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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.