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From Lviv to Kyiv
Those who will travel in Ukraine by car will surely benefit by the freedom of movement provided by automobiles. You can go wherever your whim takes you; you can stop at any moment to enjoy the scenic landscapes or the interesting sight.
WU suggests sightseeing stops on the route from Lviv to Kyiv.
Halyna Ivashchenko, Olena Krushynska
There are millions of European tourists who travel by car — but there are not too many of them who choose to come to Ukraine driving cars. There are reasons for that — but we would like to assure you, if you are toying with the idea of such auto-travel across Ukraine, go ahead and do it — the roads are not that bad as they are sometimes described.
Preparations for the Euro 2012 football championship to be held in Poland and Ukraine, boosted the construction and repair work, and the highways have been put into a good shape; road signs that show destinations and directions have been provided with transliterations in Latin script.
On the way from Lviv to Kyiv there are too many places worth paying a visit to and seeing — picturesque towns, fortresses, castles, ancient monasteries and churches, and breathtaking views of scenic landscapes, but we shall mention only a few of them.
In the following pages WU makes its suggestions as to the places you may wish to visit and see. All of these places are located no further than 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) from the main highway that links Lviv and Kyiv — and that means that getting to the sights suggested on these pages will take you but a short time.
There is a small town in Ternopil Oblast, called Pochayiv, in the vicinity of which is located a monastery, Svyatouspenska Pochayivska Lavra, which for centuries has been a major Christian Orthodox religious center in Western Ukraine. The monastery is located 25 km (15 miles) south of the road Lviv–Kyiv.
The name of the monastery can be translated both as “Holy Dormition” and as “Holy Assumption” — which one is closer to the original meaning we’ll leave to the theologians to decide. The first monks to settle at the Pochayiv Mount were reclusive anchorites who “lived in the wilderness”, that is in great seclusion, away from people.
It is believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary showed Herself to two monks and to a shepherd, Ivan the Barefoot, in the form of a fiery column, leaving an imprint of Her foot in the rock that she stood upon. At this footprint a sacred water spring opened up, and the water in it is believed to have curative, medicinal properties. The awed monks proceeded to build a church in honor of the Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God at the foot of the Mount.
By the end of the 16th century, the monastery was prosperous enough to build a stone cathedral and to host a busy annual fair. Its importance was further extended in 1597, when a noble lady, Anna Khoyska, presented to the monastery her extensive lands and a miracle-working icon of the Virgin Mary. This image, traditionally known as Our Lady of Pochayiv, is believed to have been given to Anna by a Bulgarian priest.
The monastery is dominated by the Uspensky (Assumption) Cathedral, conceived by Nicholas Potocki as the largest of Greek-Catholic churches of that time.
In 1795 the area where the monastery was located became a part of the Russian Empire and a reversion of Greek Catholics to Russian Orthodoxy began.
In 1833 the Orthodox monastery was accorded the status of lavra (the word “laura” –“lavra” in Ukrainian spelling – is a borrowing from Greek and means, according to dictionaries “an important monastery of Eastern Orthodox church”).
Towards the end of the 19th century, Pochayiv became a mecca of Orthodox pilgrims from across the Russian empire and from the Balkans.
The most important architectural addition to the Lavra dates to the early twentieth century. It is the Troitsky (Holy Trinity) Cathedral, designed by, and built under the supervision of the prominent Russian architect Alexander Shchusev. The Troitsky Cathedral is a true architectural masterpiece. Two large mosaics adorn the walls of the cathedral above the southern portal which was executed to the design created by Nikolai Rerikh (better known in the West as Nicholas Roerich) and above the western portal (the design was provided by Shchusev himself). The interior of the cathedral was stylized to look like the one of an old medieval church, with stylized frescoes, the iconostasis carved from oak wood, copper chandelier.
In the late 1980s after the Soviet Union relaxed its restrictions on religion, the religious life in the monastery began to actively revive. The icon of the Virgin has stayed in the monastery ever since the 17th century, surviving the most turbulent times of revolutions, devastating wars and atheistic persecutions of religion.
There are underground cave churches, St Job’s and St Anthony and Theodosius’, which also attract numerous faithful and pilgrims.
When you travel from Lviv to Dubno, it takes only 40 minutes to get to the memorial museum Kozatski Mohyly dedicated to the fallen in the Battle of Berestechko.
