The Ukrainian Week dives into the watery wonders of the Ukrainian mountains
Every tourist in the Carpathians knows that a good camping spot must offer easy access to water. Unlike in the Crimean mountains, water is plentiful here, so setting up camp is rarely a problem. Alpine water is pure but extremely cold, which makes it less suitable for bathing. However, after several days on the road with heavy backpacks, the desire to take a dip overpowers any fear of the cold. The Carpathians’ many bodies of water are breathtakingly beautiful—especially the lakes and waterfalls—and with their healing properties, the local mineral springs provide yet another compelling reason to come here again and again.
At 18 metres, this is one of the highest waterfalls in the Carpathians. It forms a long and deep canyon surrounded by trees on all sides, creating the illusion of twilight even on sunny days. There is a small shallow lake directly where the waterfall reaches the ground. Its water is cold in any season. According to legend, there was a pagan temple on its shores, and now the locals believe that bathing in the waterfall rejuvenates the body and spirit. They also claim that forest nymphs show up near the waterfall and try to lure and destroy those who dare spend the night there.
The place is extremely hard to reach by car, so tourists are advised to go on foot along the riverbed of the Maniava River in the summer when it becomes shallow. Otherwise a trip to the waterfall will be too risky. The waterfall is located 3km southeast of the village of Maniava (Bohorodchany Raion, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast).
These waterfalls are one of the natural wonders of Bukovyna, located near the village of Roztoky (Putyla Raion, Chernivtsi Oblast), where Yuriy Illenko shot part of his famous film Bilyi ptakh z chornoiu oznakoiu (White Bird with a Black Mark). The two-kilometre-long Smuhar Valley includes a cascade of several waterfalls of various heights. Kovber, named so in honour of a local miller, is 3.5 metres high, and the nearby Sych waterfall is 10 metres high. The third one, Nyzhniy Huk, is made up of three cascades. Powerful timber lorries that cannot bypass this place go directly across its rocky riverbed, at the risk of overturning at any minute. Vorota, a 3.5-metre-high waterfall resembling a gate, is located higher up the slope. Another waterfall, Seredniy Huk, has three cascades and is somewhat higher. The most powerful waterfall of the group is Velykyi Huk with a height of 19 metres, followed by Vyshchyi, the topmost waterfall. Every winter, the Smuhar waterfalls attract extreme sports lovers who climb the frozen falls – another way to get a burst of adrenalin.
This is the most frequently visited waterfall in the Carpathians thanks to its location – right in the centre of Yaremcha, next to a large souvenir market and the notable Hutsulshchyna restaurant built in the 1950s in the traditional style. Probiy is eight metres high, but it was much higher a century ago. It lost some of its stature when the Prut River was being prepared for timber rafting. Explosives were used to make the riverbed deeper.
A 20-metre-high pedestrian bridge was built directly over Probiy during Soviet times. Daredevils jumped from the bridge into the “barrel”, a whirlpool of water, for money, often leading to casualties. Close to the waterfall are the so-called Gothic Rocks, which are outcroppings of Upper Cretaceous rock forming peculiar “Gothic” folds. Geologists date them at 60mn years.
Address: 2 Petrasha Str., Yaremche, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast
The Cheremosh River once formed a natural border that for centuries separated the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire. The river is made up of the Bilyi Cheremosh and Chornyi Cheremosh whose confluence occurs at the village of Usteriky (Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast). The river then flows along a valley past the towns of Kuty, Vyzhnytsia and Vashkivtsi and joins the Prut near Nepolokivtsi, covering a total distance of 80km. The Cheremosh has varying temper: from furious at the foothills, where its waters flow at 15m/s, to quiet at its end. This is perhaps the reason why it is beloved by water sports buffs: it includes a wide range of obstacles — rapids, abrupt turns, shoals, riffles etc., all occurring within a short stretch.
The Cheremosh is known for its legends. One of them is about the Zhaba (“Frog”) rock lying on the riverbank near the village of Marynychi. Legend has it that this huge boulder resembling a frog fell from the mountains in order to block the path of soldiers pursuing local Robin Hoods, the Opryshky.
The temper of the river has increasingly manifested itself in floods, which are caused by deforestation. The last one, in July 2008, was the most catastrophic as it destroyed all of the bridges along the course of the river, cutting off population centres in the river’s basin from the rest of the world for over a month.
