Day 79–84: Castles and a Crazy Bullet

The grounds of the first castle we visited. The changing leaves made the whole thing quite picturesque.

Day 79:

It’s Sunday, and voting day in Ukraine. Everyone will vote in the morning ( I won’t, of course, as I’m not a citizen ) and then I have an offer from a couple of people from SoftServe to go visit two castles today. We head out at about 11:00 in a car. I’ve been riding in buses, taxis, and trains for so long that I’ve almost forgotten how convenient it is to drive in a car … and how inconvenient it is to try to find a parking spot in a car.

The first castle we visited. Castles in Ukraine remain very much fortresses instead of palaces.

I’m having a hard time remembering the correct name for each of the castles we visited, but they were both very cool. I’m pretty sure the first one was called “Ho-tin”. The second, I have no clue.

Inside the walls of the first castle.

The first castle is at the site of a famous battle against the Turks, where Ukraine turned back an invading army. It’s dated from the very early 1600’s and was never conquered while occupied.

When you see how tall the walls of this castle are, you can see why it was never conquered. It was definitely a formidable fortress. Further, it’s placement on a river provides a great transportation highway and a water supply for the moat.

There is a rather gruesome legend that goes along with this first castle, related to the large brown spot you see on the wall above. It is said that some prisoners were buried alive inside the wall of the castle and that the brown spot is the stain of their blood as they tore up their hands trying to claw their way out. The stain is likely something else entirely, but that’s the story that goes with it.

From the river, the castle looks quite impressive and imposing.

One castle down, and time to check out the second.

It’s hard to see the second castle in this picture because the sun was giving me problems at this angle, but the sight is impressive in person.

The second castle is also placed on a river, though this one’s position is quite interesting. The river in this case forms a loop around a city that sits on an island in its center. Basically, the “river” is a lake with a huge island in the middle that makes it continue to look like just a river. At the point where the river flows into this loop, the castle sits — guarding against anyone who would invade the city.

Some of the stalls in the castle that would have likely been used for work have been turned into shops and a bar. Kind of an interesting idea, and not as disruptive as you would think.

My pictures of this castle are mostly very bad. Part of that is because I’m a bad photographer, but another part is because the sun just would not cooperate with me at all. It was definitely a fun and worthwhile castle to visit. We also paid a few UAH to fire a crossbow at a small range they had set up. That was fun.

After seeing both castles, we had steak at a local restaurant themed after England, complete with a double-decker bus and phone booth outside. Then, it was time to make the drive back to Chernivtsi and call it an evening. Great way to spend a Sunday.

Day 80:

Back to work. I’ve only got six working days left in Ukraine, so I need to make them all count. I have also discovered that I really like “cernicki” ( Сырники ) for breakfast. Kind of a hard dish to explain, but think of a mini-pancake filled with cottage cheese and then topped with a semi-sweet cream sauce and powdered sugar. So yeah, not the most healthy — but tasty.

Day 81:

So, maybe we’re visiting Rancho ( the cowboy-themed pizzeria I mentioned in my last post ) a lot. It’s close to work, decently priced, and has a decent enough variety of foods. The caesar salad they have is actually quite good. Some of their decor is also fun, as this picture of a lamp will attest.

The lamps in Rancho are made from Jack Daniel’s bottles.

In the evening, we head to the city center and a restaurant with a German theme called “Bier Platz” ( translates from German to English as Beer Place … that was probably a hard one to figure out, eh? ). We’re not there for the beer though, we’re there for meat. And while it takes almost an hour to prepare, the results are delicious.

Bier Platz is in a basement, but it’s themed to look like a city street in Germany.

Day 82:

Again, we’re at Rancho. Today, I order the “crazy bullet” pizza, which is a meat pizza with jalepeno’s and other hot peppers. I like it quite a bit, but when one of the guy’s tries it, he has a great reaction to how spicy it is.

It might not be easy to see, but he’s hating life right now after eating some of the crazy bullet pizza.

In the evening I speak at the SoftServe English Club here in Chernivtsi, then it’s time for another restaurant ( Qwinta ). With all of the eating I’m doing, it continues to surprise me that I have lost fat instead of gained. There is good company to be had at dinner, so we are at the restaurant quite late. It is also the most expensive restaurant I’ve been to in Ukraine, with the price for my meal equalling what it would in the USA.

Day 83:

Today is Sprint Review day, and we are again ahead of schedule on our work. The team has been working really hard and really well these past few weeks. I’m proud of what we’ve been accomplishing.

There’s a fun twist to the week today. One of the main water lines in Chernivtsi has broken, leaving a large portion of the city without secondary water ( drinking water is still available ). Our office is one of the buildings affected. Thankfully, our hotel is not. The water outage is expected to last approximately five days — just long enough to not be fixed until after I leave.

Day 84:

For the past several blog posts, I’ve been working very hard on catching up to the current day and writing about everything a week — or even more — after it actually happened. I can say right now that day 84 was legitimately yesterday and I am fully caught up. As I am in Ukraine for only 4 more days ( including today ), I will make a very concerted effort to post each of these last four days at the end of the day ( or early the morning after ).

Day 84, a Friday, was another work day and we were exhausted at the end of it. It was time to just get some sleep. So we got to the hotel pretty early and did just that, with no alarm set for the morning.

As I sit here writing this post on day 85, there are several things I want to get done before I return to the USA on Wednesday. The first, of course, is to see the girl I’ve been hanging out with one more time. That should happen tomorrow. Next, I will need to leave the guys here with plans on our projects and have some discussions on how we can continue to improve our team and its efficiency while I am back in Utah. Finally, I have some last minute shopping to do back in Lviv on Tuesday.

I don’t want to go home.