Saturday, 31 March 2018


After last week visit to Kamianets-Podilskiy let's cross the Dniester river and visit its great oponent the Khotyn Fortress.

The Khotyn Fortress's foundations go back to the 10th century, when Prince Vladimir The Great built it as one of the border fortifications of southwestern Kievan Rus', after he has added the land of present-day Bukovina into his control. The fort, which eventually was rebuilt into a fortress, was located on important transportation routes, which connected Scandinavia and Kiev with the Ponyzia (lowlands), Podillia, Genoese and Greek colonies on the Black Sea on the famous "trade route from the Varangians (Vikings) to the Greeks".

During the 1340s the Fortress was taken by Moldavian prince Dragos, a vassal of the Kingdom of Hungary. After 1375 it was a part of the Principality of Moldavia. Under the rule of Stephen the Great of Moldavia the fortress was greatly expanded, new 5–6-meter (16–20 ft) wide and 40 meters (130 ft) high walls were built. He also added three towers and raised the courtyard by 10 meters (33 ft). This reconstruction brought the fortress to the structure it has today. During 14th-16th centuries the Fortress served as a residence to Moldavian Princes.

In September–October 1621, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army under command of hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, Petro Sahaidachny and Yatsko Borodavka (about 50,000 troops) successfully held off the army of Turkish sultan, Osman II (estimated at 100,000), in the Battle of Khotyn. On October 8, 1621 the Khotyn Peace Treaty was signed, stopping the Ottoman advance into the Commonwealth and confirming the Commonwealth-Ottoman border on the Dniester river

In November 1673, the Khotyn Fortress was lost by the Turks and Jan Sobieski started to occupy Khotyn with a Polish-Cossack army. With the 1699 Karlowitz Peace Treaty, the fortress was transferred from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to Moldavia. In 1711, Khotyn was again taken over by the Turks. The Turks then fortified Khotyn following a six-year (1712–18) reconstruction and it became the foremost stronghold of the Ottoman defense in Eastern Europe. The Medieval Fortress has been surrounded by earth ramparts and outer wall.

Here you can see the outer wall and complicated ramparts seen from the medieval castle.

Here you can admire the outer 18th century wall and ...

... its only gate.

Fortunately today the fortress is used more as a tourist attraction than a place of war.

Inside the outer walls a modern tserkva was built.

In September 1991, during the celebration of 370 years since the Battle of Khotyn of 1621, a monument made in honor of Ukrainian Hetman, Petro Sahaidachnyi.

Let's go now deeper into Bukovina and visit its most precious heritage.

Saturday, 24 March 2018


Since the Middle Ages, the Dniepr river was the border between Moldova (south of the river) and very fertile lands called Podolia, located north of the river and inhabited by Ruthenians. Just a few kilometers north from the border, on the banks of Smotrych River, lies the capital, main fortress and gate to Podolia and the entire Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. Ladies and gentlemen - welcome to Kamianets-Podilskyi.

Podolia is a mountainous region with canyon-like fluvial valleys, difficult to pass and quite easy to defend.

Just compare the view and safety of the defenders ...

with the effort of the besiegers.

Smotrych river not only created the canyon, but it has curved almost a full circle around the rock on which the castle was built, being the natural moat to strengthen its defence. From the 15th through 17th centuries, the castle was attacked by Tatar hordes a total of 51 times and was never taken by force.

Let's visit the castle, built from 14th till 18th century.

Here we are on the main coutryard. From the left: Tenchynska, White & Daily Towers.

Turning right we can admire Rozanka Tower.

Here is the view on the Turkish Bridge over Smotrych from the Lanckoronska Tower.

The corridor allowed safe passage between the towers.

View on the modern Kamianets and St. Gregory orthodox church.

View on Pope's (further) and Kovpak's (closer) towers.

View on Lanckoronska (on the left), Commandant's (the small) and Rozanka Towers.

View on the inner courtyard, White & Tenchynska Towers.

