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Ternopil (Ukraine)

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City: Ternopil / Country: Ukraine / World Region: Europe

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      09.01.2014 10:55
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      Not my favourite Ukranian town

      Ternopil is a 'young' city in Western Ukraine (in the region of Galicia) which was founded in 1540. It is not a typical tourist destination and I only stayed here as part of my tour itinerary to break up some long journeys over some rough roads. The town was originally a Polish fortress town, but has also been under the control of the Turks, the Ukrainian Cossacks and the Russians and destroyed twice over, long before the beginning of the twentieth century. Currently is has about 250,000 inhabitants.

      GETTING HERE

      There is a small airport here, served only by smaller, domestic services. I came by private transport from Lviv, which took about three hours on some pretty poor roads. It is accessible by train from Kiev and Lviv on eastbound routes and Chernivtsi from the south. There is also a reasonably sized bus station, but based on my experience of the roads on this side of the Ukraine, I wouldn't recommend for long journeys.

      WHERE TO STAY

      As Ternopil isn't a major stop off for tourists, there is not much to choose from. Both my Bradt guide and local tourist map indicate two hotels: Hotel Ternopil (where I stayed and reviewed separately) and Hotel Halychyna, on the opposite side of the lake. I quick scout on hotel booking sites will not be reassuring. There are other options, not always central and with reviews like "OK for a short time" and "if you can, find another place to stay" maybe you will be better off with Hotel Ternopil - a case of better the devil I know.... It was a clean and adequate hotel, and is at least central.

      EATING

      Admittedly my brief stay in the weekend means I have limited experience of eateries, but I don't think people come to Ternopil for the fine dining. I had done a little research before I left and had heard that finding English menus were a challenge, and I can concur with this. Obviously if you speak Ukrainian or at least have some understanding of Cyrillic script (the Ukrainians have different letters to the Russians, but it may help) you may find it easier. Not many restaurant staff speak English (and why should they?) so ordering food is a challenge.

      For our first day's lunch we passed a number of cafés where we were unsure what to order, plumping for a pizza place where the enthusiastic manageress held up various ingredients, at the counter, that we could say yes or no too, until we had something we liked. She didn't get it quite right when the food arrived but it was a nice pizza and the cost with a drink was UAH 60 (£4). The next day we just went to the small supermarket by the square and bought snacks.

      In the evening we were taken to Stary Miln (Old Mill), an unusual museum-restaurant in the North part of town which is quite a tacky, touristy place, but the food is fine, reasonably priced and the menu is in English.

      WHAT TO SEE AND DO

      Ternopil hasn't a big attraction other than the lake (also called a pond, but a 7km, I think it is more a lake) which is actually a man-made reservoir, expanded and improved upon during the Soviet era when the local river Seret was dammed. You can get a boat across or do a round trip for UAH10 (80p). There is a pretty walking area near Hotel Ternopil too. It is not the most exciting boat trip you will ever undertake, but it is nice to do on a hot day and will kill half an hour.

      Near the lake and Hotel Ternopil is Ternopil Castle. I was quite excited at the thought of a sixteenth century castle, but don't get your hopes up. Although there has been a castle on this spot for many centuries, the original building and subsequent renovations have mostly been lost after the retreating Russian army left in 1917. It has been re-built since then (twice) and most recently in 1956 and it no longer looks particularly castle like. You can't visit it as far as I am aware, and I am not sure exactly what it is used for.

      Whilst in Ternopil I took lots of photos of churches and am not sure what all of them are now I am home! There are two that I went into and which stood out:
      Church of the Resurrection (17th century) which was a small, charming church in the heart of the older part of the city. It is Ukrainian Greek Orthodox and like others of this denomination, is full to the brim with icons and gilt pictures. Whilst we were there some local ladies were cleaning the church in bright print aprons and headscarves, to make it look even more traditional. Outside is a memorial to the 1931-2 famine. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (formerly the Dominican Church) is 18th century. Badly damaged during the Second World War, it was restored in the fifties and re-opened as an art gallery in 1959. After independence, it was restored to a church again and the paintings done inside were only since 1994 and 2011 (the man one over the alter being last). It is interesting to see religious frescos painted in bright colours (many original frescos in older churches would have faded) and looking quite modern.

      Like many Ukrainian towns, Ternopil likes its statues and public art. One in, Shevchenko Park, is of the famous opera singer Solomiya Krushelnytska (no, me neither). Apparently she saved Puccini's Madame Butterfly, which has originally been booed at La Scala. I am sure the re-writes had nothing to do with it. Also, there is a large statue of Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, which I think it quite a controversial choice, even amongst Ukrainians (one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist).
      There are a number of museums in the town, which I did not get the opportunity to visit. These include regional art and history museums. I also understand that the town's opera and ballet company produces a number of well-regarded productions in the local theatre, when at home (they were on tour during the summer, when I was there).

      SUMMARY

      I hope this had given you an idea of things to do in Ternopil. It is a pleasant enough town, without being a particularly pretty one. As it is relatively small place it doesn't have the range of attractions that large cities have, and given a choice I may have quite happily by-passed this town and spent the time elsewhere in this fascinating country. If you're itinerary brings you here, I hope you enjoy it, but don't go out of your way to visit.

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