Travel in Ukraine
One of the oldest cities in the world, Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, lies astride the two banks of the mighty Dnipro River. Legend has it that it was founded in the late 5th century BC by three brothers, Kiy, Shchek and Khoryv, and their sister Lybid, and named after the eldest. Barely a millennium later, Kyivan Rus was one of the most powerful states in Europe and marrying into the family of the Kyivan Prince was considered an honor among European monarchs. The onslaught of the Mongol hordes over two centuries eventually destroyed the beautiful city and more modern hordes razed it once more during WWII. But Kyiv the Golden-Domed rose up again and again.
Today, Kyiv is on the rise once more as the cultural, administrative and financial heart of Ukraine, in addition to being one of the most beautiful capitals in Eastern Europe. It’s truly worth seeing with your own eyes the harmonious combination of antiquity and modernity, of classic artisanry with cutting-edge technology, of thousand-year-old churches and monasteries whose gleaming domes reflect the most contemporary architectural complexes.
The whole world discovered the city’s main square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, in late 2004, when the Orange Revolution took place. Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s chestnut-lined main street, cuts through the Maidan. On weekends and holidays, when the street is closed to cars, Khreshchatyk takes on the air of a festival as people stroll and children chase each other down the avenue, watching mimes and musicians, eating fabulous “plombir” ice cream, sipping freshly-brewed coffee at an outdoor café, checking out the latest fashions in upscale boutiques, or buying a good book from a street stand.
There is a saying among Kyivans, “Who has not seen Andriyivskiy Uzviz has not seen Kyiv.” This winding, cobbled street runs from the upper administrative center to the lower historic commercial center, Podil. Some call the Uzviz “the Montmartre of Kyiv” — but those who have seen the Parisian one will agree that the quality of art and artisanry that you can find on the Uzviz is far superior! Its charm is enhanced by the many cafés and terrace restaurants, the restored Ukrainian baroque buildings that line the Uzviz, the myriad visitors from all over the world and its atmosphere of cosmopolitan, unhurried enjoyment. At the very top of the hill is the priceless Andriyivska Tserkva — St. Andrew’s Church — , a lovely teal-blue, white and gold confection designed in the baroque style by the famed Italian architect, Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It regularly features delightful chamber concerts against the backdrop of an astonishing three-story high wooden iconostasis all in golds and reds.
Kyiv is becoming an artistic hotspot in Eastern Europe. The PinchukArtCentre located in Kyiv’s historic architectural complex in the Besarabsky area and the recently opened Museum of Modern Ukrainian Art offer townspeople and city guests the opportunity to enjoy the very best of international and Ukrainian contemporary art. If you are shopping for art explore Kyiv’s many art galleries and studios to find the original artworks that will become family heirlooms.
Kyiv is also home to edgy fashion designers. While you can shop for Ukrainian designer clothes in London and Paris, Zurich and Berlin, Monaco and Amsterdam, the experience is more exciting down here. You can see the latest and greatest from the leading designers at the annual Ukrainian Fashion Week or you can always flick through the racks at their shops in downtown Kyiv.
