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Chorna Gora mountains and a rush of hutsul colour:

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Calling in from a very intense time here in the carpathians. Having been embraced by Ivan, the local mountaineer turned orthodox priest, have been very priveleged to meet so much of the hutsul culture first hand. Michael Dillon arrived for filming, and with him we have explored the mountains around krivorivnya, which is in the heart of Hutsul country. the Hutsuls are a proud mountain people who have preserved their culture and traditions. They wear their culture on their hearts, for themselves and for visitors. Dmitro, a hardy little man built like a bulldog was able to black smith me a new axe, weld on studs to my horses shoes, shoe my horses, and then after that over a vodka laced meal play the fiddle and the accordian with those hardy yet delicate fingers. His wife upstairs showed us how she made woolen blankets and mats. This is not an exception to the norm, but just another family among hutsuls aho are blessed with creativity and a hard working soul. For six days Michael and I along with Yura nad Grisha, two former mountaineers from Ivano Frankivsk, crossed the 'Chorna Gora' mountains, passing the highest peak in |Ukraine Hoverla. Ogonyok and Kok in particular struggled at times on snow, mud, and treacherous rocky slopes. But we were inspired by the local Hutsuls who me met making their way up for their annual herding seasons on the high pasture. On Sunday we were invited to the 'Poloninoe lito' festival, which celebrates the annual migration to the mountains where the famous brinza cheeses are made (by a mix of sheep and cow milk). We passed one group of men trying to get a laiden cart up a very stee and rutted slope. Their hardy little horses who struggled inch by inch reminded me very much of the Mongol breeds- and in fact they very much the steppe horse genes in their blood. This is partly due to the waves of Mongols and tatars who swept through here in the 13th century on the way to Hungary. Home made vodka, singing, playing of instruments ranging from the long 'trembita' pipe, to the 'duda' (like a bag pipe kind of instrument tradtionally for funerals), and the violin added to the colour and energy of the festival. Michael struggled at times to keep the camera sturdy with so much food and drink on offer. The premier of the province came to the festival where I was introduced to him, and I was able to tour with him, eating the feasts on offer from each village stand at the festival. Tigon has had a great time running in the high moutains climbing every peak long before we did. Yesterday we visited an 84 year olf hat maker who has been making traditional hutsul hats since the age of 16. You have to walk a good half hour to get to hus house up in the mountains near krivorinye. In his attic, he proudly showed me his coffin that was ready with all the clothes, coolorful decoration, and photos to be taken with him to the next life. The coffin is made of a light wood so that the process of the pall bearers in made easier. "I made this coffin for myself thirty years ago, its older than you!: he said. ,most hutsuls make their own coffins aroudn the age of 50. It is after all important to be dressed and prepared well when going to greet heaven. The people of this region are devoted christians, and as Ivan has told me 'the church is the heart of the community.' Last week as I left to the mountains |I was given a send off that one can only imagine for a royal. |The whole school community dressed up on a public holiday in traditional dress. A band was playing, and as I approached the childred decorated the horses and tigon with all kinds of colorful paper crete flowers. Ivan in his shiny cloak said a prayer and blessed the horses with holy water (they were a bit irked by it but Tigpn lapped up the attention as usual). The whole community kind of swelled before us and I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. During my time in Krivorivye I was also asked to play a small part in the school play, and was invited to the opening of a shrine/chapel by the banks of the cheremosh river. the six days of snow, rain and wind across chorna gora have taken their toll, but I have now crossed into 'zacarpatskaya oblast' which is the last province before Hungary. Michael will be with me for a couple more weeks. Really wnjoying his company and the fact that he is able to film all the things I usually can't. Till next time, Tim.

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Latitude: 48° 10 Min. 29 Sec.

Longitude: 24° 53 Min. 59 Sec.

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