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.
The "Old Village" museum in Kolochava
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
A monument to Ivan Olbracht in the village
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.
You spoke and we listened. This week, Five Flags got all-new hi-speed Wi-Fi Internet connection that’s available to all of our guests in all rooms.
Watch YouTube, Skype your friends and hang out on Facebook as much as you like without leaving your bed!
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In the previous blog post, we talked about getting from Lviv to Uzhgorod. Today, we’ll discuss how to get from Uzhgorod to Košice (Slovakia) and vice versa.
The best way to get from Uzhgorod to Košice or back is by bus. (There’s a commuter train traveling between Chop and Čierna nad Tisou, Slovakia, from where you can get to Košice. But you have to get to Chop first, and then change trains, which is not really convenient.) Buses from Uzhgorod to Košice depart daily at 7:40 AM, 8:20 AM and 3:30 PM, and from Košice to Uzhgorod at 6:40 AM, 12:40 PM and 2:30 PM local time. Uzhgorod is just 100 km away from Košice but the trip will take you from 4 to 5 hours because of the time spent on the state border.
The current bus schedule can be obtained at Uzhgorod’s intercity bus station (tel. (03122) 3-21-27). You can also buy a ticket online on the Eurobus website. By the way, if you were unable to get a ticket to Kosice, you might as well get to Michalovce and take a bus to Košice from there.
You can also get to Košice from Uzhgorod by car. You’d better leave very early in the morning, though, so you don’t get to spend the whole day on the border (yep, it can be that bad).
You can get from Uzhgorod to Lviv in about 5 hours
The Five Flags staff know that even if a guest didn’t arrive to Uzhgorod from Lviv or Košice, they will most probably travel to one of those cities afterwards. No wonder: Košice is the closest transport hub in the European Union, and Lviv is one of Ukraine’s most well-known landmarks that has lots of transport connections with the rest of the country. In this blog post, we’ll talk about how to get from Uzhgorod to Lviv and back.
The easiest and most convenient way to travel from Uzhgorod to Lviv is by commuter train with enhanced comfort No. 829/830. The train departs daily at 5:23 AM from Uzhgorod train station and arrives to Lviv at 10:43 AM. On the way back, the train departs from Lviv train station at 4:04 PM and arrives to Uzhgorod at 9:22 PM. Overall, the distance of 282 km is traveled in about five hours, which is not that bad considering that Lviv and Uzhgorod are separated by the Carpathian mounains.
When buying the tickets for the commuter train, you’ll be offered three comfort classes. In the third class, the passengers sit on metal benches facing each other. The second class offers comfortable individual seats with high backs as well as more leg space.
In the first class, there are two wide seats on both sides of the aisle. The passengers, also facing each other, are separated by wide tables. Another advantage of the first class is that there’s often a bar in the carriage where you can order tea, juice or a snack.
The 829/830 commuter train is not the only train traveling between Uzhgorod and Lviv. There are about twenty passing intercity trains that connect the two cities and that depart from early morning to late night.
Current information on the train schedule can be obtained at any train station. Uzhgorod train station’s phone number is (0312) 69-29-62.
You can also travel from Uzhgorod to Lviv by bus, although that will cost you substantially more (86 UAH at the time of this writing) than the train. Bus No. 269 connects Lviv’s intercity bus station No. 8 (located near the train station) and the intercity bus station in Uzhgorod. It departs from Lviv daily at 7:10 AM and arrives to Uzhgorod at 12:10. There are passing buses as well. The timetable of Uzhgorod departures can be obtained in the bus station (tel. (03122) 3-21-27).
Finally, you can travel from Uzhgorod to Lviv and back by car. The trip via the newly built Kyiv-Tchop highway will take you about 4 hours.
In this post, we’ve compiled the questions about Uzhgorod that are most frequently asked by our hostel guests. Feel free to print this “cheat sheet” if you’re headed to Uzhgorod… And you can thank us later
1. Where can I park my car? Is it safe?
You can park your car for free by the “Edelveys” shopping mall, up the street from the hostel. Down the street from Five Flags, there’s also paid street parking on Koryatovycha Sq. (2 UAH flat fee). Uzhgorod is a quiet town so parking is safe.
2. Where can I change my currency?
At any bank. There’s a few of them right down the street from the hostel on Korzo St. and Koryatovycha Sq. Look for Universal Bank, Credit Agricole, Kredobank, Ukrsotsbank and others. All banks work with Ukrainian hryvnia, US dollars and euro. Exchange rates may not be as favorable for other currencies.
