Even though he is not an official driver, the guy insists he take me from the bus station where I arrive from western Ukraine. He does not take me where I want though, and suddenly, the famous fortress of Kamyanets-Podilsky lies right ahead of me in the dark night. Red lights set the towers apart from the rest. After a typical dinner at his place, with the inevitable borsht and salo, the salted pork fat I had hoped to avoid, I do sleep where I had planned, despite the Ukrainian hospitality. When I walk across the bridge over the Smotrych river early next morning, there is a trace of light in the cold air. Snow is lying on the ground, and I am careful walking up the stairs to the old city. But I cannot be too slow: I want to beat the sun, and see it rise. I find the perfect spot to do so: on top of old city walls, just above the Turkish bridge. The sun is behind me, and ahead of me, I see the towers of the fortress point at the sky. The sun is a magician: when it finally appears, it turns the fortress into gold. I watch, and watch, and watch more - the warmth of the light contrasts with my cold fingers. It is time to get moving, and I walk across the Turkish bridge.
There is a thin layer on frost and snow on places where the sun does not reach during the day, giving the landscape a wintery look on this autumn morning. As the sun slowly climbs above the horizon, there are views on the lower parts of town, and across the Smotrych river to a big Orthodox church with shiny golden cupolas. The fortress is still closed, and there is no one around, so I walk around the strategical fortification. Originally built in the 14th century, it was later modified several times, and this is clearly visible in the different styles and dimensions of the towers. I climb up a hill, from which I have an overview of the fortress. Patches of fog linger around the towers, and the sun slowly burns them away. I walk down to the Smotrych river, and walk north to get a good view from below, with the fortress reflected in the water.
There is a trail on the other side of the river, and a swinging bridge brings a Ukrainian visitor and me right at the foot of the steep cliffs on which we can see the fortress. We walk back to the fortress, which by now is open, and since she has already seen it before, I enter alone. In the tower on the right, a deep well with a massive winch to get the water up, providing essential water to the inhabitants of the fortress. On the left is Karmalyuk Tower, used as a prison, with a wax figure of Ustym Karmalyuk, who according to legend was so handsome, women secretly gave him some of their hair, with which he was eventually able to make a rope that made him escape. On the other side of the courtyard, there is the debtor's hole, where people were kept until their debts were paid. There are walkways connecting most towers, and you can climb some of the towers for the views of the landscape, the old town, and the courtyard. There is a small museum, with not only models of the original castle, which had more than the 9 remaining towers, and the armored clothes of the knights that fought their battles here, but also flags with the image of Lenin, and pictures of the recent revolutions that took place in the country. After exploring the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky, I come back to where I started in the morning: the viewpoint on the defensive wall; it is also perfect for sunset. The towers of the fortress slowly turn into silhouettes, and when darkness has fallen, the lights of the castle are lit again.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Kamyanets-Podilsky fortress (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Kamyanets-Podilsky fortress.
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