Holiday Getaways from Lviv

  • Holiday Getaways from Lviv
Issue 78, April 2015.

Holiday Getaways from Lviv

Ukrainians love to celebrate and we certainly have our fair share of celebrations. There are religious holidays like Orthodox Christmas, Easter, and the Holy Trinity, newly accepted Western holidays like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day, and those that are tied in to Ukraine’s independence, including Independence Day and Constitution Day. Others, such as Labour Day and Victory Day, have their roots in Soviet times.

In fact, in those days, Labour Day was among the most popular holidays of the year, with colourful demonstrations celebrating workers and collective farmers. While nearly nobody bothers anymore with Labour Day parades, there are still a few energetic older folk that still like to revive those “good old days”. Most Ukrainians just stay at home and rest for the holiday. But some find that a short trip outside the city is the best way to unwind at the end of a long week. With so much to see and do in Western Ukraine, it can be difficult to decide just where is best to spend your hard-earned money. So to help you choose the best destinations to maximize your extra days off, Lviv Today has compiled some of Western Ukraine’s must-see events and places to be, so that you can easily choose how best to spend your well-earned money and time off to leave you rejuvenated and ready to return to the grind after the holiday.

The Valley of Narcissi

Distance from Lviv: 270 km

Located in the Village of Kireshi, only a few kilometres from Khust in the Zakarpattia Region, the scenic valley is the only place in Ukraine where the narrow-leaved narcissus – aka the Narcissus Poeticus – blooms in a natural environment. In fact, at 257 hectares, it’s the largest collection of wild Narcissus Poeticus found in Europe. While also found in the Alps, the Balkans, and Romania, only in Khust do these flowers grow at the amazing height nearly 1000 metres lower than anywhere else in Europe! Considered to be a highland flower, it is unusual to find them in warmer-climate valleys. Researchers claim that the Narcissus appeared here as far back as the Ice Age, when mud poured into the valley from the surrounding mountains and brought their roots from the mountainous ecosystem.

The Valley of Narcissi is government-protected and forms part of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, which has been part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve network since 1992. Walking through the fields and picking flowers is forbidden, however there are paved roads to get a closer look. The time of visit to the valley is crucial, as it really only makes sense to visit when the flowers are in full blossom. Depending on spring weather, the blossoming period fluctuates each year – sometimes as early as late April, and sometimes as late as mid-May. Most Ukrainians prefer to visit during the May holidays of May 1-9. So be sure to plan your trip to step into the Narcissi wonderland!

Sakura Fest

Distance from Lviv: 245 km

Among the things the citizens of Uzhhorod are most proud of is their unique valley of rare sakuras (cherries) found on both sides of the Uzh River. The longest and most amazing alley in Europe with more than 1000 Japanese cherry trees, their soft, pink blossoms begin blooming in late April to early May and turn the city into a fantastic, fairy-tale garden. Delicate cherry flowers and delectable aromas attract thousands of tourists to Uzhhorod every spring to admire this cheerful and tender miracle. These unique trees grow in only three places in the world: Japan, the United States, and Uzhhorod. In addition, starting from around April 25th every year, the city launches “Sakura Fest” – the International Festival of Music and Creativity. The symbol of the festival is the romantic magician Count Sakura, who appears at all the events and entertains guests of the city. Visitors should try to stick around for the delicious Sunny Drink festival of wine and honey, which is now in its eighth year. The festival draws not only Transcarpathian masters, but representatives from around Ukraine and across the Carpathians, to showcase their tasty products. One other event to try to catch is at the beginning of May, when the residents of Uzhhorod do their best to preserve and enlarge the Sakura Alley by planting new seedlings. According to Japanese legend, those that personally plant the sakura are sure to find good luck and fortune.

Kryvorivnya in the Carpathians

Distance from Lviv: 251 km

For anyone interested in exploring the history of the Hutsul traditions and wants to enjoy one of the most picturesque destinations in the Carpathians – Kryvorivnya is just the place for you. The village is definitely not for the faint of heart, as it was not named Kryvorivnya (Crooked Plain) without reason. Kryvorivnya’s landscape is incredibly mountainous, and reaching some of the homes would likely qualify as a strenuous hike for even skilled trekkers. Yet its charm and historical attractions are so beautiful that they often leave visitors speechless. The Hutsuls are an ancient ethno-cultural community from the Carpathian Mountains. The highest concentration still lives in the Ukrainian Carpathians, with communities spreading into Romania as well. The culture continues to live on today and as a result, these highlanders are ‘highly’ respected. They are perhaps most well known for their immaculate craftsmanship skills, as their handmade goods show intricate attention to detail and feature many bright colours. You’ll want to take a look at their rugs, pottery, sculptures, metal and wood work, egg decorating, and weaving. If you get the chance to see their lively dancing and music – do it! The village lies along the banks of the Cheremosh River, and has long been a place of refuge, tranquillity, and inspiration for Hutsul historians and famous Ukrainian writers alike, including Lesya Ukrayinka and Ivan Franko. Not only was the village a pilgrimage destination for many poets, politicians, and writers, but many stayed in the area which has lead to the Kryvorivnya’s unofficial title of “Ukrainian Athens”. This scenic village has a few very noteworthy attractions that keep visitors coming back, including the old wooden church and belfry. The church, featuring magnificent 19th-Century painted murals, was established in 1719 and the construction of the wooden structure was completed in 1818. The village also features three wonderful museums: the M. Hrushevsky Museum; the Hutsul Grazhda Museum; and the Ivan Franko Literary Memorial Museum. From its rich and powerful history, to its wondrous landscapes, Kryvorivnya continues to lure visitors to bask in its unmatched beauty and the truly unique and fascinating local culture.

