The other Side

The region is indeed poor economically, but extraordinarily rich in the beauty of its terrain and special features. Here are a few examples of this:

Ungvár/Užhorod

The regional capital near the Slovak border is over 1100 years old. As early as 1876 it was connected to the European railway network. Also worth seeing are the castle, which dates from the 9th century, and the nearby open-air museum showing in particular the wooden architechture typical  for the Carpathians.

Europe's longest stretch of linden treesUngvár castleOpen-air museum in Ungvár

 

Csillagfalva/Kňahiňa

Not far from the village in the upper Ung/Už valley, a meteorite landed near the Slovak border at 4:05 p.m. local time on 9 June 1866. On entering the earth's atmosphere it produced a fiery tail 200 km long over Slovakia. The impact was observed by thousands and it landed with a great explosion while stones were falling from the sky. The largest fragment weighed barely 280 kg. A forester sold it to the city of Vienna, where it is exhibited to this day in the Natural History Museum and is one of the world's top 100 museum pieces. Other fragments can be found in over 115 museums in the world. It is said to be the largest meteorite ever to hit Europe.

Meteorite fragment from Csillagfalva in Natural History Museum in ViennaTerrain near Csillagfalva

 

Munkács/Mukačevo

The second largest city in Transcarpatia is over 1000 years old. The city at one time had 30 synagogues and by World War II its population was 40% Jewish.

Munkács/Mukačevo is also the birthplace of Mihály Munkácsy (1844-1900), one Hungary's greatest painters and the most gifted artist of his time. Born as Michael Lieb in a German peasant family, he did not use the artistic name Munkácsy until 1863, which he did out of love for his hometown following his elevation to the nobility. He studied in Budapest, Vienna, Munich and Düsseldorf, and later lived in Paris. Many of his works are found today in the Hungarian National Gallery, the Neue Pinakotek in Munich and other museums in Europe and the USA.

In 1728 the German-Austrian noble family of Schönborn received the castle and city of Munkács and its surroundings from the Austrian Emperor. The so-called "domain of Munkács and St. Nicholas" included a total of 152 villages, 4 cities, 15 communities and 14,000 people. Count Schönborn also settled many Germans there, the "Schönborn Franconians".

The settlement was led by the baroque architect Balthasar Neumann, a native of the Bohemian city of Eger (now Cheb, Czech Republic), as its administrator. Being an architect, Neumann created about 100 significant bridges, churches, monasteries, castles, houses and  business structures, including the Würzburg Residenz (today part of the UNESCO World Culture Heritage) and the pilgrimage Church of the Fourteen Saints near Bad Staffelstein.  Balthasar Neumann's image was printed on the final series of the 50-mark banknote in Germany.

White Palace or White House of MunkácsCity hall of Munkács

The White Palace or White House in the pedestrian zone of Munkács was built in 1667 as  the city residence of the Hungarian noble family  Rákoczi. In 1728 it likewise came into the possessions of the Schönborn family. From 1747 to 1748 it was renovated in early baroque style based on designs by Balthasar Neumann. The contractor for this was the new owner Count Erwin Schönborn. In 1924 it was acquired by a French company and was later turned into a warehouse.

 

Munkács Castle/Palanok Castle

The castle is the best known and most signficant attraction of Munkács/Mukačevo and is located in the former German neighborhood of Plankendorf/Palanok. It is situated atop a 68-meter high (223-feet) massif of volcanic origin. It was built from 1263 to 1311 mainly by German workers, and it went through many changes of ownership over the centuries, constantly going back and forth. From 1805 to 1806 it was used to keep the Holy Crown of St. Stephen of Hungary hidden from Napoleon. Today the castle can be toured and has largely been restored.

 

Beregvár/Karpati

Beregvár is located not far from Munkács/Mukačevo in the valley of the Latorca/Latoritsa. Somewhat hidden, the hunting castle of Count Schönborn is situated in a woodland, and is today a sanatorium.

While under construction, the symbol of the astronomical year was incorporated, i.e., 365 windows, 52 rooms and 12 entranceways (representing the days, weeks and months of a year). Rare trees grow in the park adjacent.

 

Mezövári

Dr. Gyula (Julius) Kepes was born in Vári in 1847. He served the crew as ship's doctor in 1872-73 during the Austro-Hungarian North Pole expedition aboard the research ship "Tegetthoff". Specially built for that task, the triple-masted schooner with 24 men on board was trapped in the ice and drifted about. Over 1000 km (650 miles) away from the North Pole they discovered land and named it Franz-Joseph-Land in honor of the Austrian Emperor.  Human beings had never before proceeded further north. In the end they abandoned their ship and made their way south on foot with three life-boats pulled by the dogs. After about 3 months they reached the edge of the ice, from where they could row further on. A week later they encountered two Russian whaling ships. One of the ships brought the crew, which by then was considered missing, into a harbor, from where they were brought by a German ship to Hamburg, and then they traveled on to Vienna. Thanks to the expertise of the ship's physician, Dr. Gyula Kepes, all survived despite great deprivations, with the exception of ship's engineer Otto Krisch. Dr. Gyula Kepes was promoted to medical officer in recognition of his extraordinary service and the scientific results of Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary.

