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Ukrainian Carpathians - a trip back to the Middle Ages

Movable borders between countries and empires have been running through the region for millennia. Therefore, every historic period left its mark on the cultural tradition and the appearance of cities. In the 12th century a powerful state, the Galicia-Volyn principality, often mentioned in ancient European chronicles times, was formed here.

The principality was fighting for its territories with Poland, Hungary and Tatars-Mongols. The papal legate crowned the prince Danylo and later his grandson Yuri. Danylo’s son Roman was married to a daughter of the Austrian duke from the Bubenbergs dynasty and even had pretensions on the Austrian throne. But the attempt was not successful and after that the Habsburg Dynasty strengthened its’ position in Austria. During the reign of the Habsburgs monarchy, the largest cities of the area among which are Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhgorod, Chernivtsi and many others took on the look of typical European cities.

The Carpathian region managed to preserve a great number of defense constructions and palaces witnessing a great deal of historical upheavals. Here you can visit numerous castles from the 11th-17th centuries, which in different eras were owned by Polish, Austro-Hungarians, Lithuanians and Russians. Since some of the castles are associated with the life of several Polish magnates, we offer you to have a trip to the Middle Ages during your stay in the Ukrainian Carpathians.

Mukachevsky “Palanok” Castle

In Europe, there remain only five other castles so finely preserved as the one in Mukachevsky one.

In the 14th century the cornerstone was laid for the “Palanok” Castle which, was later made into an impregnable fortress by French engineers. Moreover, after the fall of the Bastille, a world-renowned French prison, it was Mukachevsky castle that became an all-European political prison. In 1805—1806 the Hungarian Sacred Crown was kept there to protect from Napoleon’s troops. The castle knew a lot of hosts, so in different times it was home to the Serbian prince Georgi Brankovich, regent of Hungary Janucz Gunyadi, the wife of a Hungarian King Laiosh Maria and many others. Today even though “Palanok” Castle has lost its strategic role, it still maintains one of the most important military and architecture monuments of both Europe and Ukraine complete with its cozy patios, bastions and old chambers with a distint knights’ air.

Khotynska Fortress (the 11th-13th centuries)

On the right bank of the Dniester, not far from a small town of Khotyn, Chernivetska County, which recently celebrated its 1000th anniversary, there towers the legendary Khotynska fortress. This stronghold has walls that are about 50 meters high and about six meters thick. However, the fortress’s formidability, which was preserved till this time could not save it from the bloody battles which it witnessed. Khotyn’s moment of glory was during the military campaign of 1621 when a 150-thousand Turkish army soldiers met the united troops of Poland and Ukrainian Cossacks near the walls of the fortress. According to the historians for eight days in a row, the Polish and the Ukrainians were united in celebrating their victory, which prevented Western Europe from enslavement. And now Khotyn is the best place to enjoy serenity and harmony. From a high rampart you can look at the green bank vaults of the blue Dniester, feel a fresh breeze or go down the narrow stone stair-steps to the gigantic basements where time stands still. You can enjoy having rest near a murmur of a spring that has witnessed the history of Khotyn straight from the horse's mouth.

Uzhgorod Castle

This stone fortress in Uzhgorod was erected in the 11th -12th centuries. Then in the 14th century the castle was handed over to the ownership of the counts of the Druhets, an Italian family of French origin, who owned all the way through the 17th century. From that time on the castle was repeatedly rebuilt for various military purposes. In 1775 the castle was turned into a theological seminary, which operated till 1944. Now you can find here the collections of the Zakarpatsky Museum of Regional Studies and Art Gallery.

Olesko Castle

On the Lviv-Kyiv highway on the top of a high hill there’s a tower chamber with powerful walls, once a castle of the Polish coronet, which is seen from afar. It was designed as an Old Russian fortification and at the beginning of the 17th century became the residence of Polish barons. Jan III Sobiesky and Mikhailo Korbut Vyshnevetsky, future kings of Poland, were born here. Olesko Castle reached the political horizon in the 14th century when movable borders between Lithuania, Poland and Hungary ran through its territory. Then battles for Olesko followed one after another. So it is no wonder that the history of the castle is a history of ups and downs. For a long time the castle competed with Lviv for superiority, but now houses the exposition of the Lviv Art Gallery offering guests a glimpse of a great collection of ancient furniture, collection of wooden sculpture and portraits of the 16th-17th century. Wooden sculptures of an enigmatic master Pinsel, whose works are ascribed to the Byzantine school, are kept in the castle. According to the experts, his works can compete with those by Michelangelo in terms of mastery. The scientists are still trying to find out the genius’s real name. And in the meantime, Olesko Castle welcomes you to get acquainted with its masterpieces, which know this secret, but keep quiet.

Zolochivsky Castle

Zolochievsky Castle is a construction reflecting typical European military architecture and has not had significant reconstruction for centuries. Built in 1630 like a citadel with bastions, it’s surrounded by barrages. In the castle’s courtyard there is the Great Palace built in late Renaissance style and the Chinese Palace built by Jan III, the King of Poland, for his wife Maria Kasimira de Arcunion.