Tag Archives: Ukraine


Day 38: Baturyn, Ukraine to Hlukhiv, Ukraine

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Start: Baturyn, Ukraine
End: Hlukhiv, Ukraine
Distance: 97.1km
Elevation Gain: 1666ft
Elevation Loss: 1534ft
Time: 7h55m
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: WTF podcast (Thomas Dolby/Marshall Crenshaw interviews); The Moth (I really wish they would make their full episodes available as podcasts); Planet Money; Cure for Pain – Morphine

Got an early start this morning in order to explore Baturyn — an ancient capital of the Cossack Hetmans. Unfortunately, it was a Monday so the sights didn’t open until later in the day, however, friendly docents allowed me to wander around. After an uprising led by Cossack Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1648, the Left Bank gained independence from Poland (and also killed many Jews). Baturyn became the capital of the Cossack Hetmanate from 1669 to 1708. While Ukrainians hold the period as a pivotal time in the fight for an independent Ukraine, Khmelnytsky eventually ends up signing a treaty with Moscow for protection that leads to centuries of Russia rule in the Left Bank.

Most of the original buildings from the Hetmanate period have long been destroyed but Baturyn is another example of former President Yushchenko’s movement to highlight Ukrainian history. The former palace of Count Kirill Razumovsky (the last and mostly emasculated Hetman from 1750) has been renovated and a giant wooden fortress in the Cossack style was built overlooking the town. The modern town comes off mostly as a dinghy road rest stop with minimal connection to the historical Baturyn celebrated by the monuments. But, it was interesting to be in a physical place steeped with history.

The day’s ride was almost entirely straight along the E101 motorway. Some long distances between services had me thirsting for juice but the cloud cover was a welcome respite from the blazing sun. Just outside of Hlukhiv, I met a white dog traveling in the opposite direction. I suppose maybe he’s from Moscow and headed to Kiev, and my conversation with him was about as fruitful as my other attempts to communicate with Russian speakers.

I’m staying at a guesthouse right at a lake on the outskirts of Hlukhiv (~$20 for private room, wifi, a/c and a great homecooked meal). Took a dip in the lake to cool off after the day’s ride. Road into town which was cute with some nice wide, tree lined streets. This description makes it sound charming but I don’t think I have much more energy to explore. Tomorrow I exit “Little Russia” and enter the big one.


Day 37: Nizhyn, Ukraine to Baturyn, Ukraine

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Start: Nizhyn, Ukraine
End: Baturyn, Ukraine
Distance: 96.2km
Elevation Gain: 721ft
Elevation Loss: 686ft
Time: 7h26m
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Russia the Wild East – BBC 4 Series by Martin Sixsmith on 1000 years of Russia history; Nerdist (Billy Crystal interview); WTF podcast (Kristen Schaal interview); Stuff You Should Know

About 20km into today’s ride, stopped at the memorial to the Battle of Kruty, an important event in the history of independent Ukraine. The waning days of WWI were a chaotic time in Ukraine. Neighboring empires were collapsing and the Bolsheviks were in the process of grabbing power in Russia after the Tsar abdicated. For the first time in nearly 1000 years, a central authority (the Central Rada) declared an independent Ukrainian state. However, people were confused and the Ukrainian army of nearly 300,000 dissolved. The Bolsheviks invaded Ukraine in the name of a united Russian Peoples (and also because they needed Ukrainian food and raw materials). Without an army, the Central Rada dispatched a ragtag group of students to defend the homeland. A group of 300 schoolboys confronted 4,000 Bolsheviks traveling by armed train on their way to Kiev at Kruty and were absolutely massacred. The event was officially forgotten during the Soviet era, but newly independent Ukraine with the direct involvement of former President Yushchenko recently created this monument to the fallen students. In addition to the monument, there are replica train cars which can be toured with photos and memorabilia from the battle. Armed trains were popular during the Russian civil war (and by Mexican rebels if you remember Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch) but quickly fell out of favor since it’s pretty easy to destroy a train with an airplane. The “curator” on sight was very friendly and gave me a tour though lacking a common language and English translations of the exhibit, most of my information came from prior reading.

Some decent flat riding on rough roads followed. Passed a lot of corn and my first wheat fields. For the last 30km, I caught up with the E101, a secondary motorway which I’ll follow all the way into Russia. Nice smooth road with good shoulder made for easy, if tired, riding. Spending the night near Baturyn, an important Hetmanate center from the time when bands of Cossacks fought for this part of Ukraine’s Right Bank.


Day 36: Oster, Ukraine to Nizhyn, Ukraine

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Start: Oster, Ukraine
End: Nizhyn, Ukraine
Distance: 95.7km
Elevation Gain: 799ft
Elevation Loss: 687ft
Time: 6h55m
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: Russia the Wild East – BBC 4 Series by Martin Sixsmith on 1000 years of Russia history; WTF podcast (Seth Rogen interview); Transom; PRI’s The World in Words; Yeezus – Kanye West (not bad, but not My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)

Quick morning dip in the water and abbreviated breakfast of oatmeal and coffee due to large amount of mosquitoes (rivers make picturesque camping spots; they also attract bugs). Nearly flat ride all day. Alternating between smooth asphalt, rough road and sticky road (covered with a sealant that I could feel was sticking to my tires as the day heated up). The weather is hot! Routinely hitting 85-90 degrees F and no shade to hide. I feel like Buster Bluth binging on juice at every stop but still thirsty.

Passed a large monastery in Kozelets. Services were ongoing, so in my bike gear I just quickly popped my head in and continued on. Stopped at Nizhyn for the night. Many churches scattered throughout the town. Giant pizza for dinner (unable to finish) and time for sleep.


Day 35: Kiev, Ukraine to Oster, Ukraine

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Start: Kiev, Ukraine
End: Oster, Ukraine
Distance: 83.1km
Elevation Gain: 1038ft
Elevation Loss: 1018ft
Time: 6h20m
Reading Material:Ukraine: A History, 4th Edition – Orest Subtelny
Audio Material: On The Media; EconTalk (Bruce Schneier interview); Stuff You Should Know; Fresh Air Gandolfini remembrance

Turns out Kiev is a pretty late sleeper. Most cafes don’t open until 10am, so I had my own power croissant and pastry breakfast with a pourover coffee and was on my way by 9am. Big thanks to Viktor Zagreba, one of the bicycle enthusiasts in Kiev working on extending the EuroVelo network east, for some routing assistance which made for a pleasant and safe exit from the Kiev metro area.

I crossed the Dnieper into the region of Ukraine historically known as the Left Bank (look at the river from the perspective of a Kievian Russian in the 10th century floating down the river to the Black Sea, and not the “right” side of a modern map). After the destruction of the Kievian Rus empire by the mongols, the Left Bank often fell under control of Moscow whereas the Right Bank was fought over by Russians, Poles and the Austria-Hungary empire.

Peaceful cycling on decent roads ensued. I found the physical instantiation of Sky Mall and passed what I can only describe as a Tatooine Sand Person riding a bicycle in the opposite direction. Arrived in Oster (named for the large Oster River which passes through town) and even though it was only 330pm, decided the river would make too good a camping spot to pass up. Picked up a salmon steak in local market (my fishing skills are horrible, but I’m pretty good in a grocery store) and had a nice dinner and evening by the surprisingly swift (I will swim in any body of water) river.