""Little Vienna" between Russia and Turkey" Top 5 Page for this destination Chernivtsi by lotharlerch
Chernivtsi Travel Guide: 149 reviews and 453 photos
Chernivtsi is an under-rated place in under-rated Ukraine. It is a fascinating mix of all the different cultures meeting here. Although it is a rather young town it shows a rich cultural heritage. Bukovina, the region today divided between Ukraine and Romania, of which Chernivtsi is the capital, was brought up from a forgotten corner of the decaying Turkish empire by the colonization activities of the Habsburg empire. In the center it often reminds of a sorts Vienna in a nutshell. The dominant architecture in the center is - as in Vienna - from the late 19th century.
Although the both dominating groups from that time - the Jews and the Germans (who were culturally to a big extent one and the same) remain here only as small but still culturally active groups. Today's Chernivtsi is still multiethnic (Ukrainians, Romanians, Russians, Sinti and Roma, some Polish and the aready mentioned small sometimes still German speaking community (partly Jewish, partly Catholic)).
See also my travelogue on my Ukraine page!
One of the most glorious events of the city in recent time was the celebration of its 600th anniversary on the weekend 4 - 5 October 2008. We did not visit it that weekend (because hotel rates quadrupled for these days and the crowds and the noise of such an event are definitely not my cup of tea).
So we came the weekend after the celebrations. I know the city very well since 1996. The renovations of the city are really spectacular. It looks like that all these Austrian "belle epoque" buildings from late 19th century until beginning World War 1 have been built and inaugurated a few days ago. It shows at the same time that Chernivtsi wants to remember only about 10 % of the 600 years of its history - the 600 years old document of the foundation and the last 60 years of the Habsburg time. As an Austrian I feel now really very special here - all this renovation is a clear hommage to the last decades of the Austrian history of Chernivtsy.
The undisputed historical fact is that the city of Chernivtsi was close to nothing before the Habsburg colonization of the Bukovina started offering great opportunities for the indigenous people of the area (Romanians, Ukrainians, Jews and a small number of Russian, German, Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Armenian and other people who settled here since a couple of generations before the territory became Austrian in 1775.
The opportunities turned out to be really great in particular for those who came to Chernivtsi sent by the Imperial government in Vienna from all the Habsburg Empire to develop the area. They attracted numerous entrepreneurs and business people and the fact that the Jews were given here equal citizens rights and opportunities attracted innumerables of them from all the wider areas around. They got the chance to fully develop their skills and opportunities which they never had before in Eastern Europe. The majority of them fully lived their religion but many changed from their Yiddish culture to the here leading and more prestigious German culture and language and became very active and important drivers and actors of it turning Chernivtsi into an island of progress in a sea of backwardness.
The picture - please enlarge it! - shows a poster for the 600 years celebration. You see on the left a view of a part of the Residence of the Metropolite of Bucovina and Dalmatia (today main building of the University) thus symbolizing the indigenous Bukovinites and at the right the Schillertheater symbolizing the Gerrman culture carried jointly by the Germans and the Jews.
Viribus Unitis (with united forces) was the motto of the Austrian Emperor (and Duke of Bucovina) Franz Josef I who ruled 68 years, 1848 - 1916. Here it is on the flag of a Students Corporation which I saw in the German House in Olga Kobylyanska Street (former Herrengasse). But this motto is also the motto of the city, brand new written in huge characters on the facade of the City Hall both in Ukrainain and in Latin.
- Pros:To find such a city at this exotic location
- In a nutshell:Vienna in a nutshell
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