пятница, 25 октября 2013 г.

Family Holidays: Ukraine, hotel "Karpatski Polonyny" (summer 2010 and 2011)

This time on the blog I’m taking a look at another exotic family vacation destination: Ukraine. Why exotic, you may ask… well, a nice family hotel in Russia and Ukraine is now a very rare thing indeed! It’s not so difficult to find a great family hotel in Turkey, Mauritius or Croatia, but in Ukraine or Russia it is a real challenge! We live in Austria but our daughter has Ukrainian heritage and so we wanted to show her the beauty of the Ukraine, but we also wanted to be comfortable while we visited...

I spent a long time looking for a suitable hotel; on the internet reading all the reviews I could find, and calling and talking to hotel staff before booking anything for our vacation. My daughter was three years old when she first visited the Ukraine with my grandmother, and we became repeat visitors going again the next year and planning on visiting again soon.

The mountain hotel Karpatskie Polonyny where we stayed is located in the Lviv region (Ukraine), near the village of Oriv on top of the mountain Tsyuhiv (about 900m above sea level). It has wonderful views of the mountains and of Truskavec, the city known as a health resort in the Western Ukraine. The hotel is surrounded by the beech and pine woods and is a lovely place for those nature-lovers and fans of ‘green tourism’. Giving this hotel a star-rating is difficult but I would say it is probably comparable to a 3-Star European destination.

When to go there:
The hotel is open all year round. My daughter and grandmother stayed there in the summer (late July to early August) and it was the perfect time for a vacation. When everywhere in the Carpathian Mountains is very hot in August, here it is the ideal temperature! Moreover, the hotel resort offers a lot of summer activities like gathering mushrooms, berries, vegetables and fruits, swimming in the lake, horse riding, etc. In June, rumor has it that nature’s most vibrant palette is on display, with flowers of different colors and shades! I’ll write more later about the entertainment available that’s more suited to kids.
For the first few days my daughter was there it rained, and it’s certainly wise to be prepared, especially in the off-season... Bring rubber boots and a waterproof coat if you have them or ask about renting them from the hotel. This is, after all, the Carpathians Mountains!
According to the reviews, this place is also nice in winter and during the off-peak season, when the hotel usually offers discounts for visitors.
Be sure to plan in advance as in high season (summer vacation and New Year) it could be fully booked!
We booked a transfer from Lviv which is about 120km away from the hotel, and the car picked us up on time, Prices for transfers vary according to the comfort class of the car.
You can also reach the hotel by train; the closest city is Truskavets, from where you’d take a taxi to the village of Oriv, and then from Oriv order a transfer from the hotel. Those who do not speak the language or are unfamiliar with the region may do well to order a transfer from Lviv, otherwise it could be a challenge to get there by public transportation :).
The transfer to the hotel is essential for the last 5-7km because only a vehicle with four-wheel drive can make it up the rocky and unfinished road (this was in 2013).
Those visiting with young children should, therefore, take into account the fact that there is no on-site physician at the hotel. If necessary, the hotel can arrange to take you to the nearest village (about 5-7km away) to seek medical attention.
The hotel offers its own parking (free of charge).
There are no shops nearby but almost everything you need can be delivered to the hotel if you request it. Diapers and medicine can, according to reviews, be delivered to the hotel within the same day.
About the hotel:
This is a small hotel that consists of nine cozy pine-built cottages. The price per night ranges from 20 Euros for a single room to 300 Euros for the largest cottage.

You can rent a part of the house (a separate room or a floor), or an entire cottage. Each cottage has all modern amenities such as toilet, shower, TV, refrigerator, etc. In addition to traditional heating each cottage has a ‘Carpathian’ wood-burning stove (a fireplace). If the weather is wet and cool (which can also happen in summer) you can ask for the heating to be switched on.

 Each house has a spacious veranda which grants you a stunning view of the Carpathian Mountains. There's even a hammock!

Those who really want to immerse themselves in nature can stay in a tent in the hotel’s tent city.

There is free WIFI available in the hotel’s cafe (on the street and inside), as well as at the reception (in 2013). 
Meal Plan:
If you have ever been to the Ukraine you are probably already familiar with the local cuisine. It’s fantastic! In fact, the food available in the hotel is infinitely better than you might imagine! Borscht (soup made of beet root), vareniky (Ukranian dumplings with potato, berries or cottage cheese), and delicious homemade pastries are just some of the things on offer. You’re not going to lose weight here, believe me... so just enjoy the traditional Carpathian and Ukrainian cuisine.