Founded as early as 5th century AD Kyiv has been touted the cradle of Christianity in present-day Ukraine. The Saint-Sophia Cathedral located in the heart of the old city was designed to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople and be center of the Christian principality of Kyiv. The Cathedral has survived since the 11th century to become one of the city’s best-known landmarks. The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, a sprawling monastery complex in a wooded area on two hills overlooking the right bank of the Dnieper River, is famous for its numerous monuments and grottoes. The candle-lit narrow tunnels of the Lavra’s underground monastery and richly-decorated churches evoke the power of ancient orthodox traditions. The Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Travel in Ukraine is impossible without visiting this gorgeous ancient city called by the amazing and powerful lion. They say Lviv is where the West meets the East. Throughout its history the City of Lion has been the melting pot for various influences and it can still be seen today in Lviv’s architecture, traditions, culture and people. In its urban fabric and architecture, Lviv is an outstanding example of the fusion of the architectural and artistic traditions of Eastern Europe with those of Italy and Germany. The ensemble of the historic center is listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Ploshcha Rynok with its maze of surrounding streets is the favorite place for all visitors to Lviv. You can climb up to the very top of the City Hall tower and enjoy the panoramic view of the city. Or step into one of the many eateries the city has to offer. Every owner tries to outdo the rest in presenting something unique that the visitor will not find anywhere else in the world: a chocolate factory, where you can see the entire process of hand-making chocolates with your own eyes and then enjoy a rich sampling with some delicious coffee or else buy a gift box in the shop on the second floor; the coffee mine, where legend has it that coffee beans are mined and brought straight to your table in a steaming, aromatic cup; the hidden bunker of UPA guerillas, where you can not only sample the best that underground cuisine has to offer, but even check out your level of patriotism with bold yells and soldierly jokes. At Christmas time, mummers come here dressed as the heroes of the Story of Bethlehem, an experience not to be missed. Add to these, Jewish coffee shops, Polish patisseries, and exquisite French restaurants — every gourmand can find that perfect place to feast their palate in Lviv.
Lviv was the first place in Ukraine where they started making coffee back in 1780 s (although Kamyanets-Podilskyi would contend this claim) and it is still the best place today for those who appreciate that beverage. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s rich coffee-house tradition enjoying a flavorful morning espresso with a splendid 360-degree view of the Old City on the roof patio of the House of Legends or sampling a rich cappuccino with a bit of hand-made chocolate at the Lviv Chocolate Factory.
The city also has many churches that charm with their variety and beauty: the 14th century Roman Catholic Cathedral on Katedralna Ploshcha; the Armenian Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, with an angelic singing voice wafting among the gorgeous Secessionist Polish frescoes in a 14th century tower; the classic Baroque architecture of the Dominican Church on Ploshcha Muzeina; and, of course, the famed Sviatoho Yura, or Church of St. George, the main shrine of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community and a monument to baroque and rococo architecture.
Christmas is the best time to come here, too, when carols echo throughout the church and on the streets to the accompaniment of organs. Meanwhile, the main square in Lviv is abuzz with the Feast of the Doughnut, as locals and guests alike sample their fill of freshly-made buns to decide which is the tastiest of them all.
If a carefully measured approach to life is not your style, our advice is — come to Odesa!
This non-stop port city on the shores of the Black Sea will bring a smile to your face the minute you arrive. Get ready for the brightest impressions, the merriest company and — most of all — get ready to fall in love with Odesa the way you fell in love with things when you were 16.
Don’t be surprised if some passer-by suddenly asks you why you’re not dressed for the weather and, not two minutes later, a bunch of cheerful, laughing strangers invite you to join them for a picnic by the sea. Because the best thing about Odesa is the people of Odesa… who genuinely consider themselves a nation onto their own, a place where people speak every possible language at the same time — without an interpreter!
Founded in 1794 as a seaport, Odesa was called the “Window on Europe.” This “Southern Palmyra” as locals still love to call it, was born and grew up under the influence of European culture and, what’s more, its flowering was fostered by famous European governors: Admiral José de Ribas, the Duke de Richelieu, Earl Vorontsov, and Count de Langeron.
Many years have passed since that time, but Odesa has kept its French subtlety and energy. You can still hear people call someone “Madame” or “Monsieur,” order a fine cup of coffee sitting on a bench in a garden, and ask the young lady in the little hat sitting next to them to read aloud from her book. The burbling of fountains, the heavenly scent of the acacia tree, the fresh sea breeze and Odesa artists at their traditional improvised open air exhibition in the City Gardens — altogether like a scene from an old movie, only this isn’t the past: it’s an ordinary moment in modern-day Odesa.