Currency exchanges at banks operate during normal business hours. Otherwise, there’s an exchange kiosk near Dastor supermarket on Sobranetska St. that’s open 24/7. That’s not exactly the city center, so you may want to take a taxi there.
You can also use any ATM to withdraw cash from your credit card in Ukrainian hryvnia.
3. Are there free Wi-Fi hotspots in the center?
There’s free Wi-Fi right in the hostel, but if you can’t live without your e-mail even while walking the streets of Uzhgorod, try any cafe around: chances are strong that they will offer free Wi-Fi Internet as well. For example, there’s free Wi-Fi in the ice cream parlor right downstairs from the hostel or at Kaktus bar on Korzo St. In general, look for a Wi-Fi sticker posted on venues’ doors.
4. What’s there to see and do in Uzhgorod?
The Uzhgorod castle is a must. The Museum of Folk Architecture is right nearby and definitely worth visiting, too. Also make sure to walk the longest linden lane in Europe and see the marvelous building of Trascarpathian Philarmony, formerly a synagogue built in 1910. Nevitsky castle is just 5 km away, and Mukachevo’s Palanok castle is a 40-minute bus ride.
A journey to Uzhgorod is incomplete without tasting bogrács (pronounced as “bohrach”), the region’s staple dish, and soaking in chany, the Transcarpathian mineral water baths. Zakarpattia is a winemaking region, so make sure to sample a selection of local wines at the cellar on Voloshyna St. And don’t forget the famous Uzhgorod coffee, the best in Ukraine.
5. What are the cheap and tasty places to eat?
If you’re after Ukrainian national cuisine, Vertep on Korzo St. is your best bet. The Western-themed Kaktus bar, located a few meters away from Vertep, offers a more traditional selection of European food. Also check out the Korzo 10 diner across the street from Vertep and Kaktus, and Mio café on Pidhirnyi Ln. Egan Irish pub on Voloshyna St. is a good place for a quick snack/beer. To taste the best pizza in the city, go to Antresol on Koryatovycha Sq.
Check out Fanfan on Korzo St. and the Uzhgorod Castle restaurant at the castle if a classy (and pricier) dinner is what you’re after.
(There’s much more on the subject of eating in Uzhgorod in this article.)
6. Where can I hang out and have fun?
Kaktus bar on Korzo St. is a lively place that features live music on weekends. Its sister venue, Deep (located just around the corner on Independence embankment) is another cozy bar frequented by local young people. Panorama on L’va Tolstogo St. is the city’s hottest disco but you may also want to drop by Eila on Svobody Ave. or Viper on Mynais’ka St.
7. Where do I buy Uzhgorod souvenirs?
Check out the shops in the passage connecting Voloshyna St. and Teatral’na Sq. just across the street from the hostel. There’s also a souvenir booth right near the pedestrian bridge on Teatral’na Sq., and a shop on Korzo St. across the street from Astika café.
8. Is there a supermarket/grocery store near the hostel?
Vopak supermarket on Koryatovycha Sq. – a 5-minute walk from the hostel – is the only big grocery store in the city center and your best bet. If you feel like blending with the locals, you may also try the food market near Luxor shopping center on Koryatovycha.
Sometimes it’s just so nice to receive comments like this one
Friday, July 22, 2011
It has befallen upon me, the honourable task of being the first person to write a passage in this memorable hostel’s guestbook.
In total I have spent 6 days and nights at the Five Flags Hostel in Uzhhorod. Honestly, I can say that after a while it started to feel like a home away from home. Be it the tranquility of the location and the hostel itself or the wonderful company I have enjoyed from its, at present time, only staff member Nadia. She has been an amazing hostess and another clear example of why the people of Uzhhorod, and the whole Transcarpathian region for that matter, are so easy to like and befriend.
I thank the Five Flags Hostel for its great facilities and outstanding service. And even though at the time of this first visit of mine it is still a very quiet and unknown hostel, it will become more popular in the future.
Inca Cesar Bloemkolk, The Netherlands
“What are the cheap and tasty places to eat in Uzhgorod?” – this question is invariably one of the most popular ones among the guests of our hostel. It’s about time we answered it in our blog, too
Kaktus (7 Korzo St.) is one of the oldest and most popular venues in Uzhgorod. This cowboy style bar offers Ukrainian and Transcarpathian dishes as well as simple and tasty food from international cuisine.
