Bakota – the most beautiful vanished village in Ukraine

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This topic contains 13 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  RonCartier 5 years ago.

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  • #6125

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    The place is my most recent and most accidental destination (incidentally, most of my accidental travel discoveries become my favourite destinations) of which the immaculate beauty is another breathtaking proof that – hell! – life’s worth living, but which – I sincerely hope – will remain just a strange-sounding name of an unknown spot on the Ukrainian map – hidden from tourists, forgotten by authorities, given up by civilization.

    The history of the settlement began back in the 10th century as a part of Kievan Rus’, later on shared between the neighbouring states, thus changing the colours on its political map all the time. Unbelievable as it may sound to nowaday passers-by it has once been a political, administrative and economic centre of the region. It had fortifications, castles, monasteries and caves with ancient frescoes and paintings. It could have become one of the last bastions of Medieval culture here in Ukraine. But its glorious past was buried – firstly under the ignorance and barbarism of the Soviet rule, and then… under water.

    #6133

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    Let there be no misunderstanding – I could not possibly visit the settlement of Bakota (I’m not a diver after all!). The latter has become the name for the landscapes that the village used to behold around its dreamy lowland. Bakota was flooded in early 1980’s – that was the price paid for the building of a new hydroelectric station on the Dniester River. The inhabitants moved elsewhere.

    Now the only rare visitors are hunters for the seclusion and, of course, devoted Orthodox who come to say their prayers at Bakota St. Michael Cave Monastery – once the largest (and the oldest, by the way) and most magnificent of the 20 known cave monasteries in the territory of Podillia historical region in Western Ukraine. Like a great many of Orthodox cave monasteries, this one was not created by the Orthodox! How very interesting – they find abandoned pagan temples, ‘rebrand’ them and start preaching about how unrighteous pagans are. Not a trace of hypocrisy! By the way, according to the legend, the founder of this monastery is believed to be St. Anthony who also founded the famous Kiev Pechersk Lavra. But that’s not my point here. This monastery (though not so many caves have survived) actually impressed me. Not with its history, nor grandeur – but the great care and love that can be discerned in every detail, every item brought and arranged by the people who not so long ago came here, to the empty caves, and decided to give a new life to the forgotten old monastery. I’m not a religious person and I wouldn’t be able to appreciate their attempts as much as believers would. And yet this place – even to me – looks much ‘gentler’ and ‘friendly’, maybe, than a usual church. All the icons, flowers and rushnyks (national embroidered ritual cloths) were brought by those who come to talk to their god to share all this with other people instead of blandishing priests. This place knows no priests anymore, no one sells ‘holy’ items here, or collects ‘contributions’. I’m not a bit fan of religion, but I can respect those who dont’ turn it into a kitsch, into a business, but whose faith is sincere and kind. There’s even no guard here! I know it might sound strange and incomprehensible to someone (especially, perhaps, in India) but the fact that this place with some expensive icons and other holy vessels (unprotected, in Ukraine) sees no stealing, no vandalism is a miracle in itself.

    #6141

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    By the way, there’s this rather unique ‘chapel’ on top of the White Cliff which once used to be a part of some agricultural vehicle I guess 🙂

    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by  Amphitrite.
    Attachments:
    #6144

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    I was also impressed by the ‘multi-storey’ caves. Such a pity most of them were buried when a large portion of the hills broke off in mid 1990’s.

    Attachments:
    #6146

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    All the paths going from the monastery and along high steeps over the river lead to mineral springs with pure and healthy water. By the way, this place has a special climate. Though located in Western Ukraine, near the Romanian boarder, its climate resembles that of the Southern coast of Crimea.

    #6156

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    I first heard the story of Bakota from the locals who helped me get there. I had a mixed feeling about this place. I guess I’ll never be able to overcome this emotional ambiguity. I got on top of the White Cliff to find myself surrounded with vast wilderness. Still water labyrinths, intact green hills, sweat variety of wild herbs and flowers, eagles and sea gulls proudly soaring above as if descending from the fluffy fidgety clouds. The grasses are so high and soft that I cannot actually feel the earth beneath my feet as I walk. I feel weightless as if dissolved in the air. And the only fear that such a moment can bring is that the wind is going to take me up and away from here. For I don’t want to leave, I don’t want to return to people. Not yet.

    #6166

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    And yet, isn’t it strange that this ‘virgin’ nature is a child of civilization – that is to say, it returned to its virginity due to human attempts to bring it to heel? If not for that station, the place wouldn’t be deserted. On the one hand, I was enjoying the privacy I found here, on the other, however, having learned its history, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that what I was looking at… was not actually meant to be. But then again, I don’t believe too much in the meaning of existence. I don’t reckon something is ‘meant’ to be in this world. I think what bothered me about this place was not the story of its transformations itself (or the reasons thereof) but rather the fact that I was… glad to know things had happened in this way. It’s a bit weird, I guess, to be happy with the ever-expanding human interference, with the fact that hundreds of people lost their homes, that a whole bastion of ancient arts and culture now rests beneath the water surface. But I’m not really sure I would prefer to see Bakota ‘dry’ these days. Perhaps its beauty, romanticism and its glorious past will be much better preserved in the imagination and memory of those coming to sit here and ponder, overlooking these new misty horizons behind what used to be a thriving settlement, than in the hands of those who were gradually destroying it over centuries, and almost turned it to dust before burying it under water.