The Battle of Berestechko, which was fought in 1651 between the Kozak (Cossack) troops led by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky within the framework of the War of Independence, and the Polish troops, was a massive military clash that involved more than 300,000 combatants.
The Ukrainians lost the battle — at a crucial moment when victory seemed near, the Crimean Tartar Khan Girey, Khmelnytsky’s ally, betrayed Khmelnytsky by pulling his troops out of the battle (the Khan must have been bribed by the Poles to do so — in those times allegiances were changed almost daily). The Kozak troops were badly mauled but not destroyed — they beat retreat and some managed to escape across the marshy land where the Poles, in their heavy armor, did not risk to go.
Traditionally, this battle is referred to as the one of Berestechko (a town located not too far from that place), but in fact, the site of the battle is nearer to the village of Plyasheva.
In 1914 the foundation for a memorial complex, Kozatski Mohyly (Cossacks’ Graves) was laid in the vicinity of Plyasheva to commemorate the dead Kozaks and locals who died in the battle itself and in the aftermath of the battle.
The museum is now located at the place known as Zhuravlykha which used to be surrounded by marshland. Among the landmarks, apart from the monument to the dead itself, one can see the Mykhaylivska Church (The wooden church of St Michael was moved back in 1914 from the village of Ostriv to the memorial complex), in the crypt of which Kozak bones are reposed, probably mixed with the bones of the Poles who died in the battle.
The Heorhiyivska Church (Church of St George) was founded in 1912 and is the most imposing landmark of the memorial museum. The construction was financed through donations of the ordinary people and of philanthropists. Among those who donated money toward the construction of the church was the last Russian Czar Nicholas II.
Some of the architectural features make the church unique. In fact, it combines three churches — in addition to being the church of St George, it also houses the church of St Boris and St Hleb, and in the crypt of the Heorhiyivska Church one finds the church of St Paraskeva Pyatnytsya. The pediment of the Heorhiyivska Church is graced with the wall panting Calvary created by Ivan Yizhakevych.
Dubno is one of the towns of Ukraine with a long and turbulent history which is described in history books, and which engenders legends and fairy tales.
The town of Dubno was founded over 900 years ago at the time when internal strife, constant incursions of the nomads forced the indigenous people to build fortified places hoping that they would protect them against the warring sides or marauding bands.
Peasants and craftsmen, in addition to their skills, had to learn the art of warfare and of building strong defenses. The population of fortified towns and of their environs formed militia units or served in regular troops.
Dubno was one of such fortified towns. The fortress that has survived in Dubno, witnessed many sieges — local guides say that there were at least seventy sieges, and none of them ended in storming the fortress.
The fortress, complete with bastions, defensive walls, gates and two palaces, occupies a territory of three hectares (over seven acres). Deep cellars and basements provided enough space for ample supplies of ammunition and food. Historians claim that the bastions of Dubno Fortress are among the best ever built in Ukraine.
Tourists are invited to have a look at the throne hall in the castle and many choose to have their photos taken sitting on the throne.
The town itself offers a quiet provincial charm but it has enough of modern amenities to make you feel you are still in the twenty-first century.
Most of the buildings in Dubno are two- or three-storied, and many owners make it a point to preserve the eighteenth- and nineteenth century appearances of their houses.
Lutsk’s population of two hundred thousand does not put it among the big cities of Ukraine; it does not have the architectural sparkle of Lviv or historical grandeur of Kyiv, but it has its own quiet charms.
Observers notice that the young people who adorn — unsolicited — the walls of Lutsk with their graffiti and pictures portray various aspects of Lutsk, thus, in their specific manner, showing their love of their city.
Lutsk has a castle that has survived from the medieval times, with everything a castle should have — battlements, cremations, merinos, mighty defensive walls and towers. Now the castle is, of course, a museum which displays armor, old paintings, cannon, crowbars, bells and ancient presses for printing books. A tour of the caste is worth the time you spend there.
The 200 hryvnia bill of Ukrainian currency shows one of the towers of Lutsk Castle. In fact there are three mighty towers that guard the 10-meter (30 feet) thick defensive walls that stretch for 240 meters (about 800 feet) around the castle. One of the towers, Vladycha, houses what used to be the castle’s arsenal and a great collection of church bells. Another tower, Vyizdova, houses an exhibition of ceramics used in construction.
