Thursday, April 29, 2010

Salt mines of Soledar

Small town Soledar in Donetsk region is situated on the place of shallow bay of ancient Permian sea which existed there 250 millions years ago. After the sea dried out, here appeared one of the purest salt deposit in the world and the biggest one in Europe. In spite of more than 100 years of underground working, resulted in more than 125 miles of mines, these salt field resources are enough for 2 thousand years more.

While tourists are attracted not by functioning mines, but exhaust one which is added to the UNESCO list of world culture heritage. Miners who worked in it turned the empty mines into magnificent temples by creating sculptures, pictures, chapels and grottos from salt blocks. Everything here is made of salt: walls, ceiling, floor, figures and trees.

The route along the salty galleries of this underground city at a depth of 300 meters is about 700 meters long and ends with a huge hall of 40 meters height. The acoustics in the hall is so amazing that sometimes it becomes the concert hall for symphonic orchestra. Kurt Schmidt, Austrian composer and director says that there are only 2 or 3 theaters in the world that can compete the acoustics of Soledar's salt mines: "I am impressed! The notes flew up to the arch of the grotto, and then slowly as a cloud fell down. Incredible!".

Near the tourist route there is a speleo-sanitarium "Salty Symphony" where the following diseases are successfully cured: bronchial asthma, asthmatoid bronchitis, obstructive bronchitis, chronic pneumonia, rhinoallergosis, atopic dermatitis, some forms of psoriasis, weak immunity, thyroid diseases. Patients' sense of well-being is influenced by the following factors: atmospheric pressure 772 mm Hg (millimeters mercury column), air humidity 60%, temperature 14-16 °С, as well as air itself is filled with salt pieces with size of 1-5 micron and concentration of 15 mg in 1 cu m. The treatment in the microclimate of salt mine is one of the most effective because 70-85% adults and 85-95% children recover there according to statistics.

Usually the tour goes on for about 4 hours. During this time tourists can visit underground football field, church, labyrinths, concert hall, gallery, see the original figures made of salt, take a rest at underground bar, watch a movie about speleo-sanitarium, take pictures and video, play billiards, table tennis, chess, and simply have a rest and breathe the unique air of salt mine. Along the route medical staff and guide will do some training in medical respiratory gymnastics and tell interesting stories about the salt mine.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Hoverla is the highest peak of Ukrainian Carpathians and the highest point in the whole Ukraine, its height is 2061 meters above the sea level. The mountain is cone-shaped, the top of it is a small flat area, that allows admiring the landscape within a radius of 360 degrees. It belongs to Chernohora mountain range and lies near town Rakhiv, the geographical center of Europe.

Some time ago Hoverla peak was on the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia, now here is a border between Zakarpattia and Ivano-Frankivsk regions. If you look to the South-East you will see the mountain Petros and other mountain ranges behind it. If you look to the North-West you will see Carpathian national park (Carpathian biosphere preserve).

The first touristэs route to Hoverla was opened in 1880, since then it is the most visited mountain in this region. Usually it takes about 6 hours to reach the top so it is always popular with people who like one-day adventures in the mountains. In winter it has 1A complication category passes and attracts people that prefer extreme tourism. Statistics states that there is a true pilgrimage to Hoverla on the last day of the year, so finally it has become a tradition: each Ukrainian should mount Hoverla at least once in his life.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Potemkin Stairs

Potemkin Stairs stand sixth on the list of 10 most beautiful stairs in Europe, though citizens call it "the 8th wonder of the world" in joke. It has 142 meters in length and includes 192 steps (originally 200 steps). The architectural solution of Potemkin Stairs is very interesting as it is based on optical illusion: when you look down the stairs you see only the entries, while when you look up the stairs you see only the steps. Also when you look down the stairs it seems that both sides of the stone parapet are parallel, however, the width of the bottom of the stairs is twice more than the width of the top.

The name of the stairs has nothing to do with famous Potemkin. At first they were called "Nicholas Stairs", "Boulevard Stairs" or "Giant Stairs" (by the way, it was Mark Twain who called them "Giant Stairs" in his novel "The Innocents Abroad" after he visited Odessa). In fact, the stairs were built from 1837 till 1841 on demand of Prince Vorontsov by architect F. Boffo’s design, which was approved by the Russian Emperor Nicholas I. Once the stairs were ready, Duke Voronsov presented them as a gift to his wife Elizabeth. Ironically, the stairs became famous around the world because of S. Eisenstein’s movie "The Battleship Potemkin" devoted to sailors rebellion in 1905. One of the greatest scenes of the movie was filmed on - since that time - Potemkin Stairs.