View from Rozanka Tower on Commandant's and Lanckoronska Towers.

and on the Rozanka Tower from the White Tower.

Thanks to the twelve towers the castle was never taken. But in the beginning of August 1672, a 300,000 Ottoman force led by Sultan Mehmed IV and a 40,000 combined force of Tatars and Cossacks led by Hetman Petro Doroshenko laid siege to the castle. After conducting negotiations with their attackers, the city's leaders surrendered control of the fortress to the Ottomans on August 18. In a sign of protest, the fortress's Commandant Michał Wołodyjowski and Major Hejking blew up the castle's remaining gunpowder, killing themselves along with 800 defenders. The events of the 1672 Ottoman siege were depicted in the 1888 historical novel Fire in the Steppe, written by Polish Nobel Prize laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz.

But Kamianets is not only the castle. Let's pass the bridge and visit the city centre.

Ataman Khmelnytsky welcomes you.

In the times of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth there were three magistrate buildings in Kamianets: Armenian, Ruthenian and Polish. The last one you can still admire, this is the tall building in the back. On the top you can see the Sun - the coat of arms of Podolia.

From the main secular building let's move to the main religious building, at least for the catholics. The yellow building below is the St. Peter & Paul Cathedral, built in 16th century. In Soviet times it was changed in the museum of atheism.

I hope that you have enjoyed our trip to the main fortress on the Ruthenian banks of Dniepr. Next week we will pass the river and see the other side.

Saturday, 17 March 2018


Dear friends, welcome to Lviv. The city that is located at a meeting point of many cultures. Let's start with the most important city building - the Town Hall.

It is difficult to take a picture of this huge building, but just next to it you can take picture of its copy of mine proper size.

Just next to the main entrance of the City Hall you can find an information that the whole historic city center of Lviv was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

Inside you can find the three most most important flags for Lviv's inhabitants: the one of the European Union, that of Ukraine and finally the flag of Lviv. Have you noticed that they are made with the same colours?

Let's climb the tower. On the way you can see the clock machinery

On the top of the tower you can see two bells.

But was is truly worth the climbing is the impresive view of the whole historic city center. Looking South West you can admire the Archcathedral Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Latin Cathedral.

Looking North, the most prominent building is the Armenian Cathedral of Lviv. It is a pitty it is forbidden to take pictures inside, the interior is really amazing.

Looking East you can spot the round dome of the church of Dominican monastery and right to it the 400-year-old Korniakt tower over the Dormition church of Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Yes, likewise Przemyśl, Lviv is situated where many cultures and religions meet.

Let's go back down to the Market Square and admire fantastic palaces, like Brandelli's that is the seat of Museum of Post (yellow one) and the Black House, both from 16th century.

But Lviv is bautiful also beyond the Market Square. There are fantastic palaces, like the one of the very rich aristocratic family of Potocki.

The red brick biulding on our left is the Medieval Arsenal

And on our right, one of many beautiful churches, the Dominic Convent from 18th century.

Any proud city houses also several monuments. Lviv is no exception, starting with the monument of the city's patron St. Yura's (Ukrainian for George).

Then come the great poets, like Ivan Franko. He is one of the most important poets writing in modern Ukrainian.

It made him deserve a park of his own.

Then comes Adam Mickiewicz. He was writing in Polish so would find his monuments also in many Polish cities.

This large monument is celebrating another poet of the Ukrainian language - Taras Shevchenko.

From the last monument I encourage you to walk among Avenue of Freedom, buying some gifts or traditional Ukrainian food.

Finally we reach the Opera House.

But art is not only about poems and music, so you can also spot the famous painter Nikifor. Everyone wants to touch his huge nose. This is why he shines.

But Lviv is not only a city of art but also one of sciene and enterprenership. The best person to show it is Ignacy Lukasiewicz. He discovered how to distill kerosene from seep oil, built the world's first oil refinery, invented the modern kerosene lamp and introduced the first modern street lamp in Europe.

Let us sit for a moment on the chair next to him and listen to the amazing vibes of Lviv.