kami

Can't live without travels! Wherever she goes she always looks for alternative spots or street art. A huge fan of Central Europe and off the beaten path places and a living proof that you can balance full time job and extensive travel!

Stunning Chernivtsi, Ukraine – my best discovery in 2015

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The first time when I heard about Chernivtsi, Ukraine was in May, during my trip to Iran. I was relaxing in the yard of my beautiful hotel in Kashan, reading a book „Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe” by Anne Applebaum and one of the chapters was about this city. The whole book was really interesting but after reading the part about Chernivtsi I started googling it right away and was literally awestruck how beautiful this place seems to looks and how interesting it sounds. How come I haven’t heard of it before??? Needless to say 3 months later I visited Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

Chernivtsi, Ukraine
After exploring (and being impressed with) Kamyanets-Podilsky I caught a bus and 2 hours later found myself in Chernivtsi. After a longish walk down the main street I got to the center and knew from the very beginning I’m gonna like this place. It was a beautiful summer day, cars and trolleybuses rumbled down the cobbled streets and the architecture around me was the one I like the most – from the golden age of the Habsburg empire. Chernivtsi enchanted me and there was nothing that could spoil this feeling.

Chernivtsi, Ukraine

Chernivtsi, Ukraine – an unknown pearl of the Austrian empire

It is believed that the area of Chernivtsi was already inhabited in the time of the Neolithic era but it wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that the city got its splendor. That’s when it was annexed to the Austrian Habsburg empire and became the capital of the Bukovina region (soon after it was promoted to the Duchy of Bukovina, one of the 15th crown-lands in the empire). It was the golden era of Chernivtsi, the city received Magdeburg rights and numerous wealthy and smart people (merchants, craftsmen or entrepreneurs) were invited to help developing the place. Chernivtsi has become a typical Central European city of this time, with stunning architecture and rich cultural life. It was and still is called „Little Vienna” as it just resembles the capital of Austria so much! After the First World War Bukovina together with Chernivtsi was under the Romanian rule only to become part of USSR in 1940 and eventually independent Ukraine in 1991. These days it’s one of the most important cities in Western Ukraine and together with Lviv they make a cultural hub of the country.

 

When I entered the main pedestrian street of the city – Kobylyanska – I was literally speechless. It was just stunning, a perfect showroom of the best that Central Europe has to offer. My hostel was located across the yard from the street and every time when I left the gate I had this wow moment. It was incredible! Pastel buildings, rich in ornaments, numerous cafes and lots of flowers – it looked like from some kind of painting! And it was just the beginning to what Chernivtsi has to offer!

 

Chernivtsi University – one of the most beautiful in the world!

It was obvious to me where I will start discovering Chernivtsi – at the University! While everyone is impressed with university buildings in UK or the US the one in Chernivtsi is equally amazing and is even listed on UNESCO World Heritage List. The complex was designed by the Czech architect Joseph Hlavka and first it served as the Residence of Bulovinian and Dalmatian Metropolitans. The university itself was founded in 1875 but it moved to the current location 80 years later. I thought I will have the place to myself, it was Sunday afternoon after all, but it was busier than ever. Apparently the university grounds are the major hot spot for wedding sessions as there were at least 10 newly married couple with their whole huge entourage, doing photo shoots. I still managed to sneak in inside to find a quiet corner to enjoy the atmosphere and the pleasant coolness. I’m sure Harry Potter would easily swap Hogwarts to Chernivtsi University, it’s just so majestic, charming and beautiful!

