I Barely Survived My Visit To Ukraine

I Barely Survived My Visit To Ukraine

By |2016-07-01T15:33:23+00:00August 8th, 2013|Ukraine|68 Comments

Visit to Ukraine

My apologies for the lack of activity as of late. I arrived in the city of Lviv, Ukraine back on July 29th and I’ve been in the country ever since. However, I have also been quite sick during that entire time unfortunately. It all started the day after I arrived – a cold, a temperature, body aches, sore throat, cough – and while the symptoms began to subside by about my fourth day in town, they all became much worse soon after.

And so, four days ago, I found myself in the beautiful village of Kosmach, Ukraine, in the Carpathian Mountains, unable to get out of bed at the family-owned guesthouse where I was staying. It was a real shame actually because I was very much looking forward to exploring this part of the country and I had a nice itinerary of activities lined up for me as well. I had managed to connect with the wonderful people from Active Ukraine, a small eco-tourism business that is trying to bring foreigners, in an environmentally and culturally responsible manner, to some of the more off-the-beaten-path destinations of this country. We had started communicating via Twitter several months ago and when I finally managed to find time to visit Ukraine, I knew that I wanted to participate in one of their unique programs.

Although, I bet Olesia, my Active Ukraine guide, had no idea what was in store for her when our three-day trip to the mountains began. Instead of guiding me around the region, she ended up making frequent trips to the local pharmacy, boiling pot of tea after pot of tea and basically making sure I was still coherent, as I laid motionless in bed.

Luckily, it was a comfortable bed with a large window next to it, and with a large apple tree right outside that window. And that tree was home to many birds who seemed quite intent on trying to keep me positive with their cheerful tunes. It didn’t work though. They sang, I moaned and so the days passed.

Sick in Ukraine

On my second day in Kosmach, however, I did become a tad bit too optimistic when I declared to Olesia that I felt good enough to attempt the light hike that was planned for that day. Well, it wasn’t so light. I ended up on a five-hour hike, three hours of which was straight uphill, and to be honest, I was absolutely shocked that I didn’t just fall to my knees and pass out on several occasions. I have no idea how I survived that trip at all. Maybe the fresh mountain air helped me through the pain? Maybe it was the calming sight of the horses we passed or of the shepherd’s working on the mountainsides? Perhaps it was the blueberries, raspberries and strawberries that Olesia kept picking for me along the way? I have no idea.

Kosmach, Ukraine

What I do know is that as soon as the hike came to an end, a nice bout of delirium set in, I collapsed into bed and watched my body deteriorate at quite an incredible pace. My temperature rose to 38C/101F, my chest hurt more than ever, my sinuses were fully blocked, my head was pounding, my vision was a little blurry and I barely had a voice.

I passed out quickly and that was the end of my day.

I’m really not sure what happened with this visit to Ukraine.

I arrived in Lviv on such a positive note back on the 29th. My first day was splendid, roaming around the streets and lanes of a city that certainly felt under-appreciated by worldwide tourism. I couldn’t help but smile while outside wandering these streets…and the food, oh the borscht!, was my kind of food as well. The cafes were plentiful, the people were welcoming and easy to talk to and overall, Lviv felt like a town that could easily win the “Most Pleasant City in the World” contest, if there ever was one.

But then it all went downhill. It just happened, as it does sometimes.

And right now I am in Kiev, having just arrived from the mountains on an overnight train. The train journey was quite comfortable and incredibly, I’m feeling better today than I’ve felt in the past eight days. Of course, now that I have a little energy, I must sit at my laptop and catch up on work because in thirty-six hours I’ll be leaving Ukraine for my ‘secret destination’ that I mentioned in a previous post (I didn’t quite mention the actual destination yet!). And it appears that I won’t have internet for about a week once that trip starts. Plenty of work to do!