And Odesa has more. This is home to the longest stairway in Ukraine, the 19th century Potemkin Stairs. Its 192 steps are a unique architectural marvel and take visitors down from the heights of the city to Prymorskiy Bulvar, from which you can see an amazing panorama of the grand architectural complex and the country’s largest port.
As you stroll in the gentle sunshine and warm air, you might not even imagine that, deep under your feet, are the endless labyrinths of the Odesa catacombs, which run some 3,000 kilometers… By comparison, the catacombs in Paris run only about 300 kilometers and those in Rome, only 200! Yet nobody has managed to put even an approximation of their topography together in Odesa.
Aboveground, this does not seem to affect the whirlwind of life on Odesa’s charming streets or in its colorful buildings with their pleasant, leafy courtyards. The legendary Deribasivska, grand Richelievska and elegant Hretska or Greek Street all lead to the world-renowned Odesa State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. This is one of the most impressive buildings in Europe and here you can catch some of the greatest performances, not only in Odesa, but in the entire country. Watch a ballet, listen to an opera and chat about high art with the local bohemians. Not 20 minutes later, you could be at Arcadia Beach, with its sparkling mosaic of the best nightclubs in the country. This is where the Beautiful People live for the day, laughing, dancing and watching the sunrise on the seashore. Yes, it’s true that anything is possible in Odesa.
But the best gift of all that Odesa has for you is the chance to really laugh. This is the Motherland of comedy, great jokes and humorous tales that are known far beyond the borders of this country — the reason why Odesa has been called the “First City of Humor” for many decades. Every year, the huge Humorina Festival of Jokes takes place, a kind of carnival of comic celebration that reflects the daily manners and amazing mentality of Odesites. Here in Odesa you can forget all your woes and return to the basic joys of life. Odesa will make you love life and sing in happiness.
Only after you have returned home to your familiar daily routine, and begin to feel the sweet trembling in your heart as you remember this wonderful city, will you finally understand that it’s not you that fell in love with Odesa, but Odesa that fell in love with you.
Founded by a Welsh businessman John Hughes as a mining settlement in Eastern Ukraine, Donetsk has grown into a large population center famous for its steel plants and coal mines, but also for its opera theater and last, but not least football. The cityscape is dominated by the recently-built high-rises and vegetation-covered spoil tips, the testaments to the city’s industrial past and present. One of the tallest spoil tips close to the downtown area offers excellent panoramas of Donetsk.
Donetsk is home to two major professional football clubs playing in the Ukrainian Premier League: FC Shakhtar and FC Metallurg. Shakhtar’s victory in the 2009 UEFA Cup and its recent exploits in the national championship have firmly put Donetsk on the European football map and transformed it into one of Ukraine’s top destinations for football fans.
The brand new Donbas Arena, which can comfortably host over 50,000 people, is not only a state-of-the-art stadium, but also the city’s major attraction. The venue features FC Shakhtar’s museum, conference facilities, and offers guided tours both on-site and on-line.
Donetsk’s downtown area has got a recent lift-up and the central streets turned into fashionable shopping promenades with boutiques, good restaurants, classy hotels, and green areas. True to the city’s industrial prowess crafty blacksmiths have created the alley of iron sculptures and installations in one of the city’s downtown parks across from the city hall. If you have only half a day for this city in your travel in Ukraine plan you can venture on a tour of the salt mine located in a town of Soledar, 100 km away from Donetsk and 300 meters underground. The sight of salt caves is very impressive and some of them are used to host a symphony orchestra concerts and art exhibitions.
Whenever you are planning a travel in Ukraine — include Kharkiv on your must-see list! Kharkiv has had the ambition to stand out from the rest and it has been quite successful at that. One famous demonstration of Kharkiv’s unbridled ambition can be found in the city’s Uspensky Cathedral bell tower. It is said that the tower was built to be taller than the Moscow Kremlin—a shocking departure from the imperial etiquette of the time. Today Kharkiv stands out as one of Ukraine’s leading intellectual, cultural and industrial centers.
