08 July 2009


I've got a lot of catching up to do, I know.  Even before the Kremenec hike, there was a hike in the High Tatras to Solisko, but this is more important to blog first.  I'll also need to update this post with more photos, because my camera pooped out the day before and I couldn't replace it that quickly.

So, this happened on 28 June, as a yearly tradition begun last year by the great Valerij Padiak.  Some of the first graduates of the Rusyn school system in Subcarpathia had their graduation ceremony there with all of us as witnesses, and it was a totally rather emotional thing.

First, where is Kremenec?  It is at the border of Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Stužica forest.

We did the hike in rather good time, around 2½ hours, which was the result of the death pace I set.  The last 100 or so meters is a rather steep vertical incline, which was fun, and then at the top you can get a pretty good idea of where all of the borders hit the trails.  Here's the trail elevation map, we took the red route from Pod Kýčerou, so I'd say it was about 13km/8mi one way:
Finally, here's another map I made which shows the symbolic marker at the top and also the routes that could be used to get there, again, we used the red route which begins in Nová Sedlica:

We had a great few hours at the summit, communing with other Rusyns from Slovakia and Ukraine -- you can read about it here, but there's one main thing that did not translate accurately in that "official version":  We all held hands in a circle around the symbolic monument, and sang Ja Rusyn byl -- which was very nice, but then our fearless leader, amongst the Rusyn flag and the EU flag (not a Ukrainian flag in sight, nor a Slovak one for that matter) said, "And now for the Rusyn national anthem, Červena Ruža!", which caused great laughs.  In the "official" version, we supposedly sang "kremeneckou hymnou", but trust me, that's not how it went down.

The return trip was beyond memorable, because about 20 minutes into it, after a water refill stop at a gorgeous mountain stream, it began to pour.  While the mountains and forest was even more beautiful during the rain, I ran the last 5km or so because I wanted to get into the dry clothes I had with me and I was a bit worried about the potential of hypothermia.  Of course, right when I got back to the car, it stopped raining, but I was dry and warm when the rest of the crew arrived 10-15 minutes later.

UPDATED (with photos):
Along the way, there were quite a few signs saying "POZOR! Štatná hranica" (WARNING! State border).  Apparently, it's a common area for people smuggling from the Wild East to the EU.  No worries, I've got my passport.
At the top, between Slovakia and Ukraine.

The EU flag and Rusyn flags must have made quite an obvious not-Ukraine statement to the 3 Ukrainian army guys who were with us there.  Two joined in singing with us while the other one took (surveillance?) pictures with his cellphone camera.

It was right after this water refill stop that it started to pour.

Back at the trailhead, after I'd changed into my dry clothes -- note my wet hair.  This experience has kind of discouraged me from cotton in uncertain weather conditions and I'm now going to consider some sort of higher-tech wicking quick dry tops, which would have been nice on this day.

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