the ship, “Gee, these people aren’t very friendly. They don’t even make eye contact or smile at us.”

To which he replied, “Think of their past.” 

Today, I wonder if it perhaps it wasn’t the past, but their present and future that caused their behavior?

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The last photo I took of our stop in Sevastopol was of the submarine off our side as we set sail.

Have any of your travels brought headlines home? Or did some place send you home with hauntingly detailed memories of it?

We’ll be back soon with more tropical tales for you. We appreciate your time and interest and would love to hear from you. And please come back again soon! 

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox

29 comments:

  1. Hello Jackie and Joel:

    A most interesting and, very sadly, most topical post at present. What you say about the people resonates very strongly with us. Even today in this country in which we have made our home there remains, particularly among the older generation, a mistrust of foreigners.

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    1. Isn't it sad to think that these older folks lived through such traumatic times that they still carry a mistrust of foreigners? We sometimes forget how lucky we are to have lived our lives in a free world? Thanks for joining in this conversation, Jane and Lance - I see the post has prompted some interesting memories and observations. See you soon!

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  2. Interesting observations, Jackie. I remember being in Berlin around 1973 or 74, and one thing that has always stayed with was how unfriendly the people seemed to be. Perhaps it had something to do with the Wall still being up. I don't know. Now when people talk or write about Berlin it's how great the city and the people are. However, I will always remember Berlin as the unfriendly city!

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    1. We actually met a young woman, a blogger, on a cruise a few years ago whose writings were about all the wonderful things in Ukraine. She posted lovely photos and tales, but I've not seen any 'feed' from her now in months. I can't help but wonder if blogging wasn't all she expected or if it was her subject matter that became difficult.

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  3. It's a shame, but I keep hearing similar too. It feels an uneasily spooky place and I wonder why the people are unfriendly. Is there an element of being scared and scarred perhaps.

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    1. I think you nailed it, Jo: 'scared and scarred' probably sums it up the best. Thanks for your visit today~

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  4. I've had both, Jackie. During my time in Barcelona there were bombings, a train derailment and plane crash. All made the news internationally and my poor mother called frantically each time to make sure I was okay.
    My brief visit to Yucatan has left an indelible imprint on my mind and soul. Would love to see it again now.

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    1. Yes, I was also thinking it would be interesting to see the city (after things - hopefully - calm down) but I suspect cruise ships will be altering their routings in the Black Sea for awhile and I am not eager to fly there, so will have to rely on others' tales and experiences.

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  5. I've only seen a submarine on display at a maritime museum, never one actually in use. You paint a very interesting picture of the Ukraine from the people to the bullet holes. We visited Tibet in October, and I realized I had been a little naive before we arrived. There were Chinese soldiers in a lot of places and many checkpoints because they are worried about the Free Tibet movement. I was expecting lots of Dalai Lama Buddhist acceptance of everything, not the unshakeable sense of being watched.

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    1. I sometimes think it is good to approach travel as well-informed, but naive, because I might not go places like Ukraine or Tibet if I weren't a bit naive. . .or as I described, Pollyanna-ish. I had been excited to see even a glimmer of the area as my maternal grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. from Russia. . .the other thing I said to Joel is, "Now I understand why!"

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  6. Today its probably not a stop on the cruise you took.

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  7. One of my very good friends spent a few weeks in the Ukraine last summer (18 mos ago). She was with her Ukrainian sister-in-law so she had a phenomenal experience, mainly because they had a lot of interaction with family. Still the family had very little money and life was hard. I can't imagine how much harder it is now. I did a blog thanks to my friend - and it includes a number of interesting observations. Here's the link should you be interested - http://hikebiketravel.com/22100/destination-western-ukraine/

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    1. I will definitely read it - sorry I missed it the first time. Thanks for sharing the link, Leigh.

