It has been quite a while since I’ve been back to my Motherland. The last time I traveled to Russia in 2004. I was young, traveled there with my American high school friend and was staying with Ira, my best friend who lives in St. Petersburg. During the 2004 trip I was very young (19), carefree and relied heavily on Ira to show us around. That trip involved quite a bit of partying as you might imagine given the lower drinking age in Europe.
The destination that I was most looking forward to during our trip was Russia. It’s not only Lena’s birthplace, but she also has family there that I hadn’t yet met. In the time that I have known Lena, I have also slowly been learning Russian. Through Lena and her family, I feel a connection with the culture and traditions.
You might be wondering what it would be like to be with your spouse 24/7 and travel full-time. Married or not, you can probably imagine how difficult that could be, given how stressful travel is at times. I have been saying that this trip is a true test of our relationship. Constantly moving around can be frustrating and success of this adventure depends on how well we can work together.
Eastern European foods we sampled during our trip through Poland, Russia and Ukraine had similar staples: potatoes, bread, butter, mayonnaise, snacks specifically made to go with beer and of course vodka chasers. Poles claim to have invented vodka or wodka (in Polish) as do Russians but Ukrainians have perfected the vodka experience with their best tasting pickles and variety of vodka flavors such as honey with pepper (yikes!). Many sources state that it was my people who produced vodka first in the area of today’s Russia in the late 9th century. However, in accordance with the allegations of many scholars, it had been distilled even earlier in the 8th century in Poland. Whatever
Our initial research on traveling over land to Lviv showed that it could be quite challenging. While the distance from Krakow to Lviv is only a little over 200 km, it takes a bit of time to get there by land. The border crossing is notorious for being slow due to smugglers.
From Krakow, we opted to take a train to the border town of Przemyśl. From there we would take a bus across the border and on to Lviv.
We arrived at Krakow’s Central Station around 9 am, just missing a train to Przemyśl. There wasn’t much information around, so we found a ticket kiosk and purchased a ticket for the next train, which left just before 11 am. We were surprised to find the train quite empty and ended up sharing a cabin with an older woman.