I spent a day in each of Ternopil and Chernivistsi. Two very different cities in Western Ukraine,
by Essexgirl09 on September 24, 2013
The Chernivtsi National University, in Chernivtsi (surprisingly enough) is the top university in the region of Bukovina in South West Ukraine, and is one of the country’s oldest universities, having been founded in 1875 by Franz Josef the Austro-Hungarian Emperor, who controlled the region at the time. It is now a USESCO World Heritage Site. Initially students studied theology, and then subsequently law and philosophy. Language and literature was also studied in German, Romanian and Ukrainian but when the territory came under Romanian control (1918 until 1940), Ukrainian was abolished and everything was taught in the Romanian language. Under Soviet control, this was switched back to Ukrainian (although this time the theology department was closed until 1996). The architecture of the university is very interesting. It was designed by Czech architect Josef Hlavka, at a time when the city was under Austrian rule (and one of the largest cities in the Empire after Prague and Vienna), but was somewhat different to other architectural styles of the area and time, as it mixes red bricks with coloured tiles in a geometric block design, which resembles something made of Lego in parts. Closer examination of some of the clock towers reveals the Star of David pattern in the brick work to resemble to contribution made by the Jewish community to the founding of the university. Many early students were Jewish, and indeed the town had a large Jewish community, of which only a small percentage still remain, the rest having been killed or displaced during the Second World War. Not many of the university’s past alumni would be recognised outside the Ukraine. The only one I was vaguely familiar with was Ukrainian poet Ivan Franko.We had a guided tour included in our city tour (which in turn was included in our holiday price), and certainly the university was the main highlight. Through this tour we visited the small chapel. This university is the only one in the Ukraine to have its own seminary/chapel within the theology department. Whilst the chapel has been restored post-Soviet era, the chandelier is original. As you exit the church, if you look up, behind you, you will see the cross is at an angle. This was caused by a minor earthquake, and apparently it is considered safer to leave it there, wonky, than to move it.Also within the tour we saw several replica statues of the Austrian Empress Marie-Therese. The original went missing and when it was found was missing it head and arms. Whilst the original is being restored in Kiev, ten replicas reside within the university buildings, some accessorised with other items for reasons I can’t quite fathom.We also saw the conference room where they hold functions, and the old library (no books left) where there was an exhibition of students art and textile designs. To be honest, the highlights are the architecture and the grounds, and if you can arrange for a guide to take you round, then it is worth doing if you are in the area.
by Essexgirl09 on September 26, 2013
Ukraine’s smallest region is called Bukovina, and is situated in the South West of the country between the Carpathian Mountains, and the borders with Moldova and Romania. The principal city of this region is the small, pretty city of Chernivtsi. The city has had an interesting history, initially Galician (thus also Polish), then Moldovan, before becoming part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (undoubtedly the city’s hey-day, when it was the third largest city after Vienna and Prague), and subsequently also having been under Romanian rule, before Soviet Occupation in 1940, when it was made a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. According to our local guide, the city has affectionately been dubbed ‘Little Paris’ (presumably by people who have never been to Paris, as there is little or no resemblance) and Little Vienna. The latter makes more sense, as you can see the influence in the old town architecture. Due to the influence of the Austro-Hungarian rule, Chernivtsi (then known as Czernowitz), became a cosmopolitan place with many nationalities, and many intellectuals coming to study at the University (one of the oldest in Ukraine, and unique die to having its own chapel in the theology department). Nowadays it is home to some 250,000 people.ARRIVAL We came by private transport from Ternopil (five hours – terrible roads). You can also access the Carpathians, the Black Sea, Romania and Moldova from here (admittedly, quite a drive the coast). It took us seven hours to Chisinau in Moldova by private transport, including border crossings. The glamourous railway station can connect you with Kiev on an overnight train, as well as further afield including Romania, Russia and Belarus (the latter two via Kiev). There are buses also, but I wouldn’t fancy a long journey on such roads. EATING AND SLEEPINGI heard many good things, about the Vienna café in the old part of town (the pedestrian street near the ‘pink’ church), but I ate closer to the hotel. In fact lunch was in the hotel, and dinner was in the Shevchenko Park opposite. Most restaurants that we saw had English menus, but this isn’t always the case, and staff may speak only limited English. I stayed at the Bukoyna Hotel, which was a pleasant mid-range hotel, offering rooms for differing budgets, about 15 minutes from the old town centre. Walking around I don’t think the city is particularly well served with nice hotels. THINGS TO DOThe city is justifiably proud of its university and its attractive buildings (now UNESCO sites) and we did a tour here as part of our itinerary (price included). You need a guide and I believe the larger hotels can arrange this, or try the guardhouse at the main gate. For me this was the main attraction in the city (see separate review for more information).The city has some unusual churches, which seemed to escape the attention of the Soviets. I didn’t go in any due to being there at the wrong time, but they certainly looked interesting from the outside. One, known as the Pink Church (maybe that was just to us), is also called the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and was built in the mid-nineteenth century. Unsurprisingly, it is pink with a neo-classical design with large, grey cupolas. Apparently the murals inside are worth a look The city has two churches of St Nikolai, where by far my favourite was the 1930s ‘drunken church’ with its twisted blue and white towers, giving the appearance of it being wonky. Opposite was the older St Nikolai church, a log cabin type church built at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Like many Ukrainian cities, Chernivtsi is proud of its arts and theatre, and Kobylianska theatre is highly regarded, opposite a small, attractive square. The Art Gallery and Jewish History Museum are also supposed to be worth a visit.SUMMARYI enjoyed my brief stopover here. Chernivtsi is well situated as a stopover destination, rather than the end result as it just doesn’t have enough to offer. It is an attractive city and worth a visit if your itinerary and schedule allows, considering such long distances between places, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit here.
