A tiny corner of Ukraine, a picturesque village in the Carpathians surrounded by mountains where you can hike in summer and ski in winter. Around here are only forest-clad mountains and high meadows. This place is virtually unknown to an average Ukrainian, and yet most Czechs know about it and many have visited.
So what’s so special about Kolochava, this truly miraculous village in the Mizhgirya county of Transcarpathia?
For starters, there’s the wooden Svyatodukhivs’ka (Holy Spirit) church built in 1795 – a monument to the wooden architecture of Transcarpathia, now a museum.
Then there’s the Ivan Olbracht memorial museum. The famous Czech writer and journalist visited Kolochava in 1933 when shooting the “Unfaithful Mary” movie about the life and hardships of Verkhovyna people.
And, of course, how can you miss the “Old School” museum in Kolochava, which has a “Soviet school” and a “Czech school” – snapshots of two periods in the history of the village when it was part of Czechoslovakia (1919-1939) and then part of the Soviet Union after 1945.
As if three museums weren’t enough already, make sure to check out the open-air museum of folk architecture and rural life called “The Old Village.” The museum’s exhibits, dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, paint a particularly good picture of the rural life and culture of Verkhovyna. “The Old Village” is being actively built out; there are plans to add a blacksmith shop, a mill, an amphitheater and even a railroad track to it.
Apart from the huge concentration of museums per square mile (there’s ten of them in Kolochava), there are also a lot of monuments, memorial plaques and other historical artifacts in the village. At this point, there are about 50 such objects in Kolochava, each of them representing a particular page in Kolochava’s history. That way or another, the village’s every historical event, every notable person is immortalized.
Kolochava’s Czech Connection
Whereas Kolochava is a true terra incognita to Ukrainians, it’s very well known to Czechs. To them, Kolochava is the land of their childhood’s fairy tales where the legends about the famous outlaw Nikola Šuhaj come to life. Every Czech child has read “Nikola Šuhaj the Outlaw” by Ivan Olbracht – a book written in 1933 about this famous robber, a native of Kolochava. Nikola was buried in his native village, and his grave is visited by lots of Czech tourists each year. That way or another, every little place in Kolochava is connected to the book.
Finally, there’s a sheep breeding school in Kolochava opening its doors every summer. For a modest fee, you get to climb high into the mountains and live several days in one tent with a shepherd who shepherds flocks of sheep all summer long. He’ll teach you how to make sheep cheese, milk sheep and feed small lambs.
And if you’re lucky to visit Kolochava in the first week of August, you’ll get a chance to experience the “Romantic Souls” Festival with music bands coming from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and, of course, Czech Republic. That’s the place to hear trembita – the famous Guzul pipe – and have fun dancing to songs in almost all European languages.
But if you’re only able to visit the village in wintertime, no worries. There’s always something to do in the wondrous Kolochava: Warming yourself in a cozy Carpathian hut, skiing or mountain hiking. Just don’t forget your warm clothes and waterproof shoes.
There’s a modern tourist center in the village that offers comfortable accommodation and a national cuisine restaurant.
How to Get to Kolochava from Uzhgorod
There are several ways to get to the village of Kolochava from Uzhgorod. The first one is to hop on any train to Lviv, get off at Volovets and then continue with a bus to Kolochava. The second one is to take a bus to Mizhgirya and then change to another bus going to the village. If you’re traveling by car, take the Kyiv-Chop highway to Mizhgirya and then turn to Kolochava.