So, that’s my update. It seems that my body really did not want me to experience much of Ukraine for some reason. All I’m left with is random memories of strudel, borscht, horses, honey-infused vodka, chimichangas (don’t ask), a variety of medicines, homemade cheese, walnut gelato, lots of smiles, dirt roads, a cemetery, street musicians everywhere, a clock tower, nice people, beehives and tissues. I guess it could be worse.

*If you’re planning to visit Ukraine, I do highly recommend getting in touch with Oksana over at Active Ukraine. Depending on your individual interests, she will really give you an opportunity to experience something different during your travels to this interesting country.

How was your trip to Ukraine? Have you wanted to visit this country?


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  1. Marina Korovina June 27, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Hey! Here’s a little list of the places to see next time you’re here. Hope it won’t be as stressful 🙂 Marina Korovina

  2. Justina January 28, 2015 at 11:12 am - Reply

    Hi Earl, I’m glad you liked Ukraine, I went in August 2012 and had a vey unique exprerience – managed to spend a week with a ukrainian family in a village next to Lviv and attended a wedding 🙂 the family were my boyfriend’s relatives, most of his folks have never been there so we all packed up, all 7 of us, and went together! It was the most amazing experience and everyone was so friendly and welcoming. I had to act as an interpreted to my english boyfriend but since I’m Polish and know some russian I was fluent in ukrainian in no time. The title of your post made me laugh cause I could use the same one describing my visit – the first word I learnt was ”horylka” (vodka) Slava Ukrainie!

  3. Adam Pervez August 25, 2013 at 8:41 am - Reply

    This place has a way of sucking energy out of you the way India does. I went to the train station in Odessa yesterday to try and book a ticket. After one hour and waiting patiently at three windows only to be told “Niet” in response to the Google Translated sentence conveniently prepared on my phone, I found the secret room to buy tickets in advance and all they had left were the super expensive first class tickets.

  4. Adam Finan August 19, 2013 at 11:20 am - Reply

    You must be bulletproof at this stage Earl!

  5. Global Nomad couple August 13, 2013 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    Now it worked perfectlt. Must have been an issue at this end. Linked your site from our website (the dock on the right side in every page). Hope it will bring you more readers.

    Happy travels!

  6. […] was uneventful and involved mostly sleep as I tried to fight off the remaining remnants of the illness I had been battling for a week in Ukraine. And somehow I managed to sleep for most of the flight, which left me feeling […]

  7. Global Nomad couple August 11, 2013 at 9:22 am - Reply

    We have not been in Ukraine yet, but sounded a bit like Indian travel stories except that the health problem was not Delhi belly but flu. Did you check that you didn’t catch tuberculosis?

    ps. The CSS is again not loading for this page.

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 4:01 am - Reply

      @Global Nomads – I haven’t checked anything yet but will do so when I return to Romania next week. And I’m not sure about the CSS as everything seems to be in order and I keep testing it on many devices and nobody’s had an issue.

  8. Osvaldo August 10, 2013 at 10:30 pm - Reply

    This reminds me when I was in Cuenca, Ecuador, in 2012 and I got sick for 1 full day. Awful, but thank God the guy from Couchsurfing I was staying at that time made a supper that reinvigorate my body. Too bad I never got strengths to write a post about that ordeal.

    Enjoy Ukraine!

  9. Cathrine August 10, 2013 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Earl, I’m so glad to know that you are feeling much better.

    I caught a cold in Rome once that knocked me down so hard I just slept for 2 solid days while having to breath out my mouth. Blech.

  10. Gareth August 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    Moldova (an otherwise under-rated destination in my opinion).
    Luckily for us we weren’t sick as long as you and are now enjoying Yalta. Its a beautiful and fun place, although I must say, of all the places I’ve traveled, this is one of the most unforgiving if you don’t speak the language (Russian in this case).
    Anyway all the best with your ongoing travels. Belarus?

  11. Traveling Ted August 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    This reminds me of a time I was sick hiking in Big Bend National Park in Texas. I hiked 10 miles to a remote parking area where there were two cars. I rolled out my bedroll under the shade of the cars and slept the rest of the day. I wish I would have had a nice bed with birds out my window, but the shade of the cars did the trick. Hope you are feeling better.

