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Visiting Ukraine

We mentioned to Florin (our tour guide in Maramureş) that we wanted to visit Ukraine, so he dropped us off at the Ukranian/Romanian border and said to call him when we wanted him to pick us back up…and we went to Ukraine! Madeline didn’t bring her passport, so she went to Sighet, but the rest of us went! 

Yes, we realize that there is a lot of craziness going on there right now (we were there the day after the President was impeached). Florin was making sure we’d be okay, and all 3 of them were like “Chloe knows self defense!” So, I felt the need to inform them that it’s called SELF defense, not GROUP defense. They accepted that, and we went on our way. 

We got our passport stamped when we left Romania, and then we walked across a bridge over the dividing river…

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…and were in Ukraine! Then we went to border patrol on the Ukrainian side…when the lady took my passport, she turned to the guy next to her and said “United States of America…” and they both laughed. Carley went next and they asked her what we were going to do, so she told them the truth – we just want to go walk around! So, we were all through! We’re not sure that they’ve EVER had 4 American girls walking across the border before…

This is the name of the village we were in!

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Hannah knows Russian due to her mission in Russia, so we used her. She was a shining star! There was a little shop, and I had to go to the bathroom, so Hannah and I headed inside while Alana and Carley waited outside. On the way in, we heard what sounded like a gunshot…we stopped, wondered if the other two were okay, decided they were, and headed inside. She asked if there was a bathroom there and I got to use it for free, which was unexpected. Then we just went and walked! Turns out the gunshot could have just been just an explosion. There was a pile of trash nearby that a kid had lit on fire, and as soon as the sound happened, the kid ran inside like he was scared…so it could’ve been something popping from his fire, for all we know.

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We were walking through a very….interesting…old….town…village. There were piles of garbage everywhere…like the one that was on fire. Oh, and when we were passing a different shop, we saw 2 kids playing, and one had a gun that looked totally real. Luckily, it was a toy, but it made real noises when he cocked it and he was holding it sideways and pretending to shoot stuff, including his friend. That was slightly sketchy. We kept walking, took pictures, and found a statue!

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These are some ladies that were in the park by the statue.

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A Jewish church. 

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The nicest building we saw the whole time we were there.

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Exploring

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After exploring a bit, we stopped in a shop. Hannah (she does all the talking in Russian and they all understand her) asked if they accept cards, and she said no…and we didn’t have any of the Ukrainian currency. So, we stopped in a different shop, and Hannah asked if they take cards or lei. He said he accepts lei…so we looked around! This is the shop….really, it’s a “shop”.

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Hannah found  some cookies she LOVES (from when she was on her mission in Russia) and bought 10 packages. I found a 7-Up in Ukrainian for my friend Judy who collects 7-up from different countries, and we also bought Snickers Super bars (and we also got one for Madeline, of course). When the man was adding up the total in lei, he had a hard time counting in Romanian for us. On the way out, he was chatting with Hannah. When we left, we asked her what they were talking about. She said he asked if we were from America, and she said yes. He asked how she knows Russian, and she said she lived in Moscow for a year and a half. He asked what other language she knows. She said just English, Russian, some Romanian, and sorry, but no Ukrainian. He said to not worry about learning Ukrainian, there is no need for it. We found that interesting, because that’s the same thing that a lot of Romanians say about learning Romanian!

After that, we left. We were in Ukraine for probably about 30-45 minutes. And it was SO worth it!

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On the way out, the border patrol on the Ukrainian side were talking to Hannah in Russian. He said he couldn’t believe we were from America because we are not fat! Uhm…thanks?

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The border patrol on the Romania side on the way back….the lady asked us if we had cigarettes or alcohol, and we said no. She looked at us, then went and got a big guy. He asked us if we had cigarettes. We said no. He asked why. We said it’s because we don’t smoke. He looked confused, but let us go. Like champs.

You see, cigarettes are a lot cheaper in Ukraine, so people go there to buy them. We learned that from our tour guide. 

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It was really nice to get back into Romania. It felt like coming home after a crazy, dangerous adventure. It was incredible to see how nice Romania looked after being in this tiny village in Ukraine.

Also, I’ve officially been to 9 countries. It will be 10 in April when I go to Ireland! I’m really glad we got to walk to Ukraine, and that we were safe. 

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Visiting Maramureş: Exploring Vadu Izei

We got to take a vacation and go visit Maramureş! We stayed at Casa Muntean in Vadu Izei. Florin is the name of the man that owns Casa Muntean. He took us on a tour the second and third days we were there. The first day we were there, we went exploring! We walked around Vadu Izei for about 2 and a half hours, and learned a lot about everyday life in the small villages in the mountains of Romania. We asked Florin about some of it when we got back, and learned even more. 

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We went down random streets and saw beautiful things. So many colorful houses, horses pulling wagons and trailers, a 3-wheeled car, chickens, and so much more.

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So many houses had satellite dishes, yet they were hang drying their clothing. We found it very interesting that they’d buy a satellite dish instead of a dryer. I guess you just go with what you are used to!

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Also, no running water as far as we could tell – almost every house had a well! I’m not sure if they were all in use, or if some had running water, but we saw a lady getting water out of her well. We later learned from Florin that about 50% of the houses have running water. Everyone has a well, and you just have to decide if you can afford to get a pipe system or not.

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We also saw so many intricately detailed carved wooden fences. 

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 And some really ghetto sketchy fences. And some really amazing homemade fences.

For the fence below, we imagined the dad saying “Son, get some sticks. We need a fence.”

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I love that each house is distinctly different. Some are painted, some are covered in beautiful tiled artwork (the tiles are made of ceramic), and some have both. We had so much fun strolling along the roads.

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We tried to go and visit a glass maker and a rug maker, but they weren’t home. Very unfortunate. We did find a river, which was COVERED in trash on the banks. But Carley was VERY happy to go down by it. She’s such a water girl.

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We also saw log cutters! They had tree trunks and were cutting it with an electric saw – a HUGE one. And then another guy would carry the forever long slat to a pile – it was really incredible to see it in action. 

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We also noticed that most of the horses had red tassels hanging off of their heads. 

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We later learned that the purpose of the red tassels is to ward off the evil eye. It is a superstition, but many people are afraid of the evil eye, so they wear red. Alana asked “even the horses?” And Florin said “Yes, I guess so.” He seemed to think it was a weird superstition, but we saw it everywhere!

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The streets were lined with trees cut to a stub. 

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A bridge that we cross over had holes…deep holes…can you tell which feet are mine?

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We had so much fun exploring!

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