by Essexgirl09 on September 20, 2013
This hotel was selected by my tour operator and was included in my holiday price. It is a large, impersonal hotel, located just outside the centre of the small city of Chernivtsi, which is located in the small province of Bukovina, between the Carpathian Mountains and the Romanian/Moldovan border in the western part of Ukraine. It is just a short walk to the town centre, and there is a supermarket and a park with restaurants in the immediate vicinity, plus restaurants within the hotel complex. Whilst the lobby is unremarkable, the lifts quick to leave and slow to arrive, the actual room was a tad dated. Our twin room also had a sofa, desk, mini bar and flat screen TV (opposite the bed, not the sofa, which was opposite the fridge…). The room was air-conditioned and it worked effectively. The bathroom was also dated (although all were clean) with a shower over the bath and a good (but basic) assortment of complimentary toiletries. Beds were comfortable and we were undisturbed at night. The breakfast was served in the restaurant, which was adjacent to the lobby, and is a very grand room, with high ceilings, mirrors and gilded edges. The buffet had a good selection of hot and cold foods, juices and tea and coffee. You could dine here at other times also, and I had lunch on the terrace, just outside the restaurant. The food and atmosphere was nice, the service typically slow. I found prices to be very reasonable. The hotel also has conference facilities, a gym and beauty salon. Free wi-fi is available in the rooms. Prices would vary depending on class of room and time of year. I imagine this is the sort of hotel to be busy mid-week. Although this is a four star hotel, it is looking a bit tired and not completely up to standard (although the communal areas are in better condition. I would not let the fact that it is a little out of town put you off if you can get a good price.
by Essexgirl09 on September 15, 2013
Ternopil, a small city of a quarter of a million habitants, is based in the west of the country in the region of Galicia, a few hours east of Lviv. The city doesn’t have many attractions beyond a few churches and museums. The biggest is the artificial lake, named after the town (also called a pond, but it is much bigger than a pond, and function as a reservoir) and if you think about it, it is quite unusual for a city to have a lake in its centre. It was originally dug out when the city was founded in the sixteenth century as part of the city defences, hence its proximity to the castle (which isn’t in existence as it was sadly). It has taken various forms but the current size and shape is from the Soviet era when they dammed the river Seret. The lake is situated by the castle and Hotel Ternopil, and you walk down the steps by the water feature. There is no step-free access from this part. To the right is a small walk area, with a bridge across to an ‘island’ which can be a pleasant stroll. There are a few kiosks here selling ice creams and hot and cold drinks, as well as a few fairground type games and go-karts for kids to ‘drive’. I think there is also a café-bar a bit further along.You can get a boat across the lake or do a round trip for UAH10 (80p). It doesn’t go all around the lake, just over to the other side and back. The other side is woodland, and I saw a few vehicles parked, but I think you may have to walk (using a path) to the road or whatever is beyond the woodland area. We bought tickets from the kiosk and souvenir shop by the lake and had some trouble understanding what the man said about when the boat would be back, but it seems to come and go at half-hourly intervals. I think there may be longer trips available, but I am not sure of the schedule or departure times (or if I understood the man at all). Last sailing in summer seemed to be 5.50/6pm. Once the boat arrived, people ignored the queue and bundled forward, the staff helped people on, as there was a big gap between the landing platform and the boat. Tickets were checked once the boat has sailed. The trip there and back was just under 30 minutes. As the boat was busy and we had seats, we didn’t move around, but I think you would have a better perspective if you are able to do this. The lake isn’t the prettiest, but it is a pleasant way to spend half an hour on a sunny day.
Ternopil isn't on most tourists' must-visit lsts, and here are some suggestions of what you can do/see whilst you are here.Lake Ternopil - actually a man-made reservoir, expanded and improved upon during the Soviet era when the local river was dammed. You can get a boat across and back for UAH10 (80p). There is a pretty walking area near Hotel Ternopil too. It is not the most exciting boat trip you will ever undertake, but it is nice to do on a hot day and will kill half an hour. Near the lake and Hotel Ternopil is Ternopil Castle, don’t get your hopes up, it isn't the romantic 16th Century castle that originally stood here. It has been re-built since then (twice) and most recently in 1956 and it no longer looks particularly castle like. You can’t visit it as far as I am aware, and I am not sure exactly what it is used for.Whilst in Ternopil I took lots of photos of churches and am not sure what all of them are now I am home! There are two that I went into and which stood out:Church of the Resurrection (17th century) which was a small, charming church in the heart of the older part of the city. Interesting statues inside and a memorial to the 1931 famine outside.Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (formerly the Dominican Church) is 18th century. Badly damaged during the Second World War, it was restored in the fifties and re-opened as an art gallery in 1959 but is now a church again. All the paintings inside were painted in the last 20 years, and the main one over the alter was finished in 2011. Like many Ukrainian towns, Ternopil likes its statues and public art. One in Shevchenko Park is of the famous opera singer Solomiya Krushelnytska and there is another of controversial Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera. Plenty more can be spotted in the park and its environs. There are a number of museums in the town, which I did not get the opportunity to visit. These include regional art and history museums. I also understand that the town’s opera and ballet company produces a number of well-regarded productions in the local theatre, when at home (they were on tour during the summer, when I was there).
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