We’re Inessa and Natalie, sisters and storytellers from Ukraine, and the authors of the Through a Travel Lens blog. We launched this website in the spring of 2020. By then, the world was into its first months of the pandemic. Deprived of travels abroad and disheartened by the dreadful news about the rising number of deaths due to the virus, we were looking for ways to still find joy in travels. Even if those were local. So, we started traveling around Ukraine and exploring its hidden gems.
What started as escapism eventually turned into a healing journey.
Because well before the pandemic hit, my sister and I, like thousands of Ukrainians, went through another massive trauma — the war that started in 2014. In the spring of that year, the russian armed forces annexed Crimea and occupied Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Donetsk is our home, mine and Natalie’s. Dealing with the fact that the russians took it from us was a challenge that neither my sister nor I will wish upon anyone.
So, traveling around Ukraine and learning how beautiful and diverse our country is turned into our way to deal with the loss. We fell in love with what we saw — the cities, villages, rural areas, wild nature, and landscapes. That wound we have from losing Donetsk still aches. But even in the darkest hour, there is hope. Ours is based on love for Ukraine.
This love for Ukraine is something that we would like to share with all of you. Along with stories from other parts of the world that we were very lucky to visit: South-East Asia (including Bali, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia), numerous visits to France, and some of the amazing findings in small Slovenia, to mention a few.
Why you may find Through a Travel Lens travel blog helpful
We shine a light on smaller and under-the-radar cities, write itineraries for the best hikes, and write a lot about places to go and things to do when visiting Ukraine.
Inessa, who is a journalist and a screenwriter, also writes editorials about life in Ukraine. These are not for the search engines but rather for everyone who wants to understand life in this country, its culture and people better.
We know that Europe and Asia are among the destinations that many travelers have on their lists. We’re here to say that Ukraine is also worth visiting. Hopefully, our series of Through a Travel Lens posts about Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and picturesque nature destinations, as well as stories about the culture and traditions will motivate you to add this country to your travel agenda.
Natalie, who is a professional photographer, creates awesome presets that will improve any footage from your travels in just two clicks. In her travel photography blog section, she also shares tips and secrets about taking better pictures with professional cameras and/or mobile phones.
So hopefully, with those photography tips from Natalie, you’ll also be able to bring back from the trip not only great stories but also some great images.
Through a Travel Lens and The Castles of Ukraine
Natalie and I are also on a very personal mission to discover the castles in Ukraine. Being the cradle of Kievan Rus, Ukraine was home to aristocracies from many currently independent states – Poland, Hungary, Romania, Russia, etc. Most of the buildings that these aristocracies owned are scattered across the country.
We remember how stunned we were to discover this beauty – the Pidhirtsi Castle, on our way to Lviv. We’ve passed the route from Kyiv to Lviv many times until we decided to make a small detour. We did not expect much, but this turned out to be a true gem. So we wondered how many more of those forgotten, noteworthy buildings are hidden around our country.
This is not an easy task. Most of the castles are off the good roads, hidden in small villages. About 90% of the heritage is in a horrific state. But it is there. It is our history. And it is exciting.
Whether you are here for tips about traveling to Ukraine or for ideas about other destinations, or whether you are looking for advice and techniques on how to make your travel photography better – we hope you find inspiration on the pages of the Through a Travel Lens travel blog.