I arrived in Chernivtsi from Kiev after a stiflingly hot 13-hour overnight train ride. Chernivtsi is a city that I lived in for 3 or 4 months back in early 2006, so I was excited to be back.
I had fond memories of Chernivtsi. It’s an attractive city with narrow cobblestone streets, and it’s surrounded by rolling green hills. Chernivtsi is not a Russian or Soviet city. For most of its existence, it was part of Poland, Austro-Hungary, or Romania. In 1930, according to Wikipedia, “the city reached a population of 112,400; 26.8% Jews, 23.2% Romanians, 20.8% Germans, 18.6% Ukrainians, the remainder Poles and others.” It only came under Russian influence in 1940, when it became part of Ukraine and therefore part of the Soviet Union, thought it was under Nazi control for most of World War II. In 1944, the Soviet Union regained control of the city, and today it is mostly inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians.
I spent just a day in the Chernivtsi area, most of which was spent visiting Khotyn (1 hour from Chernivtsi by bus) and Kamianets-Podilskyi (2 hours from Chernivtsi by bus). I only saw the fortress at Khotyn, but Kamianets-Podilsky has a surprisingly beautiful and charming old town that was nearly deserted on the rainy day that I visited.