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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hoverla


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 tourist—ćs 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


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

Sophievka


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.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra


This amazing historical, architecture and religious complex is one of the most outstanding sacred places in Orthodox world. Its churches' golden domes shine brightly in the sunlight, its ancient temples compel admiration, its unique underground caves strike with awe. The complex includes 144 buildings on the territory of 233600 square meters.

The history of the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra starts about one thousand years ago. It was founded in 1051 by monk Anthony in a cave of the hill. His ascetic way of life made him popular about all the Kiev Rus and the monastery grew very fast. Soon the Lavra became not only religious but also a cultural center: the first Ukrainian chronography, typography and icon painting works were made here, the first hospital was build here and the first university was based on Lavra's gymnasium.

The Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra is the biggest museum complex of Western Europe. In 1990 it was included to the "List of UNESCO World Culture Heritage". Here you can see a lot of ancient jewelry and icons from the Lavra's collection funds that count more than 70000 items. More than 100 thousand tourists from all around the world visit the Holy Dormition Kiev-Pechersk Lavra each year.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Belgorod-dnestrovski


Belgorod-dnestrovski was founded in 502 BC (in 1998 it celebrated its 2500 birthday) by ancient Greeks on the cross of trade routes from the West to the East. Since that time the city had about 20 names: one of the first names was Tira, one of the last – Akkerman. According to UNESCO, it is one of the 10 ancient cities of the world that had permanent existence.

During its long history Belgorod-dnestrovski has seen a lot. It was under the reign of Rome, was a part of Kiev Rus, was conquered by Tatar-Mongols, was suffering from Turkish yoke for 300 years. In different times it belonged to Venetians, Genoese, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Moldavians and Romanians. Only since 1944 it became a Ukrainian city.

Now the population of Belgorod-dnestrovski is 70 thousand. The city and its region are declared to be an ecologically clean zone. Near the city there are many sanatoriums, rest homes and health resorts along by the Dnestrovski liman and the Black Sea, though foreign tourists are mainly interested in visiting Belgorod-dnestrovski fortress and Tira diggings.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fortress in Belgorod-dnestrovski


The fortress on the high rocky bank of Dnestrovski liman is an outstanding monument of Middle Age architecture. It has a form of irregular polygon with the size of 90000 square meters. The length of its walls is about 2500 meters, average height is 5 meters and average width is 2 meters. Tree sides of the fortress are surrounded by the ditch of 14 meters depth. The main entrance is closed by a wooden suspension bridge that weights 3 tons (in fact haven't seen it closed yet, it is always opened for tourists ;-).

The building of the fortress was started by Genoese in the XII century, continued by Moldavians and finished by Turks in the XV century. In general, it was used for the defense of Belgorod from multiple attacks of various enemies. So each time any aggressor state made an attempt to take under control the trade route from the West to the East, the citizens of Belgorod found shelter in the fortress.

In spite of many historical events that took place in the fortress, it is one of the few historical monuments in Ukraine that preserved its original structure from Middle Ages. The fortress attracts a lot of foreign tourists: the charge is only a couple of dollars per person, though local kids know how to get inside free of charge.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Catacombs in Odessa


Catacombs in Odessa are much younger than catacombs in Rome or Paris, though much longer than both together: the size of Odessa 'underground' is more than 2500 km. At present only 1700 km are studied. The average height is 1.5 - 3.5 m, width 2 - 4.5 m. The depth can reach 50 m below sea level.

About 95% of catacombs in Odessa are quarries. Since XIX century more than 100 quarries with more than 1000 entries were used to draw limestones for building Odessa. Besides quarries, under Odessa there are many other caves: old cellars, secret passages, and the most interesting - natural caves that are 2.5 - 3 million years old. All these cavities joined in various ways form an incredible underground network.

In different times catacombs in Odessa were used for different proposes and by different people. In the end of XIX century and beginning of XX century criminals hid there from police and contrabandists hid there their goods from tax police. During the Second World War partisans hid there from fascists. Now it is a magnetic place for speleologists, diggers and tourists.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Ukraine? Where is it?


If you are still not sure where Ukraine is, it means that you don't know where the very heart of Europe is, as the geographical center of Europe is on the territory of Ukraine, not far from town Rakhov near Carpathian Mountains.

Ukraine is the biggest country in Europe (603 628 square km), bigger than France. Our neighbors are Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Russia and Belarus. Sometimes some of them were good neighbors, sometimes not :-)

How to get to Ukraine? If you live on the border with us, you can walk. If you live within a thousand kilometers it is better to take a bus or a train. If more than a thousand, I would advise you to take a plane. In case you don't like planes, trains or buses, you can travel to Ukraine by ship as the south of Ukraine is washed by the Azov Sea and the Black Sea which flows into the Mediterranean Sea.