There are plenty of reasons to visit Uzhgorod and Zakarpattia: the fresh, balmy air; the mineral waters; the beautiful mountain rivers; the famous historical places; the old churches and castles. The region’s festivals, however, deserve a special mention because to a lot of people, they alone are worth coming over to Uzhgorod for.
Zakarpattia’s festivals take place all year round and have a variety of themes to them – from a festival of bilberries to the unique Parade of Brides. One festival may take place in a city, and to attend another one, you may have to go to some tiny village in the mountains. But whatever the case may be, you’re certain to enjoy the festive atmosphere, the yummy local treats and to have a firsthand experience of the region’s culture and traditions.
Here are a few notable festivals taking place in Zakarpats’ka Oblast’ this summer and fall:
“Verkhovynska Yafyna” Bilberry Festival
August 7, village of Huklyvyi, Volovets county
The festival will take place 120 km northwest of Uzhgorod in the village of Huklyvyi, the “bilberry capital” of Ukraine. The event is dedicated to the tasty near-black berry that’s collected from wild plants and that stains your fingers, lips, teeth and tongue dark blue.
Huklyvyi is the hometown of the festival for a reason. The village is located near some of the largest bilberry fields in Ukraine, and the frozen berries from here are transported to all over Europe.
At the festival, you’ll get a chance to taste fresh bilberries as well as the various dishes with bilberry filling such as pancakes, dumplings, pies, cakes, the Transcarpathian gambovtsi and bilberry jam. And don’t forget to top it all off with a glass or two of homemade bilberry wine called “palenka”.
Make sure to come over to Huklyvyi on August 7 to experience the culture of the Verkhovyna region, have fun and get your lips stained in the village’s trademark blue
Plum Lekvar Fest
August 28, village of Hecha, Berehove county
First, a few words on what lekvar is. Lekvar is a very thick, sometimes coarse jam or fruit butter originating from Central and Eastern Europe. It’s made of fruits like plum, apricot, peach, cherry, strawberry or apple. Lekvar makes a great filling for all kinds of pasty such as dumplings, cakes, patties and Swiss rolls.
The festival in Hecha will feature the making of plum lekvar as well as the cooking of yummy sweets according to old Hungarian recipes (kalatchi, gambovtsi, kiflyky, fanki) with lekvar filling. There will also be cooking competitions for the best bogrács and stuffed cabbage rolls. The festival attendees will be able to taste all these treats and also watch how ripe plums turn into fresh lekvar after nearly 10 hours of non-stop stirring.
For Transcarpathians, the festival is an opportunity to pay tribute to their ancestors’ traditions, and for you, it’s a chance to see something new and unusual, relax and have fun in a hospitable village 80 km from Uzhgorod, and taste that sweet, fragrant plum jam.
“Beaujolais of Zakarpattia” Young Wine Fest
November 20-21, Uzhgorod
Zakarpattia is hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away from the Beaujolais region in France, but that doesn’t stop the local winemakers from trying to challenge the fame of their French colleagues. You’ll be able to see that for yourself at the “Beaujolais of Zakarpattia” festival featuring Zakarpattia’s young wines of the 2011 harvest.
You won’t find the famous Beaujolais Nouveau at the festival, but you’ll be able to sample young wines produced by local winemakers from the classic grape varieties. You’ll also learn about the history of winemaking in Zakarpattia and the region’s wine traditions.
For your calendar: Recommended Zakarpattia fests in 2011
- August 7 – “Verkhovynska Yafyna”, village Huklyvyi, Volovets county
- August 28 – Plum Lekvar Fest, village Hecha, Berehove county
- September 4 – “Hutsul Turnip”, village Lazeschyna, Rakhiv county
- September 11 – “Hutsul Sheep Cheese”, Rakhiv
- November 11 – St. Martin’s Day in Uzhgorod and village Huklyvyi, Volovets county
- November 20-21 – “Beaujolais of Zakarpattia”, Uzhgorod
- December 19 – St. Nicolas Day in Uzhgorod