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Ukrainians have heard a lot about these places in school. Presidents and ministers love to visit these parts to have their names associated with the glorious pages of the Ukrainian history. In about two years, when all the plans of reconstruction of the places of Cossack glory are implemented, the roads to Chyhyryn will be crammed with tourists. For the moment, this tourist route has not yet been discovered yet and it is a good time to go.
After exiting Kyiv, Boryspil freeway allows you to drive as fast as 130 km/h. The pleasure, however, does not last long, only until the turn to the airport. Then you enter Boryspil and drive through the city streets. You won’t miss the turn to Kremenchuk road, because right on the corner there is a recently built rather big cathedral. After you exit Boryspil, you follow a peculiar road that runs lazily through the endless fields, coppices and fields again. Fifty kilometers later you reach Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskiy. Do not pass it, because the city is worth at least a quick inspection. In fact, nobody really counted how much time it takes to actually visit all 24 museums that operate in the city.
The city is buried in verdure. In every yard you can find some sculptures and sites. In the former building of the college where well-known Ukrainian philosopher Hryhoriy Skovoroda once taught you will find a collection of his personal belongings and books. Not far from there, there is a roaming lute players’ museum, where the rare original copy of Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar is kept. By the way, classical writer of Jewish literature Sholom-Aleikhem was born in the same building. The next town on the way is Zolotonosha. There is a belief that in the end of the 17th the tax office of Yarema Vyshnevetskiy was located there. According to another version, Cherkassy’s Cossacks hid their gold somewhere there. It is also possible that micaceous sand that shimmers like gold on the bottom of the local river is the source of the legend about big money.
The largest cathedral in Ukraine
Soon after Cherkassy, you reach the damn on the Dnipro River. As you cross the bridge, you enter Cherkasy, an oblast center that was once an old Cossack city. Five hundred years ago, the place was full of life and turned around simple things: honey, game, grain and cattle breeding. As usually, first Tatars, then Lithuanian princes and later Poles interfered with the peaceful life of the place.
Mount Zamkova in the center of Cherkasy that for hundreds of years dominated the city skyline, accommodated the grandiose monument composition Mother of the Homeland in 1977. Now the monument serves as a background for the inspired stories of guides about the ancient settlement site, Cherkasy Church and Holy Trinity Church that were razed to the ground to give space for the monument.
St. Michael’s Cathedral done in Byzantine style and opened in 2002 is a new mustsee site. It is the biggest cathedral in Ukraine (72 m high) that has the capacity of up to 12,000 people. Also in Cherkasy you can see the hyperboloid water tower designed by the engineer Volodymyr Shukhov. Famous architects Gaudi, Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer later borrowed its ideas for their works.
In the village Leski located very close to Cherkasy, you will find the first, according to the claims of the local residents, monument to Taras Shevchenko built on the money of the community. The poet would probably not be happy looking at the very sad Leski’s vision of his image done in stone.
There is a Cossack hamlet near the village Stetsivka. There you can have a meal, ride a horse and admire and old wooden church built without a single nail.
We finally reach Chyhyryn, where the streets are straight with lots of greenery and little fuss. In the center of the city you will find a park with yet another monument to Shevchenko at the entrance. Several steps inside the park and you lose the sense of seriously giving way to easy laughter while inspecting park sculptures. You see two not quite sober villagers, a Cossack resting a little further on and a grotesque villager who decided to take a nap on a hillock. Finally, you come to the monument depicting a whole dance band of merry musicians.
In the area of the future historical complex planned for opening by the end of the year the construction is in full swing. Restoration of Doroshenko Bastion on Zamkova Mountain is completed, the walls of the Hetman’s Palace are built as are Peter and Paul’s Church, Posolska Street, where the buildings of Russian, Turkish, Polish and Swedish embassies used to be locate. They will all be now turned into hotels.
