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Biking in the Carpathians
Inna Danylyuk bicycled along the routes that have been mapped in the Carpathian Mountains by the BikeLand Project. She was so impressed by her biking hike that she wanted to share her impressions with WU readers.
The ubiquitous feature of the Carpathian Mountains is smereka — the local name for the fir tree. Walking through a smereka forest, on the springy ground overgrown with lush moss calls to mind characters from fairy tales of old. Really, I would not be too much surprised if one of the fairy tale creatures would step from behind the bole of one of the magnificent smerekas that spread her boughs wide. The meadows display carpets of wild flowers; shrubs decorated with cobwebs hide mushrooms. Many of the herbs are much taller than elsewhere.
I did not feel an unwelcome alien in Carpathian smereka forests which are friendly to newcomers.
These and many other impressions I got when recently I did some exciting biking in the superbly scenic Carpathians. I could do it thanks to the BikeLand Project that greatly facilitates bicycling in the Carpathians.
The BikeLand Project was launched in 2009 as a joint effort of a group of enthusiasts from the town of Yaremche, and of members of the public organization Center of Social and Business Initiatives. The Project earned a grant from the European Union that took upon itself most of the expenditures involved in carrying out the project. Officially, the project works with the support of the EU Commission within a Rumania-Ukraine good-neighborhood program.
The BikeLand Project has put on map about fifty routes suitable for biking of varying difficultly — the routes range from those that are easily accessible to the beginners to those that may challenge experienced bikers. The priority consideration in suggesting these routes was the scenery that the bikers traveling along them can enjoy. There are 700 bike stops on these routs. Some of the hotels have been equipped with bi-
cycle washing facilities, bicycle “garages,” bicycle repair shops. New bicycle stores and rent-a-bicycle points have been opened.
The BikeLand Project has scored initial successes and there are plans to map out new routes and expand them to other areas of Ukraine. It should be admitted that bicycling in general and bicycle tourism in particular are underdeveloped in Ukraine. The roads are not marked in any way to safeguard bikers, there are no bicycle stations or bicycle hotels to be found across the country.
However, since the BikeLand Project was launched, the number of biking tourists to the Carpathians and western Ukraine from other parts of Ukraine and from the neighboring foreign countries has begun to grow.
Those who are not sure they should go alone can hire an instructor or a bicycle route guide. Tourists can find accommodation in big and small hotels or even in homes of the locals.
Those who are sure of their biking skills and physical endurance can go to Mount Hoverla, the highest mountain in the Carpathians rising to the height of 2,061 meters (6,762 feet) riding their bikes part of the way to the top!
It is said that “a true Ukrainian” should at least once in his or her lifetime climb Hoverla — and I did it though not riding my bike but on foot!
When we, a group of journalists, arrived at the foot of Hoverla on our bikes, we dismounted, but the professional bicyclers who accompanied us did not. True, they did not ride all the way but had to schlep their bikes at the steepest inclines and at places impossible to navigate on a bike. Looking at them I admired their strength and endurance — when I seemed to have reached the end of my thither, their apparent indefatigability spurred me on.
At the same time, I realized that if I had been dragging up my bike with me, I would hardly be able to pay attention to all those wild flowers and herbs that covered the slope. And they were worthy of being looked at and appreciated for their modest, delicate and yet wonderful beauty. They are as much a Carpathian feature as smerekas are. Once in a while I stopped to better take in the gorgeous vistas that kept opening up and changing as we climbed higher and higher — forested slopes, shady valleys, silver streams united to produce a stunning landscape.
I did feel happy to reach the summit — it felt like a considerable accomplishment and I was rewarded by a breathtaking view.
Biking across the Carpathians proved to be a memorable and exciting experience. I did not choose a route to test my strength and biking skills — I wanted to enjoy the sights, to smell the forest fragrances, to feel good. I stopped at little cafes for refreshments, I had meals at the local restaurants that serve the dishes typical of that area of Ukraine. I even hunted for mushrooms and did find a number of huge edible specimens locally known as “white mushrooms.”
BikeLand has done a wonderful thing — it has opened the Carpathians for me and I’m sure for so many others in a new and exciting way.
Journalists, members of the press tour which was organized
The biking party walked rather than bicycled the part of the climb where the slope of Hoverla Mountain was too steep.
Photos have been provided
by BikeLand Project