This regional center was not under Soviet rule for as long as many others and so Western guests feel at home in the central streets. What sets Ternopil apart from Lviv is its privacy and distinct post-Soviet features.
COFFEE IN THE OLD CITY
You will not feel the atmosphere of the city as romanticised by the band Braty Hadiukiny without first having a cup of coffee and a pastry in a local coffee shop. Forget about hurrying – these narrow streets do not like it. Each street is charming in its own way, and you can walk the length and breadth of the city in a day.
The street that leads to the Old City can be seen all the way from the train station. You will catch a glimpse of green cross-topped domes rising behind five-storied buildings. A five-minute walk along the edge of a small flea market on Chornovol Street will bring you to the heart of Ternopil. The downtown pedestrian area begins with a press kiosk, followed by a dandelion-shaped fountain and a monument to Pushkin. On the left you will see the art bar Koza and the pizzeria Sicilia which opens early in the morning.
The city center begins at Teatralnyi Square where scores of doves can be seen leisurely strolling about. It is still early and they have not been scared away by mothers with children or teenage skaters and cyclists. The Taras Shevchenko Theater evokes associations with Lviv. Behind it, surrounded by trees, stands a majestic monument to Shevchenko. A boulevard (again, named after Shevchenko) with its antique-style wrought iron streetlights and benches was crowned last year with a monument to Solomia Krushelnytska, a Ternopil region native and world-renowned opera singer. It looks out onto Ruska Street, another centrally located avenue lined with neat rows of chestnut trees.
A cobblestoned pedestrian street (Valova) will take you to a miniature of Andriivsky Uzviz or Derybasivska Street where painters sell their pictures and the elderly play chess. From there it is a short walk to Hetman Sahaidachny Street with its restaurants, boutiques, a monument to Ivan Franko and an archive located in a former Dominican monastery.
Right there is “Katedra”. Built 230 years ago as a Dominican cathedral, it is now the Immaculate Conception Greek Catholic Church, the best known religious building in the city. Now you can admire the green domes we saw from the train station up close. A bust of patriarch Yosyf Slipy, always decorated with flowers, stands in the courtyard. The public garden across the street features a monument which shows Danylo Halytsky on a horse.
An artificial lake or Stav in the local vernacular was made in the 16th century in the flood plain of the Seret River. Ternopil’s oldest church, Nadstavna, lifts its dome toward the sky on its shore. As you walk along the lake, you naturally want to take a boat ride, while the little islet suggests romance. In the warm season, The Heroi Tantsorov will offer you a 90-minute ride for UAH 10. The vessel has run its route for nearly half a century now. A bay adjacent to the Stav is a good place to ride a catamaran. In the summertime, Ternopil-based yachtsmen practice here. As they take the top places in world regattas Stav must be a real good place for them.
Ternopil Castle, or more exactly, the surviving palace of what was once a large architectural complex, is easy to see from the side of Stav. The palace is an ordinary-looking white building with a night club and a summer terrace. But it is definitely worth seeing for it is one of the few buildings as old as Ternopil itself that survived the Second World War. The medieval atmosphere, however, can only be felt in the restored underground chambers. Your eyes are also sure to enjoy a pair of wrought iron swans in the courtyard.
As you walk along the shore, you will see other specimens of blacksmithing: a heart and a tree of love. They are hung with padlocks put there by the newly married and covered with inscriptions that include things from solemn oaths of eternal faithfulness to the touching line “I want to be with Andriiko.” Here and there you will spot stone sculptures. No wonder that this place has become a mandatory stop point for newlyweds on their wedding day.
BOOKSTORES AND CAFÉS
Leaving the castle, take a left to head for Shevchenko Park. It took Ternopil residents several years to collect the money to finance the Stepan Bandera monument which now stands a short distance away from several regional administration buildings and the tax police.
As you wander around Ternopil, you will keep coming across bookstores. With nearly 30 publishers and a dozen newspapers, Ternopil ranks high among Ukrainian cities in the publishing business. Local residents' habit of reading a lot is absolutely European.
In sharp contrast to this, the bedroom districts, unofficially labeled BAM, Aliaska and Canada, have a completely un-European look. You will not find 10 differences between them and similar districts in Zaporizhzhia or Zhytomyr: the same Soviet-style buildings with ugly-looking kiosks and noisy seedy cafés planted all around them.
However, even these neighborhoods have something to boast of, for example, the recently built churches. There are so many of them, it must be a national record.
Ternopil is a city of paradoxes. The unemployment level is one of the highest in Ukraine and the wages some of the lowest, but people are patient and manage their affairs well and unswervingly believe in a better future for the country. But this does prevent them from going abroad in search of a better life.
Everyone has a chance to find what suits him best in Ternopil; Europeans will admire Western features, patriots grand monuments, gourmets authentic national cuisine, yachtsmen wide stretches of water surface, readers a sea of literature and romantic couples the intimate atmosphere of coffee shops and countless sculptures in courtyards.