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Uzhgorod

The origin of the city of UZHGOROD the administrative center of the oblast, remains to be one of  Transcarpathian mysteries. The local citizens are ready to tell you a couple of their own versions. The Ukrainians prove one version, the Hungarians, another one. Perhaps one thing is clear today: Al-ldrisi, an Arabian traveler and geographer, is considered a “godfather” of the city. It was he who put down the first record about it when he was charting a geographical atlas of the world by order of the Sicilian governor Roger II. The scientist mentioned it under the name of  “Gunkbar” or “Ungu.”

Time has turned this word into “Uzhgorod.” However, many citizens are confident that the city was called after the name of the Uzh River flowing through the city’s center.

It is worth starting a tour of  Uzhgorod from Fedor Koriatowicz Square. Its original name was Gal’kova, which is explained by the fact that it emerged on the left bank of the Small Uzh River where the stream had changed its bed and brought many pebbles (Ukr. “gal’ka”).  Later it was the place of the first town fairs. In 1853, when trade stalls were moved to another place, the city authorities decided to turn the square into a park. The area was planted with trees, and benches were installed all around. For a long time there were a fiacre station and a well here. The water from the well was used for washing the square every week.

In historical sources Korzo Street, which connects present-day F. Koriatowicz Square and A.Voloshin Street, was called Mostova. Later it was renamed in honor of the famous Hungarian writer and teacher Kazinczy Ferenc. Today it is one of the favorite walking places of Uzhgorod citizens and guests. Its architectural appearance formed in the late 19th-early 20 th centuries. The word “Korzo” means “a place for a walk, promenade. The street leads to Pedestrian Bridge, which is another visiting card of Uzhgorod. Before you proceed along the usual tourist rout, you ought to stop at the crossing of Korzo and A.Voloshin streets, where you wil see a house famous in the past. Built of a white silicate brick, the structure was called “White Ship.” The name was derived from that of a tavern opened inside the building in 1780, and not because of its white color.

The Roman-Catholic Church of St. Georqe is one of the oldest architectural monuments of the city. Its history started supposedly in 1619, when the city’s Lord Yuriy Druget (1583-1620), under the influence of the archbishop Peiter Pazman, returned to the bosom of the Catholic Church and decided to build a Roman-Catholic church in place of the Lutheran church. Its neo-baroque appearance the church acquired in 1762-1766 due to the care of Archdeacon Emerich Horvat. The altar was built in 1895. A picture by the well-known Uzhgorod artist Lukach Joseph Krakker (1717—1779) was placed in the interior of the altar. In 1820 a clock was mounted on the belfry. After the fire of 1857 the clock was replaced by a new one.

The former St. Basil’s Monastery is now one of the buildings of Uzhgorod University. Once here stood a Greek church, another evidence of the city’s national polychromy.

The Greeks came to Uzhgorod in the second half of the 17 th century from the Hungarian city of  Tokay. Their main occupation was trading in wool.

On September 22, 1900, the building and the surrounding area were bought by the Greek-Catholic eparchy of Mukacheve. In 1906 it was decided to reconstruct the church and organize a monastery. On completion of the construction and up to the outbreak of World War I it was the highest structure in Uzhgorod. On September 1, 1937, a classical gymnasium was opened there, where students were taught in Ukrainian.

Pidvalny Riad (Cellar Row), is situated along the slope of Zamkova Hill. It was famous for its numerous wine cellars; they say there was a hundred of them in Uzhgorod. Before World War II the city residents used to come here to spend some time enjoying a beaker of wine in a friendly atmosphere.

Uzhgorod castle attracts everyone who comes to the city even for one day. This imposing edifice can be clearly seen on the approaches to the city. It is situated on a natural hill. The medieval chronicle “The Acts of the Hungarians” links the foundation of the castle with the legendary Slavic prince Laborets.

The fortress is an irregular quadrangle with massive towers on each of the corners. In 1384 the stone walls were rebuilt. The dates of reconstructions are carved on the walls. The first one – the year 1558 – can be seen on the tower behind the foot-bridge. Under the carving there are four starlings – the coat of arms of the Drugeths family. Another date – 1698 – is found on the southern gates. On three sides the fortress was surrounded by a ditch carved out in the rocks, and on the north-eastern side, by a precipice; the ditch being 15-30 m. wide, and 5-10 m. deep. The main palace of the castle, built in Renaissance style, contains 40 rooms. A 32-meter deep well has been preserved in the yard. Artillery that opened fire on the approaching enemy was placed on the bastions. Unfortunately, as a result of military disasters and reconstructions, only separate fragments of the castle’s original interior decorations have survived to this day. They include paintings on secular themes made in graffito technique, and some mural paintings in one of the rooms. In the mid – 19 th century, when the castle was converted into a Greek-Catholic seminary, these premises were converted into chapel and served as the rector’s waiting room. In summer 1945, Soviet authorities began to liquidate Greek-Catholic churches in Transcarpathia and turned the fortress into military barracks. In 1947, it became Transcarpathian Museum of History and Local Lore.

Museum of Transcarpathian Architecture and Mode of Life was opened on June 27, 1970. In 1965-1970 more than 20 dwelling houses and sacral structures of great artistic value were moved to this area. True, the museum had been built in the territory of one of the oldest Uzhgorod cemeteries. The “Burial Garden,” as it was called by local residents, was a burial place of many prominent figures. However, due to the activities of the museum wonderful monuments of wooden architecture, which Transcarpathia is famous for, have been preserved to the present time. Of special interest in the museum collection are the Lemky wooden Church of St. Michael (1777) from the village of Shelestove, Mukacheve district; the Hutsul house – hrazhda – from the village of Stebne of Rakhiv district; the cottage from the village of Dovhe, Irshava district (second half of the 19 th century); the cottage from the village of Bedevli, Tiachiv district; the Romanian dwelling from the village of Serednie Vodiane, Rakhiv district. The Hungarian mode of life of the late 19 th century is represented by the cottage from the village of Vyshkove, Khust district.