The Catholic church, located in the vicinity of the castle, is another tourist attraction thanks to its crypts filled with tombs and bones which create a mystical and somewhat scary atmosphere. For those who are interested in church architecture, Lutsk offers a selection of churches that date from various times and belong to different Christian denominations. The mansion of a local sculptor and quiet streets in the old part of town offer good sightseeing too.
The foundation is the only thing that has survived from an ancient palace that belonged to a Lithuanian ruler (who, in the Middle Ages, ruled the lands where Lutsk stands). There are a couple of palaces though (Shlyakhetsky and Bishop’s) of the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century that are located along the usual itineraries of tourists in Lutsk.
Mock knights jousting tournaments, The Sword of Lutsk Castle, are annually held at Lutsk Castle and attract invariably big audiences.
or a glimpse of beautiful scenery, Korets is the right place to go to.
Korets sits on the bank of the Korchyk River, in the Rivne Oblast. Korets’ small size has always stood in contrast to a surprising number of churches it has. A big monastery sprawls along the road leading to the town. Neither the churches, nor the monastery were ever closed as it happened with many other churches and monasteries during the communist rule.
Korets has a long and rich history but it so happened that in the second half of the nineteenth century it declined and turned into a small provincial place, marked only on the most detailed maps.
The early chronicles mention Korets which was originally called Korchesk. Until the end of the eighteenth century, the town was under Polish rule, with Polish nobles having their estates in and around town. In 1788, a factory producing faience and china was set up in Korets. Eventually, it became the biggest factory of its kind in Ukraine, with the Korets entire population working there. Unfortunately, in the nineteenth century the production declined and the factory was closed down. Among the architectural landmarks of Korets the Svyato-Troyitsky (Holy Trinity) Nunnery, and the Troyitsky Church of the Nunnery are worth a mention and a visit.
The church dates to the late medieval times. The cells of the Nunnery, built in the early seventeenth century, are still in use. Pilgrims and just visitors are offered a very hospitable welcome, the tradition of sincere hospitality dating back for many generations.
Pilgrims and visitors are treated to delicious cookies and a refreshing drink made from honey. The apiary, run by the nuns, gives an exceptionally good and excellently smelling honey.
For a couple of centuries, up to the thirties of the nineteenth century, most of the churches and the monasteries were Catholic rather than Orthodox. All the churches and the monasteries went Orthodox after the rioting had been firmly dealt with.
The fifteenth-century fortress was ruined and never rebuilt, and what remains of its picturesque ruins attracts filmmakers looking for romantic settings for their pictures.
Zhytomyr is situated in the central part of Ukraine, in the border area between the steppe and the woods. It sits on the rocky banks of the Teteriv and Kamenka rivers, tributaries of the Dnipro. Zhytomyr has a character of its own which distinguishes it from any other town in Ukraine. What is more, the town’s three major parts differ from each other, each part bearing the traits of age-long traditions. One part of town used to be predominantly Catholic, the second used to be Orthodox and the third — Jewish.
Zhytomyr is believed to have been founded in the 9th century which makes it one of the oldest towns in Ukraine. Starting from the early 19th century, Zhytomyr has been the regional centre — first, of Volyn Huberniya and then of Volyn Oblast.
Today the cultural differences between the three major parts of Zhytomyr are not felt as acutely as they were, say, a hundred years ago. They have remained mostly in the architectural styles.
Museum of Space Exploration
For a provincial town Zhytomyr has an impressive number of museums, monuments, architectural landmarks and memorial plaques. The list of famous people who either were born in Zhytomyr or lived there for a length of time is also amazingly long.
One of such people does deserve a special mention — it is Serhiy Korolyov, the leading figure in the Soviet space program of the late fifties and early sixties. It was under his management and thanks to his talents and determination that the first ever satellite and the first man in space were launched.
Next to the house where Korolyov used to live (the house itself is a sort of a memorial museum), you can find a museum of history of space exploration — very few towns in the world can boast such museums.
The museum presents both the history of manned and unmanned space flights, and does it in a simple but very convincing way. Some of the items on the display, like space suits, are real McCoy, not replicas.
Mr Tift, a descendant of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, one of the best known American humorists, visited Zhytomyr in 1992 and thoroughly enjoyed the visit. There is a good reason to believe that you will not be disappointed either.