  12. Gareth August 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl,
    Really enjoying reading your stuff since recently discovering the site.
    We’re in Ukraine ourselves right now and also suffered some nasty sickness. It meant we pretty much missed out on experiencing Odesa – a real shame as it looked beautiful – a bit like a smaller, hotter version of St Petersburg. It must be something we picked up in Moldova (an otherwise under-rated destination in my opinion).
    Luckily for us we weren’t sick as long as you and are now enjoying Yalta. Its a beautiful and fun place, although I must say, of all the places I’ve traveled, this is one of the most unforgiving if you don’t speak the language (Russian in this case).
    Anyway all the best with your ongoing travels. Belarus?

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:54 am - Reply

      Hey Gareth – Glad to hear you’re feeling better over there and able to enjoy your travels! And while I do want to visit Belarus, that won’t be the destination this time around 🙂

  13. Tyrhone August 10, 2013 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Nothing worse than being sick in a strange place. Lucky you had a nurse maid to feed you berries and borscht!

  14. Nick (theboywander) August 9, 2013 at 10:06 pm - Reply

    Chimichangas? Are we thinking of the same thing? Our local Mexican joint does them and they’re basically a flash fried burrito.

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:49 am - Reply

      Hey Nick – Same thing! It was a random Tex-Mex restaurant in Lviv that is owned by a guy from Texas. I was feeling sick and went for some chimichangas. They were quite good I must say.

  15. shane August 9, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Wow, glad to hear you are on the mend and ready for your next adventure. Stay safe mate. This brings back memories of my visit to Amsterdam, well the Amsterdam hospital and my lucky lake hostel caravan.

  16. The Epic Duo August 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    Glad to see you’re doing great now! sucks traveling when you’re sick though…but at least you’ve got some good random memories… borscht and honey-infused vodka…. id say awesome memories! Awesome sauce!

  17. Nelya August 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm - Reply

    I’m so glad that you like L’viv. It’s cute understated city and there is so much to do there. I can’t wait to go again. I hope you feel better, it’s one of the worst things to get sick while traveling.

  18. Toni August 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Sometimes our bodies really do tell us when we need a break whether we feel ‘ready’ for one or not!
    Glad you’re feeling better Earl 🙂

  19. Graeme Voigt August 9, 2013 at 4:58 am - Reply

    Oh damn’! Sorry to hear that man! Hope you are getting rid of it fast!
    Take care!

  20. Ces @ thrifty vagabond August 9, 2013 at 4:02 am - Reply

    Ugh! It sucks to get sick while traveling. I’d be utterly disappointed if I were in your situation. I’m glad that you are recovering now. Good luck on your next destination! I look forward to knowing that “secret destination”.

  21. Michael August 9, 2013 at 3:29 am - Reply

    Hey Earl, long time reader, it is a delight to read each and every blog post. Just wanted to write a personal thank you after being upgraded to business class on my tokyo to sydney flight last night, after implementing your upgrade tips. Cheers and ありがとう。

  22. kle August 9, 2013 at 1:16 am - Reply

    Did you discover what caused the illness in the end? Even if you are feeling better, it’s always good to check. I always take code fish capsule as i’m prone to get sick everywhere i go 🙂 When you were describing the hike i felt the pain! Must have been awful!
    Take care Earl, don’t overdo! we won’t go anywhere even if you don’t post regularly. So when are you going to reveal this “secret destination”?!

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:53 am - Reply

      Hey Kle – I didn’t find out the cause in the end but I’m feeling much, much better now. Will have to look into it once I’m back in Romania. And I’ll reveal the next destination tomorrow, minutes before I actually get on the plane to fly there 🙂

  23. ToGusDS August 8, 2013 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    hey dude!! glade to know you’re fine, it’s a shame you’ve lost some days lying on the bed, but sometimes its just like that.