As the first capital of Soviet Ukraine in the 1920 s and 1930 s, the city was the lab for constructivism and innovation in urban planning and the site for the development projects which transformed Kharkiv from a merchant town into the industrial, intellectual and infrastructure hub for the whole country. The Derzhprom Building (also known as Gosprom) in downtown Kharkiv known for innovative construction methods and seminal design features is the first Soviet skyscraper and famous constructivist landmark in the city. The building stands on the vast Ploshcha Svobody, one of the largest public squares in the world.
Kharkiv is one of the largest centers of learning in Ukraine and Eastern Europe in terms of the number of post-secondary institutions of education and the sheer number of students. For that reason it is also called the Student Capital. The city’s first educational institution, opened in 1805, was the Imperial University, known today as Karazin National University of Kharkiv. It has given the world three Nobel Prize winners: Illya Mechnikov, for medicine in 1908, Lev Landau for physics in 1962, and Simon Kuznets for economics in 1971. Today, some 200,000 students are enrolled in Kharkiv in technical, legal, creative, medical and other faculties, including around 12,000 foreign students, which creates a unique atmosphere of student fraternity in the city.
Kharkiv has always felt itself to be young and loves to be in the center of events, to chose untraditional approaches, to be first in everything.
Ukraine’s Black Sea Pearl is the marvelous Crimean peninsula, famed for its generally mild weather and exceptional natural environment. Its amazing range of varying climactic zones covers the five continents on this relatively small bit of earth. Indeed, it seems almost as though every square kilometer has its own climate and its own flora and fauna. The endless steppes of the central plateau combine with green valleys filled with vineyards, primordial meadows and impenetrable forests, canyons and waterfalls, picturesque mountains whose peaks are sometimes covered in snow until June, and, of course, golden, sandy beaches. In a single day, you can see the wildlife of America, Asia, Africa and Europe — as well as plants that you will not find outside of Crimea.
Crimea is a fairy-tale place whose history goes back thousands of years, its origins enveloped in myths and legends. Discover the mysterious Scythian burial mounds, feel the grandeur of ancient Chersonesus, wander the trails in old caves, explore the ruins of medieval fortresses, and stroll through the luxurious palaces of Khans and Tsars. This amazing peninsula reflects almost all the history of humanity, from the settlements of prehistoric people to the secret soviet submarine base at Balaclava.
The best-known symbol of Crimea is the Swallow’s Nest castle, perched on a steep, 40-meter high cliff called Aurora, in the village of Gaspra. Designed as a Neo-Gothic knight’s hold, this castle’s romantic appearance attracts thousands of visitors every year, its deliberate isolation, withstanding sea storms since 1912, it exudes a feeling of mystery, as no one really knows its complete story.
The other striking building in the Yalta area is Livadia Palace, a famous monument to 19th and early 20th century architecture and history. The one-time imperial summer retreat, “Livadia My Dear Heart” is what the ill-fated Nicholas II called this corner of paradise. On February 1945, the famed Yalta Conference of the Big Three took place here, that is, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin.
In the tiny resort town of Alupka is the Vorontsov Palace, another architectural marvel of the 19th century. This was the summer residence of the well-known Russian statesman, Mikhail Vorontsov, designed in a blend of Scottish Baronial, Gothic Revival and Moorish Revival styles.
Crimea’s lovely mountains are an elongated massif with gentle northern slopes covered in dense forests and southern ones that sharply break into the sea, forming a great steep wall as high as 500 meters in places. The most picturesque of its peaks is Ai-Petri, which is 1,234 m high. Its odd peak, with its large and small teeth can be seen from many points on the South Shore, while from the top of Ai-Petri, the climber can admire the breathtaking panorama of the South Shore — the cozy coves and bays, scenic forests and groves, and the cliffs and beaches of the seashore — as though on the palm of your hand.