 

Walking around Chernivtsi, Ukraine

Chernivtsi, as well as the rest of the places I visited in Ukraine, felt really safe. I’ve been in this amazing city for 2 days and I spent the majority of this time just wandering aimlessly around, taking random streets left and right and falling under their charm over and over again. It was just the pure pleasure and the best way I could discover the place. Kobylyanska street was beyond any competition but every single corner of the city was interesting and picture worthy (that would explain why I took so many of them…), with magnificent houses of different styles and with rich ornaments. The theater was built at the very beginning of 20th century by the company that have done almost 50 similar buildings in 12 European countries, all of them being part of the Austrian Empire back then. But the whole Theater Square is one of the most beautiful places in Chernivtsi. Surrounded by spectacular buildings in different styles (Baroque, Renaissance or Eclectic) and of different purpose (Jewish National House or Trade and Crafts Chamber) it makes a perfect place to just sit on a bench and enjoy the look and vibe of the city. The nearby Central Square with the pretty town hall is the heart of the city. But everywhere I went, I just loved it. The whole city was kind of covered in dust – maybe those were the hot summer days or maybe Chernivtsi had its peak already behind. It felt like the time has stopped there. But it was fine, gave the place even more charm (like it’s even possible…).

 

Multicultural Chernivtsi

This Ukrainian city is one of the most multicultural places I’ve yet encountered during my travels. Back in the Austrian Empire Chernivtsi was inhabited by Ukrainians, Romanians, Poles, Jews, Germans or Russians. They’ve created an unique blend that remnants of still can be seen and felt in Chernivtsi, even if these days the majority of the people are Ukrainians (80%). When walking along Kobylyanska street look down as there’s the name „Chernivtsi” written on the pavement in 5 or 6 languages, showing how diverse the city was. At the end of the same street, next to each other stand a Polish and a German House, few steps down the Virmenska street there’s an Armenian Catholic Church (now an Organ Hall). A little bit further a Greek Catholic church and an old wooden Orthodox church, dating back to the year 1607, can be found. The former synagogue close to the town hall now serves as the cinema. But the best history lesson of multicultural Chernivtsi can be seen at the complex of cemeteries on Zelena street. On one side of the road there’s a Jewish cemetery, on the other – a Catholic one. Both are really huge and a mix of languages, when I was wandering around I’ve found inscriptions in Hebrew, German, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish or Romanian… The Jewish cemetery itself is a home to some 50.000 graves! At the entrance there’s an old abandoned synagogue with the bricked entrance yet with a hole that lets you get inside. I spent at least half an hour there, and not only because I wanted to hide from the sunshine. It was such a spiritual place. The old Hebrew signs were faded, partly painted over but still you could feel a strong power coming from the spot! For me the cemeteries were probably the most important place in Chernivtsi, the one that gave me the chance to really understand the place!

 

Cafes in Chernivtsi

After so much walking around and exploring Chernivtsi in such a hot day I deserved some chill out time more than ever. And, as a perfect Central European city from Habsburg Empire, Chernivtsi has a really decent cafe culture. I couldn’t be happier and that was the moment when the city won my heart, big time. Wherever I go I always try to find some local cafes, to feel the atmosphere of the place and to do some people watching. In Chernivtsi there were just too many places to choose from and each of them was really awesome! I’ve visited 3 or 4 cafes and really enjoyed them all but my favorite one was Grand Cafe on Kobylyanska Street. The place was stylized to remind of the old times (or maybe it was really that old) and I really felt like I’m in some fancy cafes of Vienna, Brno or Lviv.

 

On my 3rd day I had to get up early to catch my bus to Chisinau, Moldova. During my stay streets of Chernivtsi were full of people, walking around and enjoying long and hot summer days. But then, barely at dusk, the city was almost empty and that’s when it looked truly magical. There’re only few places where I have a really hard time leaving (Prague, Yerevan, Sarajevo, Lviv or Tbilisi) and only the thought that I will be back stops me from sobbing. To my great surprise I had the same feelings when I was leaving Chernivtsi. From the moment I departed I keep thinking about the return there….

Chernivtsi, Ukraine
And fun fact for the end: did you know that Mila Kunis, the actress, was born and spent her childhood in Chernivtsi? ;)

Have you heard about Chernivtsi, Ukraine before? Would you like to visit the city? What was your biggest travel discovery recently?