The hotel has its own dairy farm so fresh milk is always available along with cottage cheese and sour cream. There is also locally produced honey on the table and even, for tea-lovers, a herbal ‘Carpathian’ tea harvested from local herbs and flowers. It is unforgettable!

The hotel offers half board or full board options (you can have a menu set or choose a la carte). You are able to include preferences and specifications in the menu so it is no problem if, for example, you or your child is allergic to certain foods.

The hotel has its own barbecue grills and many guests enjoy the freshly caught trout on the grill.

Kid’s entertainment:
Our daughter was mostly impressed with the opportunity for horse-riding here as the hotel has their own stables. When my daughter was there she rode on the mother horse while the baby colt ran after his mom :).

Adults too can go horse-riding or even have horse-riding lessons with an instructor and enjoy the scenery of the Carpathians. 

You can also take a ride on a hay cart (that's quite exotic!) and, in winter, take a sleigh ride to enjoy the snow-covered mountain scenery.
There is a small lake on the property which is perfect for summer swimming or for a ride on one of the small boats available. You can also go fishing and there are abundant trout and carp in the lake. The hotel’s staff are more than happy to make fish soup or grill the freshly caught fish.

In the summer you can gather mushrooms and berries (raspberries, cranberries, blackberries, blueberries), which is really great fun for kids. This is certainly more interesting than computer games :). While my daughter was there, one guest found a porcini mushroom that weighed 800g! 

You can also collect herbs and flowers from the garden for a nice herbal tea, and there is even a specialist who will guide you as to where to collect the herbs, and offer consultations about the healing effects of certain herbs.

Children also have a separate large playroom and an outdoor playground with a sandbox, a slide, swings and a small house in which they can play and be entertained.

The playroom has a lot of toys and a drawing board and they show cartoons for kids on the big screen in the playroom.
There is no Kids’ Club as such here, but the staff entertains the kids with pleasure, playing various games and going on picnics when the weather is good.

A small farm nearby offers kids the opportunity to visit with a variety of animals including cows, goats, rabbits, and chickens.

The hotel also offers some creative activities for kids and adults, like pottery lessons/workshops (for a fee). Our attempts at pottery can be burned in the kiln (oven) and then you (or your child!) get to pain it.

There are also organized woodwork workshops and a metal workshop which even has its own smithy, as well as a bead workshop.
Sons and dads may enjoy some bonding time over archery, while other rambunctious kids can run around and play paintball.
Those who just want to relax, moms perhaps, can pamper themselves with a massage.
You can also hire mountain bikes here and take a ride on the trails (which vary in difficulty for older children and adults).
There is a room with both a billiards table and a table tennis table, and there is also a sauna available.
In winter you can enjoy alpine (mountain) and cross country skiing. It is, of course, not the Alps, but there is an on-site ski tow with simple slopes. The kids can play hockey or skate.

The hotel organizes exhibitions to promote the work of talented Ukrainian artists and you are able to buy the pictures (if you like).
If you have the time and the desire you can visit the museum and Fortress Tustan. The hotel can arrange these kinds of tours for you. Every summer there is a traditional festival there, ‘Tu Stan'!’ This involves participants demonstrating fighting skills from days of old in a lively performance.

The majority of guests here appear to be from Ukraine but there are also regular visitors from Russia and Europe. When my daughter was there some of the guests were French-speaking and German-speaking. I think that it is a little easier for visitors from far afield to plan a trip to Ukraine rather than to Russia: Europeans and Americans do not need a visa for the Ukraine, unlike Russia!
I highly recommend visiting the Ukraine and staying at this hotel as it offers a great opportunity to get back to nature, almost untouched by civilization. This is a perfect hotel for a family vacation!

I am glad that in Ukraine you can find family hotels of this caliber. It’s not ‘luxury’ but is comfortable,  reasonably priced and offers entertainment for the children.
I even read in one of the hotel reviews by a parent after a vacation at Karpatskie Polonyny that their child said that it was better than their trip to Turkey :)! From the point of view of a child this is the best kind of compliment the hotel can receive :).
Bon voyage!
Look forward to getting your feedback!

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