The town of Berdychiv is located 41 kilometers (25 miles) south of Zhytomyr. If you are traveling along the road that links Lviv and Kyiv, all you have to do is to travel but a short distance to find yourself transported into the cozy atmosphere of a nineteenth-century provincial town.
It maybe a provincial town, but Berdychiv is proud that the famous nineteenth-century French novelist Honore de Balzac was married there, one of the classics of British literature Joseph Conrad was born there, Levi-Itskhak, a prominent Hassidic zaddik, preached and died there.
Berdychiv, a town of a hundred thousand inhabitants, is a cultural phenomenon worth exploring — in the nineteenth-century Ukraine it was looked upon as an embodiment of the very idea of provincialism. It is a town of several ethnic groups, each of which has contributed to the town’s cultural makeup. The most outstanding of all Berdyvhiv’s sights is a Monastery of Virgin Mary, which belongs to the mendicant Order of the Barefoot Carmelites. In the 16th century, the monks, evidently forgetting their mendicancy, began exploiting the local population who once in a while exploded in anger and attacked the monastery. The monks, to protect themselves, had to build high walls around the monastery.
In 1663, the monastery was rebuilt and since then has remained a remarkable architectural landmark, one of the most impressive of its kind in Ukraine. One of the churches of the monastery acquired a distinct Baroque look. B. Frederice, an Italian painter, decorated the church with frescoes. There is still a sizeable Catholic community living in Berdychiv.
The town of Berdychiv used to have and still has a large Jewish community. In the 16th century the town’s advantageous geographical position at the intersection of many trade routes attracted merchants and craftsmen, among whom there were many Jews.
In the 19th century the population of the town, with the exception of the castle and monastery, was almost entirely Jewish.
The outskirts were inhabited by Ukrainian peasants. It was a very curious cultural situation, with Polish, Jewish and Ukrainian traditions not only co-existing but also intermingling. After a period of turbulent times and economic decline, Berdychiv rose to prominence again in the 19th century. It became the venue of very big fairs that attracted traders and buyers from many places. Banks were opened, mostly owned by Jews. The main street of the town was called Golden and was lined with offices of many companies.
It was in Berdychiv that Levi-Itskhak, an eminent zaddik (a leader of a Hassidic community) lived and died. His grave at the local cemetery has been attracting the Hassidim from all over the world. They come to Berdychiv to pay homage to the much-revered zaddik.
Berdychiv has retained much of its nineteenth-century atmosphere and walking its streets transports you back in time, when the pace of life was much slower — a trip to Berdychiv is a relaxing and rewarding experience.
The town of Radomyshl, located about 80 kilometers (60 miles) west of Kyiv, has seen a lot of restoration and reconstruction that puts it on the tourist map.
The main attraction in Radomyshl is a reconstructed castle which houses a unique collection of home icons.
The castle walls do not look forbidding at all; there is a distinctive note of serenity and welcome in the whole complex.
On the spot that used to be a mill, which had been built in the early twentieth century, remains of a much earlier building — of the early seventeenth century — were discovered.
That earlier building was a paper-making factory that belonged to the Pechersk Lavra Monastery in Kyiv. It was built with not only paper making in mind — the building had to be massive and thick walled so that it could be easily turned into a defensive structure. In fact, it had loopholes in addition to regular windows.
It was the oldest paper making factory in Central and Eastern Ukraine. It is not known when exactly the factory was built but it is known that the print shop of the monastery began working not later than in 1606 — and it was for this print shop that the factory in Radomyshl supplied paper, it can be surmised that the factory started operating at about the same time.
The paper the factory produced was taken to Kyiv first by water on rafts and then delivered to the print shop by wagons.
Later, the factory was abandoned and some time later on whatever was left of the old building, a mill was built. Recently it was turned into a museum stylized as a medieval castle, plus hotel, and a restaurant.
The central part of the “Radomysl Castle” is The Museum of Household Icons Dusha Ukrayiny (Spirit of Ukraine) which is the only one of its kind in the world. The icons, exhibited in the museum, date from the seventeenth and later centuries, and in addition to icons, the museum exhibits ancient figurines, toys, decorations, vessels and other artifacts. Most of the items were donated by Olha Bohomolets, a distinguished dermatologist, patron of art and singer who, actually, initiated and sponsored the reconstruction.
The Radomysl Castle boasts a park complete with ponds, islets in the water, little bridges and pieces of sculpture, with outcrops, here and there, of rock.
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