I decided to visit Zaporizhia (see also Zaporozhye; Zaporizhzhya; or perversely Saporoshje) because it fulfilled the following criteria: I could get a train there from where I currently live, in Dnipro; and it has a hostel. The logic behind this was that seeing as Dnipro has somewhere between 0-1 hostels, it was potentially going to be more fun than sitting around here. I knew absolutely nothing about the city before I booked the trip there, and not much more by the time I got there.
I’m going to start this off by saying that every single person I came into contact with in ZP was so kind and so hospitable, from the taxi driver who picked me up from the train station and was super worried about dropping me off until I assured him that I could see my hostel; right up to the waitress at the cafe who called me a taxi to the station (for my return journey) who walked me outside to make sure I got in safely.
Orginally known as Aleksandrovsk, ZP was renamed in 1921. Zaporizhia literally translates to ‘beyond the rapids’, which I found somewhat ironic as it is home to the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station (read: dam). ZP is most famous as being the home of Zaporizhian Cossacks on Khortytsia Island. The main street was recently renamed, changing from Prospekt Lenina to Prospekt Soborniy, as part of Ukraine’s decommunisation laws. However, while all the signs and all the maps say Soborniy, 100% of the locals I spoke to still referred to it as Lenina, so keep that in mind if you need to get a taxi or ask for directions.
I got in late on Friday night, so my first proper experience of ZP was Saturday. I got the bus to Khortytsia Island (read about how to do that here. I enjoyed walking around the island a hell of a lot more than I enjoyed the actual Sich. It felt like a tourist attraction, contrived, something that you would bring your kids to so that they could ‘learn about history’. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I watched some guys dressed as Cossacks throwing axes for a bit. I went inside the big church, which wasn’t particularly beautiful but did smell delightfully piney. But, for 24 UAH (less than $1 US) I got my money’s worth.
I left the Sich and walked aimlessly for a bit until I found a lady just off the carpark with a makeshift archery set-up. I stood around waiting for her to do something cool when she came over to me and started speaking in Russian. Between my poor Russian and her poor English, I eventually understood that I could do archery. 50 UAH for 20 arrows. Why not? Turns out it was the most fun I had all day.
I walked around the island some more, took some photos of the dam and the cliffs. By this point I was starving, and I hadn’t packed any snacks because I’m an idiot. The only place I could find to eat was the Zaporizka Sich restaurant, on the main road to the north part of the island. I was certain it was going to be a giant tourist trap, but I could feel a hungry headache coming on so I just did it. The menu was available in English, but the waitstaff only spoke Ukrainian/Russian. They had a lot of traditional Ukrainian dishes and the prices were actually quite reasonable. I had the Khortytsian salad (baby spinach, sliced tomato, red peppers/capsicum, fried mushrooms, boiled quails eggs, parmesan, olive oil) and it was smack-yo-mamma good. However, the varenikiy (AKA pierogi – think dumplings filled with mashed potato) were meh at best and the pampushky (delightfully fluffy bread rolls, usually with garlic) were stale. Sigh.
The only other thing I really wanted to see was a 700 year-old oak tree that was significant to the Cossacks. I figured it would be on the island, but I hadn’t been able to find it anywhere. I got one of the waitresses to show me on the map and found out its actually on the other side of the Dnieper River from downtown ZP, about a 12 minute taxi ride from the restaurant. For reasons that are no longer all that clear to me, I decided to walk the 6.4km to the tree instead. I think the logic was ‘well what else are you gonna do all afternoon??’. It took about 80 minutes, and I don’t really recommend unless you’re really interested in the suburban streets of Ukraine.
I did, however, see this sneaky Lenin about 500m before I got to the tree (on Shushenska St. if you’re interested).
I finally got there and this tree is dead. Like, on a scale of one to dead it is a thousand. I had seen photos online before I went and had thought to myself “what are those white flagpole-type-things??”. They’re holding the tree up. They’re the only thing keeping the branches off the ground. Sigh.
You can find the Zaporizhian Oak at Taras Bulby St 14, or on Google Maps it’s listed as Zaporozhskiy Dub.
While I was taking this photo, two boys came up to me and started speaking to me in Russian. The only words I understood were “you may”, “photograph” and “camera”. They didn’t seem to get the hint when I said that I only speak English (I may have confused them because I said it in Russian), and even when I started talking in English they wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought maybe they wanted me to take their photo, but even that didn’t help. Upon reflection I think they probably wanted to take my photo and run away with my camera. Proceed with caution.
Around the “tree” there was a nice church, some carved wooden statues and some pretty cool graffiti. I didn’t go in the church because there was a service in progress. I left the tree, got a taxi back to my accommodation and rewarded myself with a lie-down followed by pizza.
Sunday I decided to walk along the main prospekt and see what Soviet leftovers I could find. There’s a scattering of hammer and sickle motifs on a lot of the buildings, but you have to really be looking for it. Mosaics. Obtrusive war memorials. Circus. If you’ve been to Eastern Europe, you probably know the drill.
On the whole, Zaporizhia is pretty industrial and there isn’t a whole lot to see there. Have you been? Let me know what you think!