Journey through time in Ukraine's 'little Paris'

Associated Press Published: November 20, 2012
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Nearby is Theater Square, which was once the site of a food bazaar and was called Elizabethplatz in honor of the Austrian Empress Elizabeth. Now it is home to the highly regarded Chernivtsi Drama Theater, built there at the beginning of the 20th century. Next to the Central Square and city hall is the pedestrian-only Olha Kobylianska street, named for a Ukrainian writer and women's rights activist who celebrated this region in her works. Lined with elegant two- and three-story houses from the turn of the 20th century, the romantic cobblestone street, a popular site for wedding processions, is dotted with benches, trees and outdoor cafes.

Popular eateries on Kobylianska include the Videnska Kava (Vienna Cafe) and Koleso (The Wheel). At Videnska Kava, customers slowly sip coffee under solemn portraits of Austrian monarchs and tackle giant servings of delicious cake big enough for two. At Koleso, hearty Ukrainian fare includes banush, traditional porridge made of corn flour boiled in sour cream. Count Vorontsov's Wine Cellar on Shalom Aleichem Street offers both regional and European cuisine.

Try to catch an evening organ concert at the 19th century Armenian Church, also built by Hlavka in a mix of Roman, Byzantine and Gothic styles typical of medieval monasteries of this region. Farther down Armenian Street is St. Nicholas Cathedral, nicknamed "the drunken church" because the pillars of its side domes are canted as if falling over. This is one of the few Chernivtsi churches that continued to operate during the Soviet era, which is why its icons, stained glass panels and the relics of Orthodox martyrs are well-preserved.

At the central bazaar on Chervonoarmiyska (Red Army) Street, you'll find salo, the salted pork lard that is a hallmark of Ukrainian cuisine. Villagers will be selling eggs, milk "from just under the cow" and freshly skinned poultry, and you might even spot a tired middle-aged woman selling giant mushrooms picked in the woods to subsidize her meager pension. It's yet another side to this city's many identities, and one you're not likely to find in the real Paris or Vienna.

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If You Go...

CHERNIVTSI: Located in southeastern Ukraine. Overnight sleeper train from Kiev, 13 hours, $50 for a business-class two-passenger compartment, or about $20 for a four-passenger compartment, which is less comfortable, but offers a chance to interact with Ukrainian travelers over a cup of tea. The Keiser and Premium hotels are reasonably priced, clean and centrally located.

TIPS: City center street signs are in English and the old town is so compact that you can hardly get lost. If you need help, find a young person who is likely to speak English. Most Westerners do not need a visa for short-term visits to Ukraine; check visa requirements at http://www.mfa.gov.ua/mfa/en/509.htm .



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