Ternopil region: a find for speleologists, a peninsula town, and the largest concentration of castles

Here is the longest gypsum cave on the planet, a “hint” to the inventor of X-rays, and an artist whose styles are recognized all over the world.

And another thing you will definitely hear about the Ternopil region (Ukr. oblast) is the number of castles. There are 34 of them here, and there were more than 100! And it is not for nothing that since the time of the Galicia-Volhynia state, there has been a constant threat of Mongol-Tatar attack.

The Ternopil region not only defended its lands but also held Europe’s border. And is more than willing to keep doing it.

Castles of the Ternopil region

There are so many castles here that a whole national reserve was created to prevent the further destruction of some of them. After all, the majority did not survive, not only because of the wars but also for other reasons. We will not list all of them, but in order to arouse curiosity, we will talk about a few.

The city has disappeared, but Chervonohorod Castle is still standing. It stands in ruins, but tourists associate the preserved towers of the castle with Tolkien’s “Two Towers”. And the castle got its name thanks to the local soil’s unusual color.

Zbarazh castle was built with the most recent achievements in fortification art in mind. Now it is completely restored. There is a two-story palace, perimeter casemates, four bastions, and a moat (with water). There are pentagonal towers on the corners of the defensive ramparts.

Kremenets Castle (“Bona”), once one of Ukraine’s most powerful natural fortifications, is now in ruins. But what majestic ruins! Prince Mykhailo Vyshnevetskyi once ordered a residence in the French style: a two-story palace with more than a hundred rooms, U-shaped, in the style of baroque and classicism—everything as it should be. A large park with a pond designed by an Irish landscape architect surrounds the property. Even Honoré de Balzac, whom we already talked about in Zhytomyr region, visited here.

During the Second World War, the Vyshnivets Palace was damaged, but it was repaired. Now the palace is part of the nature reserve, and a museum is located on the territory.

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There are people everywhere

Ivan Puliui is a Ukrainian physicist, electrical engineer, and inventor. What did he invent? He almost managed to invent X-rays. Another 14 years before the discovery by the German scientist, Puliui invented a lamp that shone through objects. Who knows—maybe Wilhelm Röntgen was inspired by this research. Ivan Puliui was not only interested in science. Together with Panteleimon Kulish and Ivan Nechui-Levytskyi, Ukrainian writers, he took part in the first complete translation of the Bible into Ukrainian. A significant event in the history of Ukrainian culture!

Solomiia Krushelnytska also comes from the Ternopil region. She was an opera singer recognized by the whole world and always had Ukraine in her heart. Even performing before Russian Tsar Nicholas II, Solomiia sang in her native language, Ukrainian.

Krushelnytska performed in the world’s leading opera houses: Milan, Rome, Naples, Paris, Warsaw, New York, and Buenos Aires. She saved Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly” with her skill, but it was the Soviet authorities that ruined Solomiia. In 1936, the singer came to visit her relatives, but the Second World War caught her here, and then the “Soviets” did not let her out of the country. Krushelnytska suffered a lot in her last years. The singer, who was adored by the whole world, died on November 16, 1952, and was buried at the Lychakivskyi cemetery in Lviv.

But despite everything, there is a place for new Ukrainian music in Ternopil. In 2023, Ukraine will be represented at Eurovision by a group from Ternopil, TVORCHI.

The team was founded by Ukrainian Andrii Hutsuliak and Nigerian Jeffery Kenny. Jeffery came to Ternopil to study and stayed to live there. Mr. Kenny decided not to leave Ukraine even during a full-scale invasion: “I went for one week and came back because Ukraine has my team, our fans, people who believe in me, and I don’t want to go anywhere, because here is my life”.

Soon we will hear their song “Heart of Steel” on the Eurovision stage in Liverpool!

Stone four-faced head in a cap

This is the story of two shepherds who went to the river on a hot day and discovered the stone pillar, 257 cm (101 inches) high and weighing more than 500 kg (1102 lbs), which turned out to be a Zbruch idol, a rare monument of the pagan cult of the Slavs.
The pillar is divided into three levels, and all sides are covered with carved figures. The upper level is dedicated to the god Sviatovyt, who looks at different sides of the world with all four faces. The middle level is the goddess of love and fertility. And the bottom level, expectedly: Chornoboh, the devil.
Life-size copies can be seen at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in Kyiv.