One of our favorite picks on Kaktus’s menu is the Hard Rock Café salad (24 UAH) – the specialty of the house featuring colorful stripes of fresh vegetables and chicken filet that are a pleasure to the eye and to the mouth. The salad goes particularly well with the hutsul kremzli (45 UAH), a simple but very tasty potato dish.
The bar takes special pride in its large selection of soups encompassing 24 different varieties. Among those, there’s the mushroom pottage (20 UAH), a particularly nourishing soup made of white Transcarpathian mushrooms with noodles. And if you’re a fish person, try the gorgeous Hungarian fish soup made according to the traditional recipes, or the fresh Zakarpattia trout also served at Kaktus.
Kaktus offers a large selection of alcoholic beverages and beer, which is quite cheap in Ukraine and Zakarpattia in particular.
On weekends, the pub turns into a fun party place featuring live country music, dancing and lots of beer. But just in case your main socializing vehicle is Facebook, the pub also offers free Wi-Fi to its guests.
The café is located at 5/1 Kapitulna St – across the street from the Greek-Catholic church, or just a minute’s walk from the hostel. This is as central Uzhgorod as you can get, but the spot is a bit aside from the popular tourist routes. This makes Mio the city’s best kept secret where you can have a delicious meal for very little money.
At Mio, a plate of pancakes will cost you as little as 14-16 UAH, and a helping of Transcarpathian kremzli will cost you 19 UAH. Other noteworthy picks include the traditional stuffed cabbage rolls (16 UAH), homemade Transcarpathian sausages (14 UAH) and rakott krumpli (16 UAH) – a delicious Hungarian dish made of sausages and fried potatoes and served with a sour cream dressing.
Mio’s segedynsky goulash (24 UAH) deserves a special mention as well.
The venue is open daily 10 AM to 10 PM and offers free Wi-Fi to its visitors.
Deep Chill Out Bar
Deep (2 Independence Embarkment) is one of the favorite hangout spots for Uzhgorod’s young people where you can relax with a tasty cocktail or simply have a quick snack.
Our highlights on Deep’s fast food-style menu include shashlik with vegetables (30 UAH), Vienna sausage with French fries (25 UAH) as well as all kinds of hamburgers (20-35 UAH).
The chill out bar offers a private room and hookah, which costs 44-75 UAH depending on blends. There’s free Wi-Fi, too.
Egan Irish Pub
The pub, located at 38 Voloshyna St., is named after Edmund Egan, an economist of Irish descent who was appointed by the Austrian-Hungarian government to Zakarpattia in the end of the 19th century. Mr. Egan conducted a series of successful reforms in the region that made him very popular among the locals. The pub’s slogan is “Fresh produce, clean dishes, tasty pizza.”
The pizza bit in the slogan is not a coincidence. Pizza is baked here according to original Italian recipes in an authentic wooden stove using the freshest ingredients. The price ranges from 26 UAH for a small pizza to 49 UAH for the Egan variety that has Mozzarella, Mascarpone and Parmesan cheeses, tomatoes, ham, salami, mushrooms, olives and basil.
Egan is also famous for its beer, and many a Five Flags’ guest was seen in the pub enjoying the refreshing drink The beer is pretty cheap here and starts from 5 UAH for a 0.3 L cup and 8 UAH for a half-liter.
Just like the rest of the venues, there’s free Wi-Fi Internet at Egan. There’s no English menu at the moment though, but we’ve been assured that the managers are working on it.
Old Town Internet Café
Old Town (5 Korzo St.) is located next door from Kaktus. The venue’s coffee, tea and pastry are outstanding, and the milk shakes are just magnificent. What’s more, you can order a drink and surf the Net as much as you want to, and not just via the free Wi-Fi but also using one of the public desktops if that’s what you prefer.
Korzo 10 Pizza Pub
Korzo 10 is a newly opened venue (10 Korzo St.), which offers a wide selection of dishes at reasonable prices. A breakfast at Korzo 10 will cost you around 23-30 UAH.
Aside from the popular pizza, the restaurant offers a variety of traditional and Transcarpathian foods – cold snacks, the omnipresent kremzli, salads (including seafood ones), grilled meat. Our picks among Korzo 10’s soups include borscht and Transcarpathian chicken soup with noodles.
The pizza will cost you 28-50 UAH depending on the size and the toppings. It goes particularly well with the tasty beer and the refreshing bread kvass offered by the venue.
And yes, there’s free Wi-Fi Internet, too.