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  8. I was so hoping one of my blogger friends would post something on Ukraine from their personal experience, Jackie. And thank you. The past 2 weeks have been a crash course education for me on the goings on there. I was fascinated how you described the people being aloof. I can't even fathom what they have experienced in their life vs being so spoiled here on levels in the States. The submarine was a definite exclamation point. Good post, our friend :)

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    1. Oh Mike, thank you! It is always a balancing act of 'do you write about the not-so-pretty/nice/welcoming or just keep putting in the happy stuff. This one stop had an amazing impact on me. . .it was hauntingly empty - the streets were quite obviously empty but you couldn't help but feel the souls of those folks we passed were also empty.

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  9. Hi Jackie, this such a powerful post knowing that what's going on in the streets of Ukraine today is dramaticaly differnt from the quiet and peacful streets you had seen then. And what an interesting experience and insight you had with the local. Joel was right about attributing it to their past. I think their past made them suspicious and not trusting of anyone and it's sad. I guess its their fear of going back to that past that makes them behave the way they do today.

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    1. It is amazing to put context to what we are seeing on television to what we experienced. We so take for granted our freedoms -- it is a good side benefit of travel. . .I come home counting my blessings from some destinations!

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  10. An interesting observation about Berlin pre and after the wall coming down. Hopefully Ukraine will undergo a change in years to come.

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    1. It will be interesting to see what Ukraine looks like in the next few years and also interesting to look back at Berlin as well. Thanks for stopping by today~

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  11. Yes, this news hits home. Lets hope things improve soon. I must let you know that your Captcha code is very annoying!! Have you tried using a spam filter instead ???

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    1. Have you ever met a security code on a blog that isn't annoying, Seana? I've given up leaving comments on Word Press blogs because no matter what password I choose, it is never 'valid' on more than one person's blog. You'd think the creators could come up with something more user friendly. And yes, I do use a spam filter as well as Captcha - and still the spam comments sneak through. . .thanks for percervering!

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  12. I saw and experienced similar things driving through Bosnia a few years ago. My heart ached for them, wondering how you ever recover from the horrors they've seen. XO

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    1. Oh goodness, I can't imagine how sad Bosnia would have looked and you do find yourself wanting to hug everyone you meet, just to spread a bit of love and warmth, don't you? Thanks for the visit today! xo

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  13. The whole situation in Ukraine really saddens me, I hate the feeling that there is nothing I can really do to help. I guess having been there it must feel even more real and heartbreaking for you. Sounds like a surreal experience you had there.

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    1. Hi Catherine, Thanks for stopping by TravelnWrite - we hope to see you here often! You are correct about it feeling like a surreal experience, I kept saying it was like filming a Twilight Zone segment where Rod Serling (in the original show) would step out and say, "Jackie and Joel Smith have realized they aren't in a world they know any longer. . ."

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  14. Such a poignant post. I've often had the same feelings - like at the time of the devastating earthquake in Chile, or last June during the riots in Turkey. There's something about travel that connects us to the place and the people we met there, and there's no question that it makes it more aware of the headlines.

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    1. Hi Beth, Thanks for taking time to leave a comment and we hope to see you back here as a regular! I wrote a blog post some time ago about 'when places become people' and that is exactly what you seem to have experienced as well. No longer do I just glance at the headlines - I pay attention to what is happening on those streets I walked and to people I've passed along the way. (Read your blog and loved it - you'll be seeing me there again!)

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  15. I welcome this Hawaiian break for this powerful post. It's always great to read observations from visitors to countries caught in turmoil before it got thrusted into the headlines. Judging from these pictures, it feels a bit desolate even with that very fancy BW. After learning more about them in the news recently, it's understandable. I'm glad you took us back with you on this trip.

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    1. Thanks much Mary! I always wonder if readers prefer seeing just 'the good' stuff or if sometimes a bit of 'reality travel' needs to be intermixed. I am sure you've seen both, just as we have. Thanks for the visit today - always appreciated.

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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