Flowing 966km (201km in Ukraine), the Tysa River is the longest tributary of the Danube. It is formed by the Bila Tysa and Chorna Tysa, which meet 4km upstream of Rakhiv. The most distant spring from which the Bila Tysa rises is located on the western slope of Mt. Stih 1,400m above sea level. At long stretches, the river flows on the Ukraine-Romania and Ukraine-Hungary border. According to a romantic legend, a widow, Hoverla, wanted to have her son Prut, who was in love with Tysa, marry someone else instead. At night, the lovers conspired to elope but lost their way and initially failed to find each other. Then Tysa came to her uncle Danube who reassured her by promising to find her beloved. He kept his word — Tysa and Prut joined each other in his waters.
When the servants of a cruel count killed Vyr, an ordinary guy from Verkhovyna, for having a romantic affair with the count’s daughter Syn, she came to the place where the body of her beloved lay, hugged it and shed so many tears that they formed Lake Synevyr. This is a folk interpretation of the lake’s origin. Science offers a much more mundane explanation: 10,000 years ago, a powerful earthquake blocked passage to a mountainous brook. Lake Synevyr is the biggest (5ha) and deepest (24m) lake in the Carpathian Mountains. This is a paradise for trout of which there are three kinds here: rainbow trout, lake trout and brown trout. But the lake is a centre of the Synevyr National Park, so fishing and swimming are not allowed.
Lake Synevyr is also called Morske Oko (Sea Eye) in reference to an islet located precisely in its centre. In the old days, locals advised tuberculosis patients to climb to the top of Mt. Ozerna which offers a view on the lake. It was believed that the disease retreated, unable to stand the stare of the lake.
Address: vicinity of village Synevyrska Poliana, Mizhgiria Raion, Zakarpattia Oblast.
The souls of suicides dwell in these waters after death, and if you throw a stone into the lake, the shadows of sinners will fill invisible bags with ice and throw it on your heads in the form of a sudden hailstorm, according to local legends. Indeed, the weather in this locality is apt to change instantly, and hail amid a sunny day, known as sharha in the local vernacular, is nothing uncommon. Lake Nesamovyte is fairly small, but in terms of surface elevation (1,750m above sea level), it is second only to Brebeneskul. Located in Nadvirna Raion (Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast), the lake is a popular tourist attraction thanks to the stunning panorama from its shores to the east of Mt. Turkul. Curiously, the contour of Lake Nesamovyte resembles that of Antarctica. Unlike Lake Synevyr, it is not inhabited by large water fauna – only by microscopic crustaceans.
The mineral springs in this area were first described by Polish doctor Wojciech Oczko back in 1578. The composition of their water was later analysed in the first half of the 19th century, by Teodor Torosevych, a pharmacist and chemist. This provided the impetus for founding a balneological resort here that experienced rapid growth after it was connected to the railway system in 1909.
Naftusia is the best-known Truskavets spring. Its water has no analogue in the world and is classified as hydrocarbonate water containing magnesium and calcium with a distinctive flavour and sometimes also an aroma similar to that of crude oil. Naftusia is prescribed to people suffering from gastrointestinal problems. It has antispasmodic and analgesic effects and helps clear sand and stones from the kidneys and bladder.
Address: Truskavets, Lviv Oblast.
Mikveh of Baal Shem Tov
The Baal Shem Tov, also known as the Besht, the founder of Hasidism, spent about seven years living as a hermit near the village of Vyzhenka (Vyzhnytsia Raion, Chernivtsi Oblast) in the 18th century. Every day, regardless of the weather, season or his personal health, he carried out ritual purification in a mikveh, a natural pool formed by a small waterfall on the Vyzhenka River. This is where, while in a religious trance, the Besht discovered for himself the essence of God and His embodiment in the surrounding nature.
Today, the mikveh welcomes ordinary vacationers and religious pilgrims who come from all over the world. The singer Madonna, a fervent follower of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), recently planned a visit to the mikveh but was prevented by some unknown circumstance.
The mountains near the village of Shaian, site of the spring water resort of the same name, are of volcanic origin, which makes their rock an ideal water filter. The local spring water is reminiscent of Georgia’s famous Borjomi water, but is unique in its combination of silicic acid and bicarbonates. This water was delivered to the royal houses of France and Austria beginning in 1818. In the early 19th century, the Zamkova Kupil bath was built in the foothills of Mt. Varhed. It is now known that the local water is suitable for the treatment of many gastrointestinal diseases, especially in cases of hyperacidity. Moreover, it also helps the body pass radioactive nuclides and other toxins, improves metabolism and saturates the body with necessary microelements.
Address: Shaian village, Khust Raion, Zakarpattia Olbast.