 

If you think of visiting Ukraine or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!

 


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12 Sty '16

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There are 55 Comments.

  1. One point that you are absolutely right about – the place is a little gem and it is totally unknown. I have seen it dozens of times on a map, but never thought this might be such a nice place! I suppose it is also much cheaper than Lviv, which is already very cheap?

    • kami
      14:42 15/01/2016

      It was cheap! And so great, really! Such a gem! You should visit it too!

  2. No proszę, całkiem ciekawe miasto. Pomyślałbym kto, że nie tylko Lwów i Kijów warto na Ukrainie odwiedzać i promować…

    • kami
      14:44 15/01/2016

      a widzisz, taka niespodzianka! :) i pewnie jeszcze kilka podobnych perełek by się znalazło ;)

  3. Uwielbiam te polsko-austriacko-ukraińskie klimaty, atmosferę mniejszych miast, kamieniczki. Trochę jak podróż w czasie do wschodniej Polski z czasów naszego dzieciństwa

    • kami
      14:45 15/01/2016

      dokładnie tak! pewnie dlatego mi tam tak dobrze, fajne wspomnienia te miejsca przywołują :)

  4. I must admit I haven’t heard about this city, it looks amazing! I love these eastern cities with trolleybus lines everywhere. Thanks for travel hint, in fact, this is what such cities need – a bit of promotion in order to be discovered by the world:-).

    • kami
      14:48 15/01/2016

      I agree, eastern cities have this special charm and trolleybus lines are part of it :) Chernivtsi is such a hidden gem, hopefully more people will find out about it soon!

  5. it looks so beautiful there! for some reason, western ukraine just doesnt reel me in. i dont know why. im more drawn to the east. maybe i need to change that one of these days and explore it!
    Megan latest post…The Statue of Liberty’s Birthplace in Visnes, NorwayMy Profile

    • kami
      14:49 15/01/2016

      you definitely should! It’s a perfect mix between Central and Eastern Europe, I adore it so much! And Chernivtsi is just the prettiest, with hardly any tourists around!

  6. Never heard of it.
    However, after reading your story of the place I didn’t think so much of the place itself as of the way you always write about the towns and cities – the way it always makes me think they are much more attractive in your stories that in real life – unless of course you are a town/city lover :)

    • kami
      14:52 15/01/2016

      But since you haven’t been there how can you know if they are not as attractive as I describe them :) ? Chernivtsi really entranced me and stole my heart from the very first moment. Maybe I’m just lucky with visiting great cities that deserve much more attention :) ?

      • I think you simply like cities and towns more than I do :)
        I love living in the city, but I’d rather see nature, beaches, markets – the towns I might like, but nothing more.

        • kami
          20:51 22/01/2016

          probably you’re right! I enjoy nature but I’m definitely more into cities :)

  7. Oh what a beautiful city! For a cozy weekend and catching some rest and distance to the everyday routine. And the university impressed me alot!
    Tatiana latest post…Lizbona – 3 dni na talerzach i w kieliszkachMy Profile

    • kami
      14:54 15/01/2016

      That’s exactly what Chernivtsi would be perfect for, relaxing in the beautiful surrounding! The university was spectacular indeed!

  8. Wprawdzie było to moje odkrycie 2014 roku – Lanckorona, nasza maleńka a jakże urokliwa Lanckorona, ale w 2015 roku uniosły mnie na swoich skrzydłach lanckorońskie ANIOŁY, więc znów zdecydowanie Lanckorona :)

  9. Saloniki, bez dwóch zdań!

  10. I was pleasantly surprised by Chernivtsi. Really liked it there.

  11. Jest klimat i trolejbusy jeszcze przez ulice miasta mkną. (-:,

  12. No właśnie, ja też nie wiedziałam, że takie miasto istnieje. Ale w środowe rano już poszerzyłam moją wiedzę ;)

  13. Wiedziałam. Przepiękne miejsce. Udało CI się go opisać takim jakim pamiętam – sielankowe miasto ;)

  14. Przyznam się, że też pierwsze słyszę… :)

  15. środek zimy, a Ty jakies letnie słoneczne fotosy serwujesz. Pownien byc na to jakiś paragraf!

