On my way from Odesa, it always takes me a long time to find in my player a track that would suit the route. I jump from techno to classics, turn on jazz, hip-hop and don’t listen to the whole song. Every time I wonder, why is it so hard to find one track among the hundreds from the list of my favorites? However, during the last few trips, I find myself feeling something that may be the answer to this question. It is a deep dissonance between the meditative mood that is caused by the road itself, alienated contemplation of the landscape, and the fact that it is simply impossible to detach yourself from the trash behind the window, which becomes an ever-larger component of this landscape. I mean “trash” in the original sense of this word.
For the first time since its repair, I will ride the highway Odesa – Reni. The abandoned industrial zone with new buildings in the background and walls decorated with drugs’ advertising, from time to time get diluted with abandoned facades of the “old Odesa”. At the entrance to the city, the new police in the old box is neighboring giant junkyard. Further – hardware stores, car centers, endless warehouses – industrial suburbs. At this point, I’ve already switched something around five tracks and I still can’t dwell on something specific. Fields and woods begin. In the past, due to these trees, a new sense of time was created – each forest belt separated the bus in space on its way from point A to point B. The new highway is soft, the bus goes smoothly, so I focus on familiar landscapes outside the window.
However, I see something new. Giant chunks of polyethylene are hanging on the branches as if reporting on the ultimate capture of this planet by plastic. Stumps that are now in place of cut down forest belts, which were growing along the road – are like holes in the teeth, the wind is blowing through them. Wrapping of bright colors is rolling from one field to another, and then gathering in the pits as guerrillas do. It seems that people have forgotten that it isn’t the purpose of these forest belts to be a source of wood during the winter. Well, maybe they remember, but the cold winter is worse than the unprotected field and the potential loss of a crop.
The farther you get from Odesa, the less rubbish you can see along the road. Instead, I see burnt down reed beds of Nizhnednistrovsky National Natural Park. The bird is flying in the sky over the burnt site. I’m on a bus and have my headphones on, so I can’t hear but it seems to me that it’s screaming. I would scream.
We ride one of the “roads of wine and taste” – this is the name of a new system of gastro-oeno-routes of the Odesa region. This leisure is quite widespread in the wine regions of Europe, in particular in Italy. We – a group of journalists and representatives of the tourist association, are heading to the village Krynychne, Bolhrad district, at the invitation of the owners of the family winery Kolonist – Ivan and Alla Plachkov. Ivan is also a chairman of the Danubian Bessarabia association of oenology, and Alla is an expert of the European Commission for support of the development of the geographical names program in Ukraine.
They believe that the implementation of this program will give the necessary impetus for the development of tourism in the region. It can be understood, after all, the winery is located at the distance of four hours ride from Odesa, so only those who go to Krynychne get there and see where and how they produce Ukrainian wine that is sold in London. The road runs through interesting places, in which, no matter how banal it sounds, Bessarabia is so rich. Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi and its fortress, Shabo, Bolhrad, numerous lakes. All of them are places that need to be studied and bound to each other. Places that should be seen by both Ukrainian and foreign tourists. Another aim during the creation of a map of the roads of wine and taste was the introduction of the same system of geographical names that is used in the EU countries. This means that each product produced in a particular region must be assigned its own unique name. You know all these stories about cognac from the province of Cognac, champagne from Champagne, etc. Thus, the product manufacturer can be sure that his work and name are protected from plagiarism. In addition to wine, here they make the only Ukrainian balsamic vinegar, grape seed oil and grapevine cosmetics – all of this have its own unique names.
Kolonist is a family winery, and it is around this principle that the entire marketing campaign of the company is built. They don’t make a lot of wine, and it’s not cheap, but it’s their name that is responsible for quality. All who come to visit the vineyards and manufacturing process will taste rich dishes with delicious wine, but even for a moment, they won’t let you forget that you are guests.
In the village, you can visit the church of the Archangel Michael, look at the new paintings, get acquainted with the rector. Plachkov family helps to restore the temple and encourage its visit during their tours offered on the website of Kolonist. Thus, they try to expand the program for visitors, but it is clear that the rector doesn’t really like a status of the guide – he speaks in a low voice, not always clear, but still interesting. In particular, a story how, after the decision to restore the church was made (it was blown up in the 80ies, it is said that someone from the party bosses just wanted to curry favor), people started bringing icons that were hidden and preserved for decades.
Many villagers work at the winery – in the vineyards, in the laboratory or involved in the production. It also has something from the well-known family principle – each of them feels personal responsibility and pride for their work since generations of their ancestors who once came to develop these lands did the same thing they do now. However, they don’t stop learning. The state of art equipment requires fresh knowledge. Various experts from abroad are invited to Krynychne to share experiences, point out mistakes. Even though they don’t always accept criticism with pleasure, and learning is confused with lecturing, they learn and eventually see how the wine is getting better. After all, when it’s impossible to predict the weather and harvest, it is necessary to ensure with the help of high professionalism.
On the way back, warmed up by all that wine, I can find music much easier. The night highway calms you down, and the morning irritation by the state of the roadsides retreats as the joy of discovering a new place on the map of this endless steppe appears. Although I don’t want to be extremely sentimental I think that I’ve decided on my favorite wine in the near future.
Text and photo by Sasha Naselenko