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.
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 SLEEPING
I 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 DO
The 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.
I 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.