Crimea has many things that other resort areas in the world have — but Crimea also has things that cannot be found anywhere else. After all, Crimea is the entire world in miniature — well, almost…
Once a closed-off naval base on the Black Sea coast of the Crimean peninsula, nowadays Sevastopol welcomes tourists from all over the world. The whitewashed Mediterranean-style buildings, stone forts, waterfront promenades and the naval port will continue to impress you time and again.
Being one of the most famous naval citadels in Europe, Sevastopol’s fortunes have always been tied with the navy. The navy spirit and traditions steeped in history are still alive and have been preserved carefully by the city residents. The Eagle Column commemorating the scuttling of the Russian warships at the mouth of the harbor in 1854 to protect Sevastopol from the impending invasion.
Chersoneses, an ancient Greek colony, nicknamed the Ukrainian Troy, was the gateway to Christianity in Ukraine and Russia. Chersoneses’ ancient ruins which include a Roman amphitheater and a Greek temple are a popular tourist attraction and important archeological site.
The formerly classified submarine base in Balaklava, the suburb of Sevastopol, was built to house Soviet nuclear attack submarines. Built deep in the hillside to withstand a direct nuclear strike and connected to the harbor through a system of underground canals, the base is an impressive engineering feat. The base has been decommissioned and is now open to the public for guided tours.
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Have you ever dreamed of actually experiencing what you’ve read about in books and to breathe the air of an epoch from the distant past, to feel what it’s like to be a medieval knight or stately townswoman dressed in a fine wimple? Well, Ukraine has a secret: you don’t need a Time Machine to see a city from the past with your own eyes. You can walk through medieval fortresses towering above centuries-old ramparts, wander down narrow, winding streets paved in sturdy cobbles, and solid rocky cliffs above which loom stern defensive towers—in Kamianets-Podilskiy. This is a charming, unique town where history walks the many pathways alongside you.
Morning. The town is still asleep as the sun creeps up the walls of this 12th century masterpiece, slowly illuminating its many architectural features. In your hotel room, you feel a keen desire to see this famous fortress, serene as a fairytale castle rising above a high precipice. Far below, a river snakes under these towering cliffs, although you can only see it through the crenels and balistraria that line the defensive towers. The pathway down, both inviting and unapproachable at the same time, twists in a steep wave and remains a fully functional roadway to this day.
The old town starts with a number of narrow lanes lined with buildings that huddle together, both tidy and timid. Tiny courtyards, archways and walls covered in wild grape vines beckon the visitor to meander among them. The small street that first runs down to the right behind the local botanical garden and bridge unexpectedly brings you to a 16th century tower called the “Royal” or “Furrier’s” Tower. A small sign warns trespassers that the structure is in dangerous condition, but its exterior is in remarkably good condition. Suddenly you hear a car drive through the narrow archway of the tower and the contrast is startling. Somehow, you were already expecting to see the coach of some nobleman and hear the rattle of its wooden wheels on the wet paving.
Consisting of 12 towers, a new fortress, a Turkish or Castle bridge, and two bastions—Northern and Southern—, the ancient fortress is a marvelous creation of medieval architects, a unique defensive complex that protected the town under Armenian, Polish and Ukrainian rule, from enemy assaults. There is no precise record of its construction, but historians place the founding of the stronghold and town in the 12th century.
The fortress was built of stone whose laying impresses the visitor with its scale to this day. The lower sections contain deep stone wells that brought water from the river to the inhabitants of the fortress. During times of siege, this water was only used for technical purposes for fear that it had been poisoned. The fortress is particularly beautiful at night, when dusk falls over the city and lights envelop the medieval walls and towers, emphasizing their silhouettes in the darkness of night. The courtyard now contains a wooden platform for the performances of ethno-groups at the annual Festival of the Tournaments of Knights.
The center of the modern town is cozy and well-kept: authentic cafés and cozy restaurants, family-run B&Bs, and even a hotel complete with fancy interior and spa center. Down an alleyway of souvenir shops has been painted to look like a cluster of tiny Dutch houses, visitors can find any number of mementos of their visit to the fortress, whether mass-made, or hand-made by talented local artisans.
