06 February 2011

Skiing in the Carpathians

First of all, I have to preface this post by saying that it's not really about skiing in the Carpathians, because we didn't ski. We did stay at a ski lodge, and we did experience some of the trappings of the skiing life, but we didn't actually put skis on. This post is actually more about food than anything, I suppose, but that was our skiing experience.
The town we were staying in - Podobovets - was pretty remote. The approach road was snowy, steep and rutted. Most skiers hiked up from the "main" road below, or took four wheel-drive vans or horsecarts driven by locals. It's a very rural area, and nothing is plowed or sanded, so driving can get a little squirrely.
The base of one of the two lifts - both T-bars that look to date from the sixties. There are three trails, though only one was open because of the poor conditions. It was possible to buy one run, an hour's time, a half or a full day. The one-run, pay as you go method seemed popular, and a lot of the local skiers didn't seem to pay much of anything. The posted prices (which got as high as $20 for a full day), were put up strictly for the Russians and wealthier Ukrainians from the cities.
We walked to a neighboring ski area and found it to be a little more developed. There were a few trucks parked in the parking lot, renting equipment to the unequipped.
At Podobovets, old babushkas walk up from the lower village with thermoses of coffee, tea and hot wine, which they sell for a few cents per cup. They had pastries too, in large, plastic shopping bags.
More solid fare was served from the lean-to refreshment stand, where a woman grilled shashlik and baked potatoes. The meat was sitting right there, out on the table, raw and ready for the charcoal and dead-branch fire. Also on the table: a bottle of vodka, a bottle of pomegranate juice, some ham, a salad of pickled carrot and cabbage, a bag of bread.
My lunch, minus the potato, which Rebecca ate. It was served in the bowl with Brynza, which is a gritty, feta-like sheep cheese that the Hutsul people make. Inside the potato, Rebecca found a chunk of pork fat, which had moistened and softened the flesh like a pat of butter might. I had assumed the meat would be mutton, but it turned out to be beef. It was delicious and very tender.
We hiked a lot while we were there, and had a good time in the lodge at dinnertime. There were a lot of cats running around the place, and they were all very interested in Rebecca's grilled trout. Before she was done and the plate was taken away, there were five curious felines on the benches around us. A cat also came through the window of our room one night, confusing us.

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