Uzhgorod. The smallest regional center. Photo report

Uzhgorod is the smallest regional center of Ukraine. It is also one of the few centers, by which you can’t guess the name of the region itself, because it is Zakarpattia.

In Ukraine itself, people know about Transcarpathia that cherry blossoms bloom here. They confuse it with western Ukraine (read – Lviv region), which locals strongly disagree with. The region is complex and not simple. But I decided to look at it from the side of a simple traveler, and therefore during our Prague-Zakarpattya trip we stopped here for a few days.

You can read about your impressions in this article. Welcome to this article!

The city is really tiny on the Ukrainian scale: 40 km² of area and just over 112 thousand inhabitants. You can get around it in a few hours and we probably wouldn’t have stayed here for long if we hadn’t decided to use it as a base while traveling through various castles of Transcarpathia.

Of course, Uzhgorod itself was also visited as soon as we could. Despite its small size, the terrain here is quite complex, so you have to sweat walking the streets. Especially if you want to go up to the castle.

I found Uzhgorod Castle quite boring, but you can’t miss it. It proudly rises above the whole city and beckons to you. Stone walls and moats attract attention. It’s worth a visit. I will tell about the castle itself in a separate article, as its history is very interesting.

The first days were very rainy, which, however, added to the charm of the cobblestone streets.

The streets of Uzhgorod near the castle are still paved with cobblestones
The streets of Uzhgorod near the castle are still paved with cobblestones

At the same time, there are no smooth roadsides here. You have to climb up on these very paving stones, which is difficult even in sports shoes.

The Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is no less delightful. It was founded in 1640 by the Jesuits and completed in 1646.

 Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Uzhgorod
Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Uzhgorod

Opposite is a monument to Empress Maria Theresa, who gave the cathedral to the Greek Catholics in 1773-1780.

By the statue of Maria Theresa
By the statue of Maria Theresa

When I was writing this article, I unexpectedly divided the city into three parts. The first is the historic-castle one, which was discussed above. The second is typical post-Soviet. The third – something cozy, European, with a layer of dust …. As if no one had cleaned the old castle for a long time.

The eye catches the very structures that enthrall the typical “noughties” philistine and are Oduvan’s horrible dream. Naturally – diluted by a ton of advertising and terrible signboards.

The very center of the modern city, close to the marketplace
The very center of the modern city, close to the marketplace

The Soviet-Yugoslav style has not gone anywhere, here it was paid no less attention than in the rest of the USSR, despite the fact that Transcarpathia was one of the last to be annexed, after the Second World War.

And at the same time, you can see that people are trying to beautify it somehow. A lot of greenery: shrubs, trees, vines…. Behind all this they try to hide not the best architecture and sometimes it turns out so nice that it is cozy….

Fences and gray, dull walls of houses try to decorate with graffiti. For example, this sparrow touched my heart.

Graffiti - a frozen sparrow in Uzhhorod
Graffiti – a frozen sparrow in Uzhhorod

And here we are. Beautifully done. Planted so much greenery. Painted the benches. Even a nice park with murmuring water, in which it is so cozy to hide from the sun on a hot day.

And just when you think you’re starting to love this city, something metallic comes into view that makes you want to exclaim in a mat to the entire street. What is this horror?

This was apparently a bull in the author's fantasy?
This was apparently a bull in the author’s fantasy?

Somebody came up with that, didn’t they? Authorized it. I did it. Put it up. Painted it. What is this monster and what is it for?

Of course, trees, lawns and benches that face yet another illegal slot machine halls and casinos masquerading as bingo and lotteries.

Vacationers are encouraged to enjoy the view of the horrible outdoor advertising and arcade room

And then, when you want to howl at it all, you grab your feet and run. But not out of town. To the old part of town along the river Uz. The cozy, cozy, cozy part of town.

Uzh river embankment

There are old buildings waiting for you here… Some of them restored.

Some of the buildings are trying to be restored (at least the facades)

And some of them are just as likely to collapse. It reminded me of Stryi in the Lviv region, where we went from Morshyn during our vacation.

