Little Vienna on the Prut River
The name Little Vienna should be no surprise because even though Chernivtsi has endured many dominations, this beautiful Ukrainian city has preserved the style and the spirit of a capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which it was a duchy from 1849 for about 150 years: a period considered the country’s Golden Age.
This area of Ukraine - in northern Bucovina - one of the most beautiful and remote corners of Eastern Europe, is still relatively undiscovered and untouched by mass tourism, but is rich in architecture, history and folklore.
The architecture inspired by the Vienna School
Chernivtsi, located 40 kilometres from Romania, today proudly displays its architecture along marvellous streets, mostly of the Vienna School, whose façades, residents say, display many different styles, just like the pages of a history book: Olha Kobylanska Street, dedicated to Ukrainian writer and feminist and a source of pride for the state, Holovna Street, Ruska or Armianska. The Market Square is highly impressive. It is dominated by the Town Hall and the building that houses the Regional Art Museum, all in the style of the Viennese Secession.
Residence of the Bucovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans
However, the architectural symbol of the city remains the majestic Residence of the Bucovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans, a huge complex with an elegant mix of various motifs that draw on Byzantine, Jewish, Gothic and even Roman art, now home to a prestigious University, and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.
Built by the Viennese architect Otto Wagner between 1864 and 1882 and designed by architect Josef Hlavka, it is one of the most luxurious and complete buildings of the city of Chernivtsi. Inside the Residence of the Metropolitans, you can admire the vestibule and the Marble Hall with walls covered in marble and decorated with paintings and a carved wood ceiling. Next to this is the Blue Hall and the Red Hall, which are also richly decorated with carved wood.
Within the complex, there is the Church of the Three Holy Hierarchs, with a luxurious interior and a magnificent iconostasis. The complex still maintains its original roof, with decorations on coloured tiles forming arabesques with national motifs of Bucovina. In front of the scenic building, there is a large park with a cave and a variety of rare trees. The Guest Houseis also worth a visit.
Also worth visiting is the Railway Station, in sumptuous Baroque style, legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Palace of Justice, built in the early twentieth century. Very active from a cultural point of view, the city also has a large theatre, the Drama and Music Theatre with excellent acoustics, once again named after Olha Kobylianska, which looks onto Theatre Square, one of the most beautiful small squares in Europe.
The churches also exude wealth, such as the Jesuit Cathedral, or the Heart of Jesus, the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, and the beautiful Armenian Church.
Market square is the town’s main square, which is overlooked by the Town Hall built by Andreas Mikulich from 1843 to 1847. Near the Town Hall is the Regional Museum of Art and the Taras Shevchenko Monument, which was erected in 1999.
Theatre Square is beautiful to see where Olha Kobylianska's Theatre is located, which was built in 1905 and designed by Viennese architects Ferdinand Felkner and Herman Gelmer. Known to have wonderful acoustics.
Tourism is on the rise, but for centuries Chernivtsi’s inhabitants have undertaken various activities: from the textile industry to the wood industry, including the creation of the beautiful painted eggs, a process that has become almost a rite. Events bring life to the city throughout the year; there are all kinds: the Christmas Fair, St. Peter's Fair, Malanka Folklore Festival, Chernivtsi Day, Summer Solstice Day and Midsummer’s Day, the Obnova Ethno-Spiritual Festival, as well as plenty of marathons and motocross races. These events are often enriched by flamboyant traditional Cossack dances harking back to ancient Ukrainian cultures.
Cooking is also an integral part of the country's culture and is reflected in the uses and customs of all Ukrainians.
The national dish is Borscht, a beet soup with meat and topped with cream, but the flagship of this country, and the reason that for centuries Ukraine has been known as Europe’s Granary, is bread, which is widely used in religious rituals. Honoré de Balzac, traveling to Ukraine in the mid-1800s, counted 77 different ways of making bread. The area’s almond and honey-covered cakes and sweets are particularly delicious.
Among the discoveries of this country there is not only vodka, the most beloved drink over the centuries, but also wines which are very successful worldwide, as well as the dark, light and aromatic traditional beers.
Where to sleep in Chernivtsi
Chernivtsi is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
Text by Anna Glik
Photos: Sisterscom.com, Shutterstock
Copyright © Sisterscom.com
Published on Avion Tourism N63
Update June 2018
WHERE TO GO
CATHEDRAL OF ST. NICHOLAS
The Catholic St. Nicholas Cathedral, also known as “the Drunk Church” due to the four crooked spires that seem to lean into the main dome. Orientally inspired, it has a beautiful façade, but its sumptuous interior is also well worthy of a visit.
CHURCH OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is in Gothic style, with Ukrainian influences, with tall bell towers.
ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
A grand church that was built in the mid-nineteenth century using one of the designs for the construction of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. This very picturesque church is no longer devoted to worship because it has been deconsecrated. Today it holds concerts.
In order to perpetuate the memory of the significant Jewish presence, an important cemetery was erected, dedicated to the Jewish community. A must-visit.
REGIONAL ART MUSEUM
Situated in the heart of the city of Chernivtsi in the Central Square and housed in a sumptuous building, this museum is representative of the Art Nouveau style. On the main façade above the balcony there are depictions of mythological subjects that compare the splendour of the Roman Empire to that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The 12 classic divinities depicted represent the 12 provinces of the Empire on the Danube. Noteworthy are the artistically coloured stained glass windows, as well as polychrome mosaic floors. The museum is very popular for its exhibitions which highlight the artistic process in Bucovina and Ukraine from the 17th century to the present.
MUSEUM OF JEWISH HISTORY OF BUCOVINA
This is an essential place to visit to learn about the vicissitudes of the important Jewish community in Bukovina and Chernivtsi, the active and integrated life of traders until the devastating period of the Holocaust.
RESIDENTIAL MUSEUM OF OLHA KOBYLIANSKA
The building was, for years, the home of Ukrainian writer Olha Kobylianska, much loved by her people for the battles she fought in favour of women in society. It is an elegant bourgeois home, warm and welcoming, and full of memories: rugs, furniture, photos, etc.
SHEVCHENKO CULTURE AND LEISURE PARK
Among the various parks, the Shevchenko Culture and Leisure Park is one to note. It is a beautiful garden with a lush flora, though it can be a bit tiring due to its many stairs and climbs.
Airports nearby Chernivtsi