After one last hurrah in Lviv, we ate breakfast at the hotel and boarded our buses for our adventure up the winding, narrow roads of the Carpathian Mountains into Kosiv. There were times when we could not believe our bus drivers would dare take two huge buses through these tiny roads...seriously, we had tree branches scratching against the windshield and the sides of the buses, but eventually we made it up the mountain to our new home for the next two days, "Maetok Sokilske Resort". You truly need to be here in person to realize the beauty of this place. Just picture, you step outside to the fresh, crisp mountain air, the sound of birds chirping, cowbells ringing in the distance, and as if that wasn't serene enough, you are overlooking the lush, foliage-covered Carpathian Mountains! We were greeted immediately with delicious welcome shots and then began hauling our suitcases (remember, most of us have two hefty fifty-pounders) up the stairs to our rooms on the third and fourth floors - there are no elevators here. We dropped our bags and met up downstairs for lunch.
After lunch we split into smaller groups, each heading to their own "workshop" or "master class". We were given a choice of the following workshops: culinary, pottery, wood-working, sopilka-playing, or a nature hike. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their workshop, and it was fun to reunite as a group and hear about each others' experiences.
After the workshops, dinner was on our own and since we are in a quite secluded location, the only real option was the hotel restaurant, but that wasn't an issue - the food here is amazing! Once we had eaten, it was a fairly early night for most and it sounded like everyone had a great sleep in this picturesque place (especially the group of 4 boys who thought it was better to move all of their beds into one room to create a "MegaBed").
Breakfast was again delicious (this time we were treated with homemade donuts!) and then we boarded the buses for our day trip to Verkhovyna, where we were scheduled to spend the day with the infamous Eliuk family, who are known for their passion for keeping Hutsul traditions alive, and sharing these special traditions with others. But along the way we stopped for a quick tour of St. Vasyl's Church in Kosiv. As the story was told, this 150 year old church tragically burnt down several years ago, and with the help of the villagers and in some cases, complete strangers, a replica was built to match the original church. What a beautiful story to match this beautiful church. Some choir members were so moved that they felt compelled to sing from the loft. Their renditions of Отче Наш and Чуєш Брате Мій were absolutely breathtaking, and many were brought to tears, including the Kosiv representative who was giving our tour.
Once we were done in the church, we hopped back on the bus to finish our drive to Verkhovyna. It was amazing to watch out the bus window and see all of the tiny houses perched way up high on the mountains, and to think about the simple lifestyle that these people live. Imagine your children walking down the mountain on Monday for school, and staying in the village until Friday because the walk could not be made every day.
We reached our destination and parked the buses, then had a small hike up the hill where the Eliuk family and other villagers were anxiously waiting for us. As soon as we turned the corner and they could see us, the musicians started up and the women broke into song. We were given a brief performance of their very specific styles of song and dance and then choir and dancers split up for our respective workshops. The dancers learned some great village dancing while the choir learned several Hustul folk songs, which told tales about the Hutsul lifestyle. When we all had tired feet and tired voices, we walked to a local restaurant for a lunch (which would be more accurately described as a FEAST). We shared many toasts and a few more songs together and then began our journey home for the evening.
Dinner was again on our own although it's likely most didn't even need dinner after the feast at lunch. Some brave dancers took a dip in the outdoor (unheated) pool and then warmed up in the sauna. The band Tyt i Tam joined us at our hotel and we had a nice, fire to finish off our mountain adventure - next stop, Chernivtsi and Viter show Number 3!