Potemkin Stairs is one of the best places in Odessa with a view of the harbor. Near the stairs there are other things Odessa is proud of: monument of Odessa founder Duke Armand de Richelieu, Pushkin monument, Opera House, etc. So after taking a picture of you and Duke de Richelieu, you can easily go down the stairs to the sea port and then back because optimal angle of inclination and optimal number of entries will not let you get tired. If you still got tired you can use Funicular – another relic of old Odessa.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Easter in Ukraine

Easter (in Ukrainian: 'Velykden' or 'Paskha') is preceded by seven weeks of Lent and celebrated on each first week after vernal equinox and full moon. It is the most busy and cheerful holiday for orthodox believers. Saturday evening they gather in the church for the Easter vigil till the very morning when priests bless the food believers brought. After that people go home to celebrate Easter with their families. If they meet other people on the way they say: "Christ is risen!" and these people should reply "Risen indeed".

Ukrainian Easter is a historical combination of heathen and Christian traditions. Velykden was celebrated thousands of years ago as the victory of the Light over the Dark, Day over Night, Spring over Winter. The Resurrection was celebrated only from 988 when Kiev Rus was baptized. For some time these two systems coexisted, for some time it was forbidden for people to follow heathen traditions, but later the church decided to use in its Easter ceremony the heathen customs like painting eggs and backing Easter cake.

Easter cake ('Kulich') and painted eggs ('Krashanki') are the symbols of Ukrainian Easter and obligatory food on the table this day. Kulich is baked from yeast dough in the form of cylinder. Krashanka is a boiled and painted egg. If you visit Ukraine on Easter holidays and have a Sunday meal in Ukrainian family, kids will surely involve you in their favorite Easter game: knocking the eggs - if you knock somebody’s egg and you egg is not broken - you are the winner.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Olesko castle

Olesko castle is oldest preserved castle on the territory of Western Ukraine (Galicia) and the only fortress of Kiev Rus period. It raises above a wonderful park on a 50 meters natural hill near the town Olesko, Lviv region. This monument of architecture has oval form, its walls are 10 meters high and 2.5 meters wide.

The castle was built in XIII century on the crossroads of old trade routes from Hungary to Volyn. The first time it was mentioned in 1327, in 1390 it was given to Galician catholic archbishop by the Pope Bonifacius IX. From XV to XVII century it was attacked many times by Tatars. During one of these attacks in 1629 Jan III Sobieski, the king of Poland that saved Europe from Turks, was born here. In 1640 another polish king, Michal Korybut Wisniowiecki was born here as well.

Now museum-preserve "Olesko Castle" lies on the territory of 130000 square meters. Besides the castle tourists can see here masterpieces from Lviv art gallery, the biggest collection of wooden sculptures of XIV-XIX centuries, stone sculptures, fountains, and Jan, a ghost of monk. By the legend, he visited women of pleasure and was walled up alive. Some locals state that they saw his shadow near the castle. If you are not lucky to see the ghost, you can surely eat some good food cooked by old recipes in the Middle Age style restaurant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Vilkovo, or so-called "Ukrainian Venice", is the last settlement on the bank of Danube, where the river flows into the Black Sea. It is called so, because narrow canals along the streets cross through the length and breadth of the town. Vilkovo is also an administrative center of Ukrainian Danube biosphere reserve which is included to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The town was founded in 1746 by Raskolniks that escaped the persecution of reformed Orthodox church and by Cossacks from Don and defeated Zaporizhian Sich, i.e. refugees from Russian Empire that didn't want to serve Moscow Tsar. These people of different religious confessions dug the canals and built houses on mounds from the ground of these canals protecting the houses from floods.

The population is about 10 thousand people, most of them are in fishing business and a boat there is much more common vehicle than a car. There are three churches in Vilkovo: two of them are named after st. Nicholas who is known as protector of sailors. One of st. Nicholas churches that belongs to Old Believers is built in the form of a ship that means that church is a ship which sails over rough seas of life.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Uman State Dendrology park 'Sophievka' is a world masterpiece of landscape architecture of XVIII - XIX centuries side by side with such treasures of European art as Versailles (France), Balbi Garden in Florence (Italy) and San-Susi Park in Potsdam (Germany). It is a fine piece of harmonious space composition of water, land, constructions and sculptures. The park lies on the territory of 15470000 square meters on the periphery of Uman in Cherkasy region.

The park was founded in 1796 by a rich Polish magnate Stanislaw Pototski in the name of his wife Sophia. It was her idea to create the park in a romantic style of Roman and Greek mythology. 800 people from villages that belonged to Pototski worked in the park daily for several years and in 1802 it was given to Sophia as a gift to her birthday.

Now Sophievka is the biggest environmental, scientific and cultural center that preserves natural-historical landscapes of Ukraine and thousands of its unique plants. Amazing views, exotic plants, antique sculptures, ponds, cascades, fountains, rock-works and many other sites arouse visitors' admiration for more than 200 years.