Sometimes you’re surprised that the building is still standing.

My eyes cling to interesting monuments. For example, this monument to Uncle Kolya, the lantern man, who, according to the memorial plaque, performed his duties for decades and did it impeccably.

Monument to Uncle Kolya, the lantern-maker, on the wall of one of the houses
Monument to Uncle Kolya, the lantern-maker, on the wall of one of the houses

There is a beautiful thing – a booth for bookcrossing. I regret that I didn’t go in and see what kind of books are inside. However, in any case – it is happy. It is important that it is in demand. After all, today Ukrainians practically do not read books1, and that’s a road to nowhere.

A bookcrossing booth in the center of Uzhgorod allows you to exchange interesting books

And if you turn into one of the narrow streets, you will come across a lot of street art. Unknown to the general public, artists decorated the walls of the central city library to the best of their abilities and imagination.

Here they decided to hang colored umbrellas above the ground. A stunt that has spread to every city in the world. Remember we saw this in Belgrade?

Colored umbrellas over the street in Uzhgorod

By the way, do you see the bear on the background of the Ukrainian flag on the left? I noticed it only now. It’s either a reference to Kornei Chukovsky’s poems or to the coat of arms of the Transcarpathian region.

And what didn’t I like about all this? The swoop, where is it? There, just turn your head to the right.

Just clean it up, it’s the center of the city! Beauty can only be created by a holistic impression, not by “fragments”.

They’ve made a beautiful alleyway, so can’t they deal with the derelicts? At least a little bit of beautification, so that it’s not conspicuous?

But we won’t talk about the bad, but try to notice more positive details. For example, a board on which a brief guide to the city is written in braille (for the blind).

Braille guide to Uzhgorod for the blind

Unfortunately, it has no useful load, due to the complete lack of inclusive infrastructure in the city.

I would call it a reminder to each of us that we live in a world where there are people who have special needs. The main thing is that it should not become a check mark in the brains of local officials, saying such a plaque is an inclusive city.

However, it was installed with funds from community organizations and the local university2, and therefore no official was morally compromised by the need to think.

The building of the Uzhgorod synagogue looks incredibly beautiful. It was founded in 1904, and today it houses the regional philharmonic society. “Reformatting” happened after the Second World War, when the Soviet power came here. Everything connected with Judaism was removed, and therefore the lavish decoration of the roof and facade cannot be seen.

Uzhgorod Orthodox Synagogue
Uzhgorod Orthodox Synagogue

But what has survived to this day is a delight for the tourist’s eyes! Lots of details that you want to look at for hours!

You can’t even just walk across a bridge. You have to pay attention to the little things. Here is the handrail – a miniature reference to the Statue of Liberty.

Miniature reference to the Statue of Liberty in the center of Uzhgorod

Further on, on the next handrail of the same staircase is a metal Rubik’s cube. And under your feet are distance signs to various cities of the world.

Distance indicators to world capitals
Distance indicators to world capitals

Belgrade, Vienna, New York. Take your pick.

I have never been able to find the words to describe Uzhgorod. What did it look like to me? A small town with Soviet architecture? No! European and cozy? Not quite the right word either…

You can walk along and just come across a red fire hydrant. It’s not seen here as it is in the US. It’s more like in Mostar.

It’s an incredible city, for a lover. Not really retro… Just Uzhgorod. Just the way I remember it.

Retro cars are back in fashion
Retro cars are back in fashion

And I’ll end this article with this shot of a vintage car. It looks beautiful, especially on the streets of this town, doesn’t it? It’s a place you should come back to. Especially in spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. But that’s another story…

  1. Сколько читают украинцы // Research & Branding Group URL: http://rb.com.ua/blog/skolko-chitajut-ukraincy/ (дата обращения: 03.02.2020). []
  2. В УжНУ изготовили туристическую карту Ужгорода для слепых туристов // UA-Reporter URL: https://ua-reporter.com/news/v-uzhnu-izgotovili-turisticheskuyu-kartu-uzhgoroda-dlya-slepyh-turistov (дата обращения: 03.02.2020). []

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