Vertep (13 Korzo St.) is the place to experience the ethnic flavor and the cuisine of Zakarpattia. If you’ve never tried bográsc or rakott krumpli (not to mention the real Ukrainian borscht), then Vertep should be your No. 1 eating stop while in Uzhgorod.
Vertep’s servings are big, the prices are reasonable and the Ukrainian music coupled with the vyshyvankas worn by the staff are particularly conductive to appetite. The only issue is that there’s no Wi-Fi in the restaurant and no cell service either – but in this case, it only adds to the authenticity of the venue.
On August 7, the second traditional bilberry festival was held at the village of Huklyvyi, Volovets county.
Bilberries have been collected in Zakarpattia for centuries, but it’s only in the recent years that the trade started to enjoy wide publicity due to the increased exports.
The main treat at “Verkhovynska Yafyna” fest was, of course, the fresh bilberries. This year, there weren’t as many ‘berries around because of the late frosts in the spring, but those who came to the festival for the bilberries still could eat as much as they wanted.
In addition to the plain bilberries, you could also taste bilberry dumplings, bilberry pancakes…
…and then wash all those down with a glass of yafynivka, the homemade bilberry liqueur.
There was also some lekvar for sale at the festival, but we’re waiting for the end of August and the lekvar feast at the village of Hecha to enjoy it full scale
The gastronomic treats at “Verkhovynska Yafyna” weren’t limited to bilberries. You could taste delicious fried pork cooked on a spit, have a sip of Zakarpattia homemade wine and try the traditional dishes of the region.
The beauty of the Volovets mountains, Verkhovyna’s fresh air and the performances of the folk music bands were also pretty conductive to appetite.
For the more extreme tourism-minded guests, the festival continued with climbing Play (1330 m above sea level) and Pikuy (1406 m) mountains, the highest ones in Volovets county. The taming of the peaks was celebrated with loud toasts and snacks featuring the famous berry.
Selected photos courtesy by Oleg Grigoryev.
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
The kind of ripe plums lekvar is made of
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
Beaujolais of Zakarpattia in December 2009
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
Bogrács is traditionally cooked in a cauldron
The tiny Zakarpattia Oblast, which Uzhgorod is the capital of, borders four countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. This makes Zakarpattia a true melting pot of languages and cultures. It’s only here, too, that you can taste such a variety of dishes from different national cuisines: the Hungarian bogrács gulyás, lecsó and rakott krumpli, the Transylvanian tokan, the Slovakian halušky, the Transcarpathian kremzli, the Hutsul banosh or the Jewish cholent.
I don’t expect you to taste all of these yummy dishes while in Uzhgorod, but if you’re only going to taste one, let it be the traditional Zakarpattia bogrács. This dish, cooked from lots of beef, paprika, potatoes and spice, has a lot in common with its Hungarian counterpart, the bogrács gulyás. To many Zakarpattians, bogrács is the traditional dish of the region and their favorite one. And that’s easy to understand after you’ve tasted it, too.
The history of bogrács can be traced 3,000 years back to the preserved meat of the ancient Magyars (Hungarians) as they migrated from Central Asia. Yet few know about how paprika – bogrács’s key ingredient – ended up in the stew.
The legend has it that during the 16th century Ottoman wars in Europe, a famous one-eyed Turkish janizary called Yuchemdzak ordered two Hungarian captives – a priest and a coachman – to cook a supper for his fellow Turkish soldiers.
As the priest was heating up water in a huge cauldron (“bogrács” in Hungarian), the coachman skillfully skinned a lamb and then chopped the carcass into pieces. The priest threw the meat into the boiling water, added onions and potatoes, and topped that off with lots of some strange red spice that the Turks were carrying with themselves.
After Yuchemdzak took a sip, his face got all red and tears burst out of his eyes. “May you all burn in the seventh hell! How much paprika have you added to the meat?!!” screamed the janizary while running around with his tongue out.
Seeing what the dish did to Yuchemdzak, the Turkish soldiers wouldn’t touch bogrács, and so it was all given to the Hungarian captives, to their great joy. The Hungarians have been adding lots of paprika to bogrács ever since so the Turks couldn’t eat it.
To this day, bogrács is traditionally cooked in a cauldron, and the Hungarian variety is still as spicy as it was centuries ago. In Zakarpattia, bogrács is not as burning hot, and so you’ll probably like it better if you’re not used to spicy cuisines.
Whatever you do, though, never – never! – call bogrács a soup, because in Zakarpattia, it’s a masterpiece!