    Get well soon.

  24. Ray August 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Rising up, back on the street
    You did your time, took your chances
    Went the distance, now you’re back on your feet
    …just a man
    …and his will to survive

    Glad you’re up & at’em

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:39 am - Reply

      Hey Ray – You can’t go wrong with those lyrics.

  25. Noor - Desert to Jungle August 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    Such a shame you got so sick and missed out on seeing more of the country. But also lucky that you had Olesia there to help you and that you’re on the mend and ready for the mystery destination 🙂

  26. Trevor Newman August 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks Earl,
    your writing is always something to look forward;hope you get better soon,
    Ps when are you doing tours of South America ?

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:41 am - Reply

      Hey Trevor – I’m not sure when I’ll do a South America tour to be honest. I generally plan tours based on the regions most people ask me about and South America doesn’t come up too often. But maybe I’ll put one together for next year and see if there is some interest!

  27. Brian Hill August 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    Earl, you should not have gone on that bike hike. You knew you were ill. Next time you are ill you should stay in the city, use public transportation and take it easy. I have had similar experiences and adapt my plans accordingly. What? no perogies.

  28. Gadi and Tun August 8, 2013 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    We are glad you survived.
    Ukraine is beautiful country, we know, we were born there.
    We hope you will have another chance in the future to explore its beauty.

    Wish you a good luck and good health.

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:42 am - Reply

      Thank you Gadi and Tun!

  29. Nicole August 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    I bet it was the blueberries. I think they have vitamin B!

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:42 am - Reply

      Hey Nicole – Makes sense to me. Without that fruit on that hike, I would not have survived very long at all.

  30. Jenna August 8, 2013 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Ah! It’s the worst to fall ill while travelling {this reminds me a lot of my entire time in Beijing} – glad you were at least somewhere comfortable with a person around to get you meds and make you tea! Glad you’re feeling better… can’t wait to hear about the secret destination.

  31. Staz August 8, 2013 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Glad you’re feeling better Earl! Can’t wait to hear about your secret destination, I’m living through you from my little office cubicle for now 🙂

  32. Oksana @ActiveUkraine August 8, 2013 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    So glad to hear that you are much better now! And well, if there was any place to get quiet rest in Ukraine, Carpathians are definitely it. We say – you had some ‘village therapy’ 🙂

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:43 am - Reply

      Hey Oksana – Good point, it was an ideal place to rest up, that’s for sure! ‘Village therapy’ is always better than ‘city therapy’ which never works nearly as well!

  33. Robert August 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Happy to hear that you are on the road to recovery and good health.

    I sometimes find I pick up a bug when flying. When you confine a few hundred people inside a flying sardine can for a few hours, sharing the same recycled air and germs, it’s no wonder we don’t become more ill.

    Hum.. another clue to your secret destination… no Internet. It sounds isolated. Or are you going dark by choice?

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:44 am - Reply

      Hey Robert – It’s not by choice. Leaving for that destination tomorrow (will put up a post about it right before I leave) and there won’t be internet for me to use while there.

  34. Julie Appleby August 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Getting sick while traveling is a big fear we all have…just imaging the wasted time and money while in bed somewhere strange. The few times I’ve been sick at home I’ve wondered what I would do if I were on an airplane or in a strange hostel somewhere. Earl, I hope all the embassy closings are not being too impactful on your travels.

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:45 am - Reply

      Hey Julie – It is a shame when you get sick but it does happen from time to time, just a part of traveling unfortunately! And I haven’t noticed the embassy closings on my travels…seems like things are back to normal at most of them now though.

  35. Cindy August 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    awww Earl,
    I hope you are feeling better! Thank you for sharing! You even make sickness read interesting! Sometimes it is just time to rest, watch birds and eat berries 🙂

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:45 am - Reply

      Hey Cindy – Exactly and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  36. C. the Romanian August 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    I guess it all started with that nasty donut you ate when you arrived to Ukraine! :)) It’s good to know you’re feeling well, though – you have to get ready for that secret destination trip!