This is the kind of town where you can easily peruse nearby homes and slowly saunter through courtyards without worrying that you will get annoying looks from locals—on the contrary, the townsfolk are remarkably welcoming and friendly. They themselves will even come up to you on the street and offer their assistance if you look lost.
Everyday, tour buses leave from the center of town, carrying visitors to yet another famed kozak fortification, the Khotyn Fortress, which is in the town of Khotyn, about 28 kilometers south of Kamianets-Podilskiy. When you enter the main gate, a stone road winds downhill to the fortress, revealing a stunning panorama: a majestic defensive stronghold from the Middle Ages stands among natural ramparts covered in a carpet of green grass, while the broad, slow-moving Dnister wraps the lower walls in its blue embrace. Above, a sparkling blue sky spreads as far as the eye can see and a fresh wind blows.
Who knows what undiscovered secrets these silent walls, broad towers and the natural ramparts that surround them still hold. How many mysteries still sleep underground and in the ancient churches here? The very air is different here, for you can feel the past as you walk along these marvelous places. So take out that map and stick your little flag on the name, Kamianets-Podilskiy!
How many memories are hiding in the ancient oaks of Poltava with their time-twisted branches? How many visions have these old churches seen as they prayed to heaven for peace with their wooden domes? How many centuries of history? You won’t find the answers in any history textbooks. To see this history with your own eyes, come to Poltava: the land of kozaks, of embroidered runners, and of masterpieces of noble architecture.
As you drive up to Poltava, the road is flanked by those twisted brainchildren of the USSR, collective farms. Then the suburbs: ungainly clusters of five-story soviet-era apartment buildings, interspersed with older single-family homes hiding behind faded green blinds: here people are used to creating their own micro environments, protecting their property from prying eyes with high wooden fencing.
At first glance, the city is a somewhat disappointing clutter of new buildings and small private homes, but that changes when you reach the center of Poltava. Here, the transformation is dramatic, like the story of the city itself: majestic columns, plasterwork façades, and leafy old chestnut trees ranging along both sides of cobbled streets. All of it is in the best traditions of imperial landscaping at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1802, Poltava began to turn into a smaller version of St. Petersburg and today the imprint of the Russian empire marks all of the city’s oldest streets.
The city’s grandest feature is the Enclosed or Korpusniy Garden, a monument to botanical art. Begun in 1840, it boasts more than 70 varieties of rare trees and blooms. In its heart stands the Monument to Glory that was erected to commemorate the victory of Peter the Great’s Russian army over the army of Carl XII of Sweden and Hetman Ivan Mazepa’s force of the Ukrainian kozaks at the ill-fated Battle of Poltava in 1709. It was a battle whose impact on European history lasted for centuries.
Walking down Nedilniy [Sunday] Uzviz to Soborna [Sovereign] Ploshcha, you will see a unique site among Poltava’s many monuments — this is Ivana Hora or Ivan’s Hill. The central feature of this square is the Ouspenskiy Sobor, one of the greatest Orthodox cathedrals in Ukraine. Right behind it stretches the historical museum home of Ivan Kotliarevskiy, author of the first work in literary Ukrainian, Eneida [Aeneid], a comic kozak epic based on Virgil’s classic.
But to touch the heroic past of Poltava, to really feel the air of a more glorious era, you should drive another 9 kilometers past the center of town. On the outskirts of Yakivtsi is the Poltava Battlefield Museum, where the historic landscape of the 200 year-old battle has been preserved unchanged. Fragments of the fortifications stand next to sculptures of the defenders of Poltava and the brave Swedish soldiers who died under its walls.