Reformed church of MezöváriMezövári:  View from the church steeple

In December 2016 Dr. Gyula Kepes will receive public honors in his hometown. Thus a wish long held by Bishop Sándor Zán Fábián, who is the local pastor, will become a reality. Since the birthhouse of Kepes no longer exists, a relief image was dedicated on a building in the center of the village. On an information plaque one can read more about the life of Dr. Gyula Kepes. The initiator of this great honor was the Reformed Church congregation of Vári.

Celebration... in remembrance of Gyula Kepes

 Relief imageInformation plaque

 

Királyháza/Korolevo

In Királyháza on a hill where today ruins still evoke memories of a former castle, Benedek  Komjáti for the first time translated the New Testament epistles of the Apostle Paul into Hungarian in the 16th century.

 

Narcissus Valley

In the vicinity of the county capital of Huszt/Chust, the narcissus valley is located. On about 100 ha (247 acres) of surface area is the largest European stand of narcissus radiiflorus plants (a type of daffodil) in a lowland area. Their appearance here at 180 to 200 meters above sea level (590 to 660 feet) is a remnant of the last ice age. Normally these plants grow in the Alpes, the Carpathians and in the Balkan regions above 1000 meters (3300 feet). The protected natural area which is part of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve has existed since 1978 and comprises a total of 256 hectares (632 acres).

 

 

Whipot Waterfalls

... is one of the best-known waterfalls in the Carpathians of Ukraine, and one of the most popular, probably due to its good accessibility.

 

Carpathian Biosphere Reserve 

Numerous plants and animals live here which are included in the list of endangered species for Ukraine and Europe. Moreover there are endemic species here, i.e., those which only exist in this location.

Initial protective measures were taken as early as 1908 by Hungarian foresters. The Carpathian Biosphere Reserve includes the largest primeval beeches in Europe. In the area of Uholka there are about 8000 hectares (over 19,000 acres) of pure, primeval beeches.  Standing here are also the tallest beech trees in Ukraine.

 

Lake Szinevir

...   Is one of the few mountain lakes in the Ukrainian Carpathian Forest, and therefore also a draw for tourists, especially since it is relatively easy to get to.

 

Königsfeld/Királymezö/Ust-Chorna

... is a settlement in the upper valley of the Theresia River. Königsfeld was founded by people from the Salzkammergut region of Austria, as were both of the two smaller villages German Mokra and Russian Mokra. The people had been assigned to settle there under Archduchess Maria Theresia to bring into operation the lumbering industry in what was then the eastern part of the Hapsburg empire. The wood was urgently needed for the salt mines on the River Theiss. They built that which they were accustomed to at home, a system of logging dams (for making a type of reservoir), in order to always have enough water to float the logs.  Remnants of the logging dams can still be seen today.

Many descendants of those Austrians have emigrated to Austria and Germany over the past few years. The few who remain behind speak the dialect of their ancestral homeland, the Salzkammergut.

 

Aknaszlatina/Solotvino-Máramarosziget/Sighetu Marmatiei

The double community is located on both sides of the River Theiss on the Ukrainian and Romanian sides of the border.

Underneath the town is found one of the most important mineral resources of Transcarpathia, a cone-shaped salt deposit with a diameter of 75 to 80 km (45-48 miles). It is considered the most abundant occurance of rock-salt in Europe. Mining operations in an open-cast pit have occurred since the ancient Roman Empire. The first subterranean mining operations began at the end of the 18th century. Salt recovery today occurs in 2 pits.

What is today the Romanian part of the city was assigned to Czechoslovakia in the Treaty of Trianon, but the Czech government bequeathed the town to Romania in a "gesture of good-neighborlliness."

In 1928 the Jewish author, Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was born there. As the author of numerous novels and other publications, Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, after being nominated by members of the German Parliament, for his exemplary role in the fight against violence, oppression and racism. In 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz, together with his family, by the German Nazis. Later he went to the concentration camp at Buchenwald, from which he was liberated on 11 April 1945 by American troops. Elie Wiesel accompanied American president Barack Obama on his visit to the concentration camp at Buchenwald in June 2009.

 

Geographic Center of Europe

Near Rahó/Rachiv at the headwaters of the River Theiss the geographic center of Europe was determined by the Austro-Hungarian Military-Geographical Institute in 1887, as a so-called "fixed point". Due to the construction of the railway between Rahó and Máramarossziget (on the segment linking Vienna, Budapest and Czernivtsi), surveying activities were performed. In the course of those surveys, it was determined by engineers that they had calculated the geographic center of Europe. After a thorough investigation Vienna scientists confirmed this proposition. In 1887 a 2-meter high monument was constructed of concrete, and the original is still preserved. Be that as it may, several other places also advance the claim of being the geographic center of Europe.

 

Hoverla

The Hoverla, at an elevation of 2,061 meters (6,762 feet), is the highest mountain in Ukraine.  In the past there were always boundaries here, for example between the Kingdom of Hungary and Galicia, later between Czechoslovakia and Poland. Even today there stand here the numbered series of border posts mounted in 1920. Today this is the border between the two Ukrainian Oblasty Transcarparthia and Ivano-Frankivsk (Stanislav).

On the summit of HoverlaClimbing up Hoverla