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Ukraine: Kamyanets-Podilsky old town

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Kamyanets-Podilsky old town | Ukraine | Europe

[Visited: October 2014]

The prime sight of the medieval town of Kamyanets-Podilsky, one of the oldest in Ukraine, is its fortress, but the old town itself definitely also deserves attention. As the sun rises on a wintery late October morning, I can see the spires of the towers of the city pierce through a hazy layer of fog that was lying over the old town. The Smotrych river makes an almost complete circle here, and it is precisely because of that natural defence that this site was chosen early on as ideal for a settlement: the Dacians were the first, and have been followed by many others. The steep cliffs on all sides makes the citadel on which the old town is built, easy to defend and hard to conquer. Nevertheless, Kamyanets-Podilsky was taken by several invaders, among which the Mongols and the Turks. The old town oozes history in all its corners.

Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): View of the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky from the fortress

After walking the bridge back to the old town, I turn right, walk down to the Smotrych river, and continue along its banks until I see the Ruska gate on the other side. There is no bridge here, so I retrace my steps. High above me, high walls defend the city, and after I pass through the city gate, I walk up the stairs towards the old town. There is the Armenian church, with a courtyard where I find the khachkars typical for Armenia. I walk the backstreets of the old town, on the eastern side of the Polish market square, which is the centre of Kamyanets-Podilsky. It is quiet on the cobblestone streets as I walk along, past the City Hall tower, and turn right towards Smotrych river. Here, too, the old town is built right on top of the steep cliffs above the river. I find a row of medieval houses on the northern side of the Polish market square, and walk on to Vitryani Gate, also dubbed Windy Gate because the wind blew off the hat of Czar Peter the Great on his visit in 1711. Nearby are the Turkish walls, one of the reminders of the presence of the Turks in Kamyanets-Podilsky.

Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): The Polish Gate, part of the defensive system of walls and gates protecting the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky

Closer to the Turkish market square, I visit the SS Peter and Paul cathedral, a unique church. Originally built in 1580 by the Poles, the church was converted into a mosque in the late 18th century, and the Turks added a minaret. When the city was given back to the Poles just before the 17th century was out, the Turks managed to guarantee that the minaret would stay. The Poles respected this, but put a golden statue of Virgin Mary on top to give the minaret a catholic touch. Unfortunately, the cathedral is closed and I can only admire the curiosity from the outside. Down at the river again, on the western side of the old town, I find the Polish Gate, one more gate in defence of the city. The sun has now definitely set, and I make one more round in the small old town, in darkness, before preparing for a long train ride through the night.

Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): The old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky has several attractive cobble-stone streets
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Minaret attached to the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Looking up the tower of the Armenian Church in Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Row of houses on the northern side of the Polish market square
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): The tower of the City Hall of Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): A golden Virgin Mary statue on top of the minaret of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Late afternoon in a street in the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Vitryani Gate, also called Windy Gate, and Batory Tower in the north of the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Ruska gate seen from across Smotrych river
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): The defensive walls of Kamyanets-Podilsky at the south of the old town
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): Street in the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): A building in the old town of Kamyanets-Podilsky
Picture of Kamyanets-Podilsky old town (Ukraine): The Turkish walls close to the Vitryani (Windy) gate in the north of the old town

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