Chernivtsi - city guide: sightseeing, guided tours and trips to Bukovina

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Central Square

The centre of Chernivtsi is incarnated in the Central square, the Market square, or Ringplatz in the past, which is the heart of the city for almost two centuries already. The square is actually a central one – from it as rays almost all main streets of the city diverge in different directions: Holovna, Ruska, Universytetska, I.Franko, O.Kobylyanska, and others.

The idea of creation of the square has originated at the Austrian emperor Josef II himself. In 1786 during visiting Chernivtsi he proposed to create at the then southern outskirts of the city a spacious square, where the market could operate and the fairs could be held. But due to the fact that at that time at that location there were the scattered private plots of nearly ten townsmen, which would have been necessary to buy out, the creation of the square, had a slow progress. However, already from 1790, even before finishing the arrangement of the square, here was a marketplace, which for many years has defined the character of the square and granted it with the “Market square” name. And in the first decades of the XIX century the square has obtained the status of the main one, which was noted by the emperor Franz I in his diary during travelling the city in August, 1817.

The architectural ensemble of the Market square, which has started forming at the edge of the XVIII-XIX centuries, began incarnating the new face of the city. A really European look has been achieved by it after construction of the city hall here in the 40-s of the XIX century, which has forever secured for the square the status of Chernivtsi centre and the main focus place for city life. The discussions regarding the construction of the city hall were held since 1825, and only on April 19, 1843 in the presence of venerable guests from the capital was the first stone laid in the foundation of the future magistrate. The construction works were conducted under the supervision of county engineer Adolph Marin and the supervision of cameral architect Andreas Mykulych. In 4 years in the centre of Chernivtsi a majestic building has risen in the style of late classicism with a high tower and inner patio. According to the old European tradition, the city hall combines two volumes: a big horizontal volume of the building itself with accented Doric style jutty indent on the background of facade; and a vertical one in the shape of 50-meter high two-tier tower with a balcony and clock. By this clock the magistrate had checked the time with Vienna for long years, until Chernivtsi obtained the self-governance.

From the balcony that surrounds the tower from all sides, the old city is well seen. Naturally, the balcony at those times did not serve as a platform for viewing the outskirts, but had a practical purpose: it was a place for fire watch. Today from the balcony of the tower every day at noon sharp at all four sides of the city the “Marichka” melody resounds, which is played by a trumpeter in Bukovinian folk costume.

The spire of the tower with a copper gilded ball at the Austrian age was crowned by a “bird” – the two-headed Habsburg eagle. In the years of World War I, when the city changed hands numerous times, the “bird” was dismounted. From then not a few flags were replaced on the spire, as well as the inscriptions on the gable of the building. But the city hall invariably served the citizens as the centre of city self-governance.

During 1900-1901, a spectacular three-storied building of Bukovina savings bank has emerged near the city hall, where nowadays the art museum is situated. It was erected by the project of Vienna architect Hubert Gessner, a talented student of Otto Wagner. This building is fairly considered a classical piece of Vienna secession, one of the most sophisticated monuments of modern in Central-Eastern Europe. The building has the clear symmetries of facade, on the background of which a central risalit stands out a little, which is crowned by attic with two sculptures at its sides. Among the decorations of the facade, the majolica panel distinguishes itself, which adorns the upper part of the central risalit. The allegoric figures that symbolize the provinces of Austria-Hungary are pictured at the panel. Bukovina is represented there by a young man with a goat hide. The building provide and impress by a no less sophisticated beauty of interiors, in the decor of which are masterfully combined the sculpture, the painting, the fretwork, the stained glass, the artistic metal. The famous Ukrainian painter Mykola Ivasyuk took part in the interior decoration of the building. The picture on the mythological story, which still decorates the ceiling, belongs to his hand.

The exposition of the art museum allows tracing the development of painting in Bukovina during the last two centuries. The classical school is represented by canvases of Yustyn Pigulyak, Mykola Ivasyuk, Yevhen Maksymovych, Augusta Kokhanovska and other artists, whose works adorn the museums and picture galleries of many European cities.

During the Austrian age, the series of houses of Central square served as hotels and restaurants. The most famous of them was the hotel “Under Black Eagle” – the current main building of trade and economy institute. The Chernivtsi “toffs” loved to meet in the restaurant of the hotel, and its hall served as a stage for theatre performances. In the 70-s of XIX century the Romanian composer Ciprian Porumbescu amused the ears of the visitors of the restaurant by the sounds of violin. As the commemorative plaque on the facade testifies, here in 1860 young Yuri Fedkovych became familiar with the works of Taras Shevchenko and since then he devoted himself to serving the Ukrainian literature.

Opposite the former “Under the Black Eagle” hotel, in 1910 the five-storied building of the “Golden Lion” hotel arose. Today, there are situated the shops and residential premises here, and the cathedral and the dormitory of the university. Only the bas-relief of the lion, which froze standing in the heraldic pose on the facade of the corner tower, reminds of the former hotel.

In spite of its old history, the ensemble of the central square has obtained its finalization only recently. In June 1999, the monument of Taras Shevchenko was officially opened here.


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