All the pathways in Chyhyryn lead to Zamkova Mt, where Bohdan Khmelnytskiy’s residence was located in the past times and the bronze monument to hetman was situated in recent years. Rising up the hill is not boring. First you see a bronze kobza player, then the monument to Taras Shevchenko.
Almost 100-year-old stone stairs will lead you to the top. At the peak of the hill, not far from Khmelnytskiy monument, there is a stone cross – tribute to Cossack foremen Yuriy Bohun and Illya Sutyha, who died the death of martyr during the siege of the town in 1596. Travelers will be amazed with the beautiful view opening to the Dnipro, panorama of the town and its vicinities.
1000-year-old oak tree
The village of Subotiv, which was Bohdan Khmelnytskiy’s patrimonial estate, is located 10 km away from Chyhyryn down the Tyasmyn River. In 1616 Polish mogul Jan Danylovych presented that land to Mykhailo Khmil, an assistant of Chyhyryn elder. St. Elias Church was built in Subotiv over 350 years ago by Bohdan Khmelnytskiy’s son.
Behinds its 1 m thick walls there is the burial vault for hetman himself, though he was never buried in it and even his ashes were never taken there. People say Bohdan was buried under one of the rock crosses near the church. No one has ever found out whether such information is true.
We follow the river and pass the village of Melnyky and then continue our trip to the top of the hill where Motronynskiy Spaco-Troitskiy Monastery is situated. Its history goes back to the ancient times and its main temple called the Holy Trinity Church was built in 1804 in Baroque style. The monastery reminds of many other monasteries but its underground caves are really unique. They go for several dozens of kilometers. Not far from that place in a gully there is the Haidamaky (or also called Monastyrskiy) pond where Cossacks consecrated their combat knives.
Further along the highway there is Buda farm. Close to it there is a 1,000-year-old oak tree. The tree is impressive – 8 m 90 cm wide and 24 m high. Guides say under that oak tree almost all historical figures took rests. Next to the “grandpa” oak there is the 300-year-old “grandson” oak.
250 km from Kholodniy Yar
The town of Kamyanka remembers Pushkin and Tchaikovsky. Tourists can visit the manor mansion, watermill, lyrical Decembrists museum and grotto, Pushkin’s rock and Tchaikovsky’s oak.
Further along the highway there is Velyka Yablunivka village. The air there is so crystal-clear that you cannot help breathing it in more and more. The village is located near the famous 7 ha Kholodniy Yar ravine. The air temperature there is always by several degrees lower than in the vicinity. That is why snow does not melt for long time under the shade of thick forest and in deep gullies. Nearly all ravines and streams in Kholodniy Yar have their impressive names, such as Kyrykovskiy, Chorniy, Sichoviy, Haidamatskiy, Tsyhanskiy, Potashniy, Hadyuchiy, Chervoniy and Chernechiy.
The total length of ravines and their branches exceeds 250 km. Approximately 150 streams and small rivers flow along their bottoms. The largest rivers are called Sriblyanka, Smotrych, Zhabyacha, Osota, Kosarka, Shumka, Chornobryvka, Lybenka, Rozyanka, Subot, Kholodna, Lavrusykha and Nekrasykha. All those rivers fall into the Tyasmyn River.
Smila is a unique county center in Cherkasy oblast. There are 3 railway and 3 bus stations in the town. Right on the platform of Shevchenko railway station there is a monument erected in 1976 and dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the station - a legendary Su locomotive. A swift march along county and local highways leads us to the ancient Rzhyshchiv, comfortably located near the estuary of the Lehlychi River. Rzhyshchiv, with its ancient history, is one of the most remarkable sites in Ukraine. The first memorial to Trypillya Culture was opened here in 2003. Right in the middle of the river and facing the town there is a sand island called Lysa Hora. Everyone eager can get there by boat and sunbathe all day long watching the right-bank Dnipro hills. On the other side of Rzhyshchiv there is a semi-flooded church.
Kyiv is just 1-hour-drive away. Cossacks tour is over and travellers can buy historical books and study the history of native lands seen with their own eyes.