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:46 am - Reply

      Hey C. – I don’t know what was worse, getting sick or eating that donut!

  37. Jaunting Jen August 8, 2013 at 11:28 am - Reply

    At least you had that one good day at the beginning!

  38. Samer August 8, 2013 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Get well soon Earl ! always take vitamin C during travel.

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:47 am - Reply

      Hey Samer – Taking vitamins while traveling is always a good decision!

  39. Kimmy @ AfterGlobe August 8, 2013 at 10:45 am - Reply

    I’m sorry to hear you got sick. Your body was just telling you to slow down and rest. We all need to at some point. Glad to hear you are feeling better now. Enjoy your “secret destination”.

  40. Scott August 8, 2013 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Chimichangas? In the Ukraine?
    That would be like having chili in Munich (oh wait, I did that, in a restaurant where I was literally sitting next to an English bulldog. He was a good eating companion, but drooled a lot).
    Glad you’re better

  41. Frank August 8, 2013 at 10:42 am - Reply

    I’m sorry to hear about you being sick Earl. It’s the only time I crave being back home and lying in my own bed.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  42. Megan August 8, 2013 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Aw! Being sick on the road sucks, but nothing is better than strudel, homemade cheese and walnut gelato! I didn’t even know that walnut gelato even existed!!! AMAZING!

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:38 am - Reply

      Hey Megan – I never knew it existed either and I certainly didn’t expect to find out that it does in a tiny Ukrainian village!

  43. Jo (The Blond) August 8, 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Sounds like another adventure. Glad you feel better though.

  44. Owen August 8, 2013 at 10:27 am - Reply

    I’m sorry to hear you were so ill Earl! I’m glad that you had Olesia to take care of you. It’s nice to hear L’viv is such a pleasant place – I had a nice stay in the Polish city of Wroclaw a while back. I mention this because when the USSR took over L’viv, most of its people and cultural institutions moved to Wroclaw which I think (like Poland generally) is somewhere you might like a lot 🙂 (Krakow, Zakopane, and Torun are also awesome!)

    I hope you’re feeling better now!


    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:37 am - Reply

      Hey Owen – I’ve heard good things about Wroclaw and have a friend who was just there last week. I’ve actually never been to Poland at all so I must get there soon!

  45. Christina Gmyr August 8, 2013 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Ugh what a rough time it sounds like you had!! Glad you are feeling better now. Perhaps the chimichangas were where you went wrong 😉


    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:35 am - Reply

      Hey Christina – Actually, the chimichangas were great and I got sick several days before those things came into play!

  46. Sandy August 8, 2013 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Getting sick while in a new country is the absolute worst. Do you think that you picked up a bug in last location that made you sick while in the Ukraine? Would have loved to hear all about your perspective of the country, but maybe another time.

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:35 am - Reply

      Hey Sandy – I’m not sure because I felt 100% perfectly fine when I arrived in Ukraine. It all started on the second day quite out of nowhere. Hopefully I will get back there soon to understand more of the country!

  47. Joseph McLaughlin August 8, 2013 at 9:45 am - Reply

    Glad to read you’re alive and well. I’ll be interested to read about this ‘secret destination.’

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:34 am - Reply

      Thanks Joseph. I am finally feeling better and I shall announce my secret destination tomorrow!

  48. Forest Parks August 8, 2013 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Yikes Earl, that sounds nasty! Glad you are up and at it all again! Ukraine sounds amazing. I will visit once I settle in Hungary.

    Do you think getting sick on your travels overall makes your body weaker or stronger?

    Do you have a trip back planned?

    • Wandering Earl August 12, 2013 at 3:34 am - Reply

      Hey Forest – I would say before that getting sick made me stronger but the more I travel, I notice my body perhaps getting weaker after years of changing food, air, water, climate, sleeping in different beds, and all that!

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