    #6174

    Antonina
    Participant

    @amphitrite

    Fantastic! For now, that’s all I can say. As usual, it will take me time to absorb every cloud, every rock, every flower and every curve of the river. And – every word of yours, they were beautiful enough to match these beautiful photographs. Thanks a lot for the wonderful topic.

    #6241

    kamal
    Participant

    @amphitrite

    Words seems to flow like a river in your descriptions lol. I know i know you dont like words that sound sweet but I really like how you describe.

    #6248

    Amphitrite
    Participant

    Thank you for your words of appreciation, @kamal and @anna-marine!
    I sometimes write about my travel experiences here only because I know certain Indiapalettians would enjoy them as much as I do.

    #6266

    Antonina
    Participant

    [quote=6248]I sometimes write about my travel experiences here only because I know certain Indiapalettians would enjoy them as much as I do.[/quote]
    @amphitrite

    And every your topic gives such an effect of presence, I’m still very charmed by this Bakota I’ve never heard of – it offers such an impression of something unreal, or even surreal, lost in time, eternal and ephemeral at the same time…

    [quote=6146]IMG_8772.jpg[/quote]

    Look at this sky, for example. Where else in the physical world can you encounter such a sky?

    [quote=6166]IMG_8767.jpg[/quote]

    Or this image. When I look at this water for a while, it seems to me it makes some breathing motions. Really crazy.

    • This reply was modified 5 years ago by  Antonina.
    #6268

    Travelling Soldier
    Participant

    [quote=6133]Let there be no misunderstanding – I could not possibly visit the settlement of Bakota (I’m not a diver after all!). The latter has become the name for the landscapes that the village used to behold around its dreamy lowland. Bakota was flooded in early 1980?s – that was the price paid for the building of a new hydroelectric station on the Dniester River. The inhabitants moved elsewhere.

    Now the only rare visitors are hunters for the seclusion and, of course, devoted Orthodox who come to say their prayers at Bakota St. Michael Cave Monastery – once the largest (and the oldest, by the way) and most magnificent of the 20 known cave monasteries in the territory of Podillia historical region in Western Ukraine. Like a great many of Orthodox cave monasteries, this one was not created by the Orthodox! How very interesting – they find abandoned pagan temples, ‘rebrand’ them and start preaching about how unrighteous pagans are. Not a trace of hypocrisy! By the way, according to the legend, the founder of this monastery is believed to be St. Anthony who also founded the famous Kiev Pechersk Lavra. But that’s not my point here. This monastery (though not so many caves have survived) actually impressed me. Not with its history, nor grandeur – but the great care and love that can be discerned in every detail, every item brought and arranged by the people who not so long ago came here, to the empty caves, and decided to give a new life to the forgotten old monastery. I’m not a religious person and I wouldn’t be able to appreciate their attempts as much as believers would. And yet this place – even to me – looks much ‘gentler’ and ‘friendly’, maybe, than a usual church. All the icons, flowers and rushnyks (national embroidered ritual cloths) were brought by those who come to talk to their god to share all this with other people instead of blandishing priests. This place knows no priests anymore, no one sells ‘holy’ items here, or collects ‘contributions’. I’m not a bit fan of religion, but I can respect those who dont’ turn it into a kitsch, into a business, but whose faith is sincere and kind. There’s even no guard here! I know it might sound strange and incomprehensible to someone (especially, perhaps, in India) but the fact that this place with some expensive icons and other holy vessels (unprotected, in Ukraine) sees no stealing, no vandalism is a miracle in itself.
    [/quote]

    Love the caves of this historical Podillia territory! And the write-up about them, introducing them with such care and precision, amphitrite, is not only remarkable but very moving in a way that cannot be described. You breath into these caves life with your mere words and expression.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us this beautiful post about such a a beautiful (almost) lost territory of Bakota! 🙂
    @amphitrite: Your writing style is as beautiful as what you write or in this case, what you’ve written over here! It’s like a beautiful person doing beautiful things, they just cannot go wrong!

    A small example of your impeccable writing style is:
    I first heard the story of Bakota from the locals who helped me get there. I had a mixed feeling about this place. I guess I’ll never be able to overcome this emotional ambiguity. I got on top of the White Cliff to find myself surrounded with vast wilderness. Still water labyrinths, intact green hills, sweat variety of wild herbs and flowers, eagles and sea gulls proudly soaring above as if descending from the fluffy fidgety clouds. The grasses are so high and soft that I cannot actually feel the earth beneath my feet as I walk. I feel weightless as if dissolved in the air. And the only fear that such a moment can bring is that the wind is going to take me up and away from here. For I don’t want to leave, I don’t want to return to people. Not yet.

    Your writing style can remind one of the poetry written here:
    http://www.indiapalette.com/forums/topic/poetry-put-down-your-most-favorite-verses/

    And the pictures are absolutely picturesque!

    One of my favourites is IMG_8768.jpg – a vertical view of a drop straight into the beautiful ocean below!

    This image (IMG_8746.jpg) reminds me of the movie ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ where all the grass is edible tasty. That hill (or pair of hills) from that distance looks so smooth and soft and … just the right meal for a hungry cow.. hahaha! ?

    And for all those movie enthusiasts, here’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S_AYZGBxkQ

    #6269

    Travelling Soldier
    Participant

    Would be great to also hear about this beautiful topic from my friends @esteragwiazda, @sriram, @renz and @abhishek! 🙂

    #6329

    RonCartier
    Participant

    Haven’t been to the forum for a while. Great to find such a wonderful topic here! Thanks a lot for posting!

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