An international band of brightly clad hikers slurping borshch with weather-beaten Hutsuls; mountain bikers competing with horse-drawn carts and clapped out Ladas for pothole space; wooded mountainsides hoisting a beautiful backdrop as the fast-flowing River Tysa gurgles beneath precariously hung footbridges – this is Rakhiv, chaotically post-Soviet and crudely rural, but the best base from which to explore the southern Carpathians.
While Rakhiv's derelict state is shocking even by Ukrainian standards, the place has a raw energy that draws foreigners in their thousands. Some have even settled here to farm and carry on the traditional ways of the Hutsuls. Peace Corps volunteers posted here love the place.
Rakhiv is good for a couple of days to take on supplies, have a chuckle visiting a 'geographical centre of Europe' that's not really and to enjoy a little hiking. A Swiss-Ukrainian project, Forza, is working on regional regeneration, including the marking of trails into the Carpathian National Nature Park.