  16. Rzeczywiście wygląda bardzo ładnie. Może i ja się tam wybiorę? :)

  17. My mother imigrated from Ukraine 66 years ago and I have always wanted to goback and experience it. Thank you for sharing this part of it with us!

    • kami
      14:57 15/01/2016

      Thank you for your nice comment! I hope you will be able to visit Ukraine one day, it’s really great!

  18. o kurcze, byłam na ukrainie a jakoś to miejsce ominęłam… czy to znak by wrócić?

  19. Też nie znałam tego miasta :) A na Ukrainę bym się wybrała!

  20. Wow nice interesting blog.

  21. Good day! My pleasure to find this article, I live in this city, speak Polish and I have written some articles about it in English and Ukrainian :) If you come back one day or would like to visit other interesting places in Ukraine – my pleasure to help)

    • thank you for your nice comment! Chernivtsi is really lovely, I enjoyed your city a lot! I’m sure I will be back in Ukraine soon, there’re still so many places I’d love to visit! Thank you!

  22. Byłam, byłam! Tylko ciemno było i w sumie nic nie widziałam… to sobie chociaż u Ciebie popatrzę :)

  23. Pięknie tam, ja do dziś o tym miejscu nie słyszałam, niesamowite!

  24. Ukraina w ogóle jest piękna i zastanawiam się, jak to się stało, że jeszcze tam nie dotarłam?

  25. I love the story, and I love the photos. This is going on my list. Do you reckon it is easy to get there from e.g. Holland or Germany, or would it be better to incorporate in a trip to surrounding countriesß
    Zenobia latest post…Past Ventures: Sissi House AleppoMy Profile

    • kami
      21:14 22/01/2016

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I think the best would be to visit Chernivtsi as part of the Ukraine trip or combine it with either Romania or Moldova (or both) as it’s pretty close from the border. I hope you will go there soon adn enjoy it as much as I did!

  26. Tchernowitzer
    20:25 23/01/2016

    I was born in Chernivtsi. It is a legacy of Austrian-Hungarian empire. You should have stayed overnight and explored the city at night. Very charming and romantic.

    • kami
      10:49 27/01/2016

      I did stay overnight and it was a charming place indeed! Chernivtsi is the best example of what Austrian-Hungarian empire had to offer, such an amazing place!

  27. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this place before! The Ukraine has been on my radar for a while, looks like this might be the perfect place to start :)

    • kami
      10:50 27/01/2016

      Until recently I also haven’t heard of it and it turned out to be such a lovely surprise! When you go to Ukraine you definitely should include Chernivtsi in your itinerary, it’s incredible!

  28. Great photos of some stunning architecture! I’m really surprised by how beautiful it looks. I think I’ll add it to my list :)

    • kami
      23:00 28/01/2016

      Thanks! You definitely should add Chernivtsi to your list, it’s amazing and so beautiful!

  29. WOW. I am in awe – mainly trying to believe this is in Ukraine?! It looks so shiny and new, I am wondering how much help they’ve gotten and from who in terms of sprucing it up. If anything like Lviv around Eurocup 2012. Really need to get back to that crazy country and this will have to be one of my first stops.
    Larissa latest post…Some Good News, Some Bad News, and the Journey to Valbona, Northern AlbaniaMy Profile

    • kami
      21:04 29/04/2016

      Yeah, Chernivtsi doesn’t look very much like Ukraine, does it? They still have many minorities so maybe they get money from the those communities? I’m not sure but I was wondering about the same thing, the city looked really well taken care of! You definitely should go there, it’s so amazing! I’m planning to visit some new places in Ukraine this year as well but it’s so tempting to go back to Chernivtsi!

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