Kirovograd’s Dendropark

Distance from Lviv: 690 km

You might remember your neighbourhood park from when you were growing up: a swing, a favourite slide, perhaps a place to feed the ducks. Dendropark in Kirovograd is all of that and more as it offers traditional playgrounds for children, as well as large open areas to walk and really enjoy your time outside of the city. In addition, they also have several attractions for the kids (and the kids at heart), including a train, rollercoaster, spinning teacups, and even bumper-cars and bumper-boats. The best parts – it’s always open to the public, there is no admission fee, and only small fees to try the rides. This is all in addition to the magically landscaped property, including their beautifully-maintained tulip garden.

Kirovograd’s Dendropark is another wonderful area to enjoy spring’s bloom, drawing tourists from across Ukraine by the incredible beauty of over 150,000 Dutch tulips. Imported from Holland, these unique tulip varieties provide a feast for the eyes of every visitor each and every spring.

A Tour of Sokal

Distance from Lviv: 85 km

In Ukrainian, the word Sokal means falcon, which is why many Ukrainians believe the Town of Sokal was named after the famed bird of prey. The town has been mentioned in documents dating as far back as 1377, and was granted Magdeburg Law in 1424, allowing residents to cut down trees for the building and development of the town. The peaceful Buh River that runs through the town has always supplied the residents with ample fish and remains to this day among the most beautiful places in the whole area.

Located in the Lviv Region just 85 kilometres north of the capital, Sokal is the major city of its own district. The town has a fascinating history and reminders of its past are scattered all around the landscape. It was part of Poland during the interwar years, but as part of Ukraine, the site has grown into a wonderful attraction, while retaining its small-town charm and ambiance. There are many attractions in Sokal for visitors to enjoy and sightseers will find the town one of the most interesting in the region to explore. Some of the more popular landmarks in Sokal include: the amazing St. Peter & St. Paul Church; a 19th-Century chapel; the 16th-Century St. Nicholas Church; the Bernardine Monastery; and the remains of a 1762 synagogue. Sokal City Hall is worth a visit as well, as the magnificent structure and its wonderful clock tower have been well-maintained and nicely painted. At 22,000 people, Sokal might be one of the smaller cities in Ukraine, but it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to attracting visitors. This picturesque and historically-fascinating site is a must-see for any visitor, and being so close to Lviv, makes a wonderful idea for a weekend getaway.

Bucach – A Delightful Destination Off the Beaten Path

Distance to Lviv: 155 km

Like most town and cities across Ukraine, Buchach is an historic town that has survived its fair share of wars and battles. With a population of little more than 12,000, it surely isn’t very large, but the village remains a close-knit community. With its location on the Strypa River, the town is a beautiful destination for a weekend getaway. Surrounded by natural wonders, the town retains its quaint, old-town feel. Located near Lviv in the Ternopil Region, Bucach invites visitors to explore its rich history and discover all the wonderful sights and attractions that the town has to offer. It’s not known for certain just when the Town of Buchach was established, but it was mentioned in documents as early as 1397. By then, Galicia had been under Polish rule for nearly 50 years, which drew many Jewish and Polish settlers to the community. It was viewed then as a shelter, and the majority of the citizens were of Jewish religion. A strong Jewish presence remains to the day, but unfortunately many of the historic structures have been destroyed. Many have been replaced by more modern buildings, ostensibly in an effort for residents to forget the past. However, there still remains a number of attractions that are of interest to Ukrainian and foreign tourists. The Buchach Old City Hall is certainly worth a visit, as the building was a collaboration between famed sculptor Johann Georg Pinsel and noted architect Bernard Meretyn. The St. Mykola Church is another interesting site, as is the Taras Shevchenko monument, and the old castle ruins. Several world famous people were born in Buchach, including Lee Strasberg (1901) and the legendary Simon Wiesenthal (1908) – better known as The Nazi Hunter. In addition to the sites, there are beautiful landscapes and several trails to visit, making the Town of Buchach a wonderful place to visit that’s off the beaten tourist path. Why not pay a visit to this place of history, myth, and legend?

Forpost 2015: Spirit of the Warrior

Distance from Lviv: 275 km

Transport yourself to a place where history and fantasy wondrously merges into reality as the Forpost 2015: Spirit of the Warrior Medieval Festival at the famed fortress and castle in Kamyanets-Podilsky transforms into a medieval wonderland. Cheer on your champion who will compete for honour and glory in the heart-pounding joust events; watch as combatants take up arms on the field of battle to prove their valour in the archery competitions; or just sit back and relax to the colourful dancers with a plate full of the finest medieval cuisine. You might want to lose yourself while haggling with vendors at the bustling marketplace, or maybe the lively tents of the combatants’ encampments is more your ‘cup of tea’. Whatever it is, it is here in Kamyanets-Podilsky that you will glimpse past the pages of history and into the facets of the everyday lives of medieval raiders, traders, peasants, and kings. Come for the exquisite detail of the medieval market, which offers a full array of food, clothing, and crafts; stay for the fire shows, sizzling meals, and tasty mead; and leave with the taste of history on your lips and on your doublet.

Festival attractions will enchant both young and old – and won’t cost you a king’s ransom. Tickets start from 80 UAH.

For more information, or to book your tickets today, please visit: www.ukrfest.eu/forpost-2015-dukh-vojina.