The Greek-Catholic Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the Bishop’s Residence appeared when the ruler Janos X Drugeth invited to Uzhgorod in 1640 the monastic order of Jesuits. The monks were generously granted the land and money to build the temple. In 1646 the sanctuary was ready to be solemnly opened. In 1773, after Pope Clement XIV issued the edict on liquidation of the Jesuit order, the monks left Uzhgorod. The temple was passed over to the Greek-Catholic eparchy. The building of the former Uzhgorod zhupanat was constructed in 1809. Formerly it used to house the city administration. The building was a witness of many outstanding events. In 1848-1849 it became one of the centers of the Hungarian national revolution. In 1919 the Ruthenian People’s Council made a decision here to join Czechoslovakia. The establishment of  “Prosvita” (Enlightenment) society was announced here on May 9, 1920. From 1919 to 1921 it was the working place of the first Transcarpathian governor Hryhoriy Zhatkovych. Today it is an art museum exhibiting the works of Yosyp Bokshay and other local artists.

In the 1920 s-30 s O.Dovzhenko Street was built up with original and, at the same time, functional buildings in the famous constructivist style. The building of People’s Council (architect A. Krupka) has been preserved in Narodna Square.

Today it is the seat of the oblast state administration, it is just a few steps from here to the Naberezhna Nezalezhnosti (Independence Embankment), which leads to the Pedestrian Bridge. The street has been functioning since 1923, when the work on regulating the river flow within the city was begun.

The most interesting structures situated on the embankment include the former building of Czech gendarmerie (today the building of the medical faculty of Uzhgorod National University), the National Bank (1934-1936) built in the late constructivist style, and the former Hungarian gymnasium for boys, built in 1912 in eclectic style (today T. Shevchenko secondary school). A linden alley planted in 1928, which is the longest in Europe (2.2 km), is the embankment’s wonderful adornment.

Floods have been a centuries-old and unsettled problem for Transcarpathia. Sometimes they destroyed the bridges and then, despite great risks, people with their goods had to be evacuated by boats. First mention of a bridge in Uzhgorod dates back to 1320. The most famous is the Pedestrian Bridge, which is a favorite place of Uzhgorod citizens and its guests. It is possible to get there by Korzo St. or from A.Voloshin St. through Teatralny side street. The section between present day A.Voloshin Street and the square was built up on money of the Czech shoe-king Bat’a. This area is noted for fine air and wonderful sceneries. Walking across the bridge most of the visitors do not suspect that they are a couple of steps away from the “wall of death.” It is a wall that strengthens the bank on the right side of the bridge. The local inhabitants say that is a place of numerous accidents. Besides, this wall was to suicides’  liking who jumped from it into the river. Though lately it is not simply to drown for the river has become too shallow.

Yevhen Fentsyk (1844-1903) Square in Soviet times was called Teatralna (Theatrical) so many citizens use this name even today. The architectural appearance of the square formed in the latter half of the 19 th century. The fact that it was situated close to the Pedestrian Bridge made it an important thruway and, at the same time, a fine resting-place. Today the outward appearance of the square is determined by the old buildings of the hotel, synagogue and theater.

The “Korona” Hotel was built in 1910. The owner of the hotel and the restaurant, Mano Furedi, had a good reputation of a manager of a clean and neat institution with a good cuisine. Every year, on the Feast of St. Paul, balls were given here for the local elite, during which one could strike up useful acquaintances and conclude profitable contracts.

The Theater (Ye. Fentsyk Square) appeared in Uzhgorod in 1864. Performances were staged in the Hungarian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak and even Romany languages. From 1921 to 1929 the Ukrainian professional theater worked here, and for three years it was headed by the prominent director and actor Mkola Sadovsky (Tobilevych). Since 1988 it has been a puppet show.

The building of synagogue is an important memorial of the past of epy Uzhgorod Jewish world. It is justly considered the best synagogue of Transcarpathia. It was built in 1904 in neo-Mauritanian style (architects D. Papp and S. Ferenz).

In the past the village of Horiany was situated not far from Uzhgorod. Today it is an Uzhgorod suburb notable for the Church of St. Anna (Museum Side Street), one of the best-known monuments of sacral architecture. To get there one should take bus No.2 from S.Petofi Square in Uzhgorod. The structure is of special importance and deserves special attention. It is not known when it was founded. Scientists have been arguing about its origin even today. For a long time it was considered that the first and the oldest part of the church was St. Nicholas’ Rotunda, built in the 13 th century. Sometimes an opinion is advanced to the effect that it was built on the initiative of the monks of the Ionian Order that came to Hungary after the second crusade. So the Transcarpathian sanctuary is compared to similar rotundas in Hungary. However that may be, the church today is the old rotunda in junction with later annexes. At the beginning of the 20 th century, when the church was under repair, frescos of the 14 th-16 th centuries were discovered in the southeastern part of the building. It is not unlikely that some of them were executed by Italian masters to Yuriy Drugeth’s order. The temple is a unique memorial of sacral architecture in terms of the fact that it shows how the Eastern and West European trends could unite in local painting.

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