If you take a wander north of Poltava, don’t forget to stop in at the legendary village of Dykanka, that mystical place from the pages of the spooky books written by Nikolai Gogol. Despite the typical rural landscape, everything has the air of nobility and lost luxury. The lush estates of the ancient Kochubey family, who owned the village in pre-revolutionary times, the massive, 600-year old oaks that have witnessed so many human events, a marvelous church decorated by incredible artists that fits perfectly into its surroundings — its as though you yourself have stepped into a book that has suddenly awakened from a long, long sleep and come to life.
The charms of Poltava country peep out from the pages of world literary classics, tempting visitors to immerse themselves in the times of kozaks and stately young demoiselles that you can just about hear murmuring in the shelter of the ancient Kochubey oaks. If you want to feel the breath of a glorious past, Poltava is the place to see.
How many cities have you seen where you can experience several countries without leaving? This mid-sized town, half way between Kyiv and Bucharest or Krakow and Odesa, lies in Bukovyna country. It’s name? Chernivtsi, of course! The secret of this surprising cosmopolitanism lies in Chernivtsi’s turbulent history, a history that saw the flags of many different countries and empires change places, sometimes within a single generation. Today, this multiculturalism has left its mark on the city, an aura that you can feel in the architecture, in the monuments from various epochs, in the very plantings in the parks and the churches whose spires rise to the heavens, placed by the hands and hearts of many different peoples.
Founded as a fortress in the 12th century on the banks of the Prut River, Chernivtsi is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine. Today, some people call it “Little Vienna,” possibly because the 150 years it spent as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have left their imprint in the form of amazing architectural ensembles and charming old streets, and the cozy atmosphere of a provincial city of the Austrian era that still dominates in Chernivtsi. There’s also the unusually tolerant nature of the residents of this town, shaped by the many different ethnic groups and religions that rubbed elbows here for many centuries — Ukrainians, Jews, Germans, Romanians, Poles, and Russians… Today, Bukovyna Country is the happy home of people from some 90 different nationalities.
One of the loveliest streets in Chernivtsi is the pedestrians-only vulytsia Olhy Kobylianskoyi, which some compare to Paris’s Champs Elysees. In the olden days, this street was called Herrengasse, or Gentlemen’s Lane and was famed across half of Europe for the fact that every morning the porters would wash down the pavement with warm soapy water and sweep up the sidewalks with bouquets of roses, while the police never allowed anyone to step onto it with dirty shoes. As in the past, this small lane is lined with fancy cafés today, where fancy people sip their porcelain demitasses and talk about fancy things. Every city has a street that seems to draw people to itself like a magnet. But vulytsia Olhy Kobylianskoyi is not just an architectural jewel… it is the very reflection of how the people of Chernivtsi feel about their own city’s past.
In the olden days when Chernivtsi, being at the far eastern reaches of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was considered hopelessly provincial and even referred to as a backwater, a marvelous work of art appeared in the town: a unique architectural composition by the renowned Czech architect Josef Hlávka. Originally the residence of the Bukovynian Metropolitan, today this lovely mansion is the central building of Fedkovych National University. Every year, thousands of tourists come to Chernivtsi just to admire this lovely architectural jewel. Recently, the University building was entered into UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites.
Encircling the residence is a street named after the creator of this stone masterpiece, Josef Hlàvka. As you wander around Chernivtsi’s picturesque side streets, you will see the names of many a great personage who was honored by this city’s residents. From vulytsia Ivana Franka, named after Ukraine’s great writer and playwright of the early 20th century, you can cross to vulytsia Mihai Eminescu, named after the 19th century Romanian poet and writer, then Goethe, Schiller, Adam Mickiewicz, and Anton Kokhanovskiy, an eminent burger and one-time mayor of Chernivtsi. Further down, you will come across streets named after Jewish writeres Steinberg and Aleichem and Yiddish actress Sidi Tal.
When you look around Bukovyna country, it feels like you are looking at the entire world. Here, you can still see evidence of the lives of countless cultures and faiths — Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim… It is a real miracle that brings the present day more than a thousand years into the past and creates that everyday tolerance that makes Chernivtsi a town worth living in.