Have you been to Cernauti?
Bukovina really is a piece of heaven
I have got to Bukovina in my childhood, I was about 5 years old so I don’t remember much. I had the chance to go there again in 2015. I was drawn by the churches painted on the outside (then I only saw Voronet and Humor Monastery) and by the people, a different kind of Romanians, people that are gentle, hospitable, lively and lovers of Romanian authenticity, but also with a peculiar emphasis in the western areas of the region.
I arrived again in Bukovina in 2016. Then I went till Putna, the burial place of Stephen the Great, the greatest leader of Moldavia (I try to avoid saying ruler). Putna area is a special one. After your eye is delighted by a beautiful, gentle, contrasting nature, just after you leave Gura Humorului and you go North, you get to Putna, where you will find a green and quiet oasis. I am still young, but such deep, mysterious silence I had never lived before.
Northern Bukovina, today’s Ukraine, yesterday’s Romania
Bukovina is more than you can visit in Romania. It stretches in Ukraine as well. “The Country of Beeches” as even the name recommends it, Bukovina, belonged for a long while to the Moldavian people, passing in 1774 to the Habsburg Empire. After that, it was part of Greater Romania. In 1945 the north area of Bukovina is taken by USSR and in 1991 by Ukraine (when USSR fell apart). Northern Bukovina is tightly bound to Moldavia’s history. There you can find Hotin Fortress (twinned with other fortresses from Moldavia, unfortunately only 6 out of the 13 great fortresses of Moldavia are in Romania today, the rest of them belonging to The Republic of Moldova and Ukraine), Cernauti city and a lot of Romanian speakers in villages as well as in Cernauti (around 50 000).
I went there eager to see, to discover and to feel a Romanian touch.
Bukovina historically belonged to:
- Principality of Moldavia 1346-1774
- Habsburg Empire 1774-1918
- Romania 1918-1940
- USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ) (Northern Bukovina) 1940-1941
- Romania 1941-1945
- Romania (Southern Bukovina) 1945-present
- USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) (Northern Bukovina) 1945-1991
- Ukraine Northern Bukovina (Cernauti Region) 1991–present
Two days in Bukovina beyond the border, in Ukraine
At the border, it is a little bit shocking. You spend a lot of time (a few hours when you go and double when you come back because you enter in European space), people are impatient, slightly mean. The border is not a European one, it is a Romanian improvisation.
You may also suffer a shock after you make a few kilometers as the houses and the households are big, clean and neat. The fields are plowed. The people are diligent and it is visible. The discrepancy is big between the villages in the Romanian border area and the Ukrainian one.
Cernauti city is close. You get there in about 40 minutes. Here the things are different. Poverty and hard living are highly visible. You can figure this out from the streets, buildings, old cars. Most of the central area is paved with cobblestone, put a long time ago and seldom repaired. But it is charming. And I hope that they won’t change it not even in 700 years.
People are nice and kind on the street, in traffic, and in shops. Women are beautiful, very beautiful in fact, and elegant. Here you can see the Russian influence.
This place hasn’t escaped globalization either, but besides the insignificant things of great corporations, you can find here some boutiques with candies, cookies, chocolate, impressive by simplicity, taste of the products, specific and atmosphere.
Cernauti city has spectacular architecture. Here you can find a series of old buildings (since the Habsburg Empire) kept in good condition – the theater, the buildings in the pedestrian area (boutiques, banks, restaurants), the city hall, the high schools downtown and especially the University. The University is truly special. In Romania, there isn’t one as beautiful. It is old, from the mid 19th century. It can be visited and there are Romanian guides as well. It is easy to mistake it for one of the UK universities.
You will meet people born in Cernauti who speak Romanian and do it with love and pride (pride in a good way, with positive emotion). We have found some in restaurants and coffee shops and we even enjoyed long conversations with them. They seemed bohemian, smart and with a zest for life. Maybe we were just lucky to find beautiful people. We hope to validate the special character of the Romanians from here in our future tours.
The food is very tasty and I think quite natural. There is a series of beautiful, modern and tastefully decorated accommodation places, like Apartment 7 (see the picture gallery). The prices are low for everything.
Instead of conclusion
It’s worth making a trip for the pleasure of meeting Romanian born in Romania of yesterday, to see a rich culture, to enjoy the tastes of old times (it seems that the cakes, the candies and not only have the same taste like those from long time ago in Romania), to enjoy low prices and to admire beautiful and chic women of the place.
We have recharged our batteries and our soul as well; Bukovina is that place that can fill your soul even when you stay there only for a few days.