Ternopil region Caves

Ternopil region has hiking opportunities not only on the surface. Yes, caves. Not only speleologists, but also bats from all over Europe flock here. Slavka, Uhrynska, Perlyna, Mlynky, Zholoby, and Yazychnytska are unique underground labyrinths that are no less worthy of attention, but we will tell you more about the other two.

Her name is Optymistychna (Eng. Optimistic). Cave record holder. It entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest gypsum cave on the planet—the length of the passages here is more than 240 km (149 mi). At the entrance, set up a campsite for travelers and speleologists. Whoever wants to strengthen the team spirit can do so here. The desire to help someone unites people: to enlighten, to insure, to wait. 

And this beauty’s name is Kryshtaleva (Eng. Crystal). Washed by underground waters, the cave got its name from the snow-white or colored gypsum crystals on the walls. In addition, there are incredible plaster “sculptures” created by the Tethys Ocean. This is an ancient ocean that existed between 320 and 66.5 million years ago. An owl, a snake, dragon’s teeth, a buffalo, and a fox—that’s who you can find on the walls. The temperature is 12 °C (54 °F) all year round, and the humidity is 95%. You can also be treated here!

Home for the primitive people

Verteba is another plaster cave. But it does differ in some ways—in its geological structure: wide galleries separated by narrow bridges.

The main feature is the first cave museum in Ukraine. There are so many finds of material culture objects from various eras nowhere else. There is a museum of archeology, a museum of Tripoli culture, and a museum of the Neolithic era. The main exhibit of the Museum of Tripoli Culture is a pottery workshop. Different stages of production are shown here: some clay, kiln, fired, and painted pottery.

These underground labyrinths have survived two world wars. But they were once home to ancient people and for some time – to the entire Tripoli culture, the largest settlements in Europe. We talked about them in our story about the Kyiv region and the Cherkasy region.

A perpetual traveler chained to an easel

The Soviet authorities destroyed it as an artistic unit: by ignoring and defaulting, but also by direct threats from the soviet KGB (Committee for State Security). Ivan Marchuk attacked “holy” socialist realism and destroyed it in all his paintings. His own technique of “plontanizm”, or small intertwined lines that merge into detailed images, contradicted the faceless Soviet style. The artist left at the end of the 1980s, but the “exile” did not force him to abandon painting—on the contrary, he gained recognition in the world. Despite the success there, Marchuk finally returned to Ukraine in 2011.

Mykhailo Boichuk is also one of those artists who was not liked by the Soviet authorities. He was one of the creators and the first professor of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts. He created a school, the main principle of which was the search for the artist’s own “I” based on knowledge of traditional and modern art. And the approach—”It doesn’t matter what to draw, as long as it’s interesting”—became a characteristic feature of “boichukizm”.

His story ended tragically – with an accusation of “Ukrainian counter-revolutionary national-fascist activity. The goal is to create a Ukrainian national-fascist state.” Similar to Russia’s current rhetoric in an attempt to justify its war against Ukraine, isn’t it?

For Johann Georg Pinsel, it all started with the figures of Buchach Town Hall. They metaphorically depicted the twelve labors of Hercules and brought Pinsel new orders. His sculptures are cinematic, and the mise-en-scènes of the compositions are extremely dynamic. Now there is no longer a unique compositional unity among his works, many have been partially destroyed or completely lost. Since the middle of the 20th century, Pinsel’s sculptures have ended up in museums. The Lviv Art Gallery has the largest collection.

And in Lviv, the barrier-free Pinsel Museum was opened, where special navigation makes it possible for people with visual and hearing impairments, the elderly, and people with autism to visit the museum.

In and above water

Dniester Canyon is a place where spring comes a week or two earlier. This is such a unique meteorological phenomenon. It is also one of the longest canyons in Europe.

Here, the Turks “dropped” water from the Dzhuryn River to quench the thirst of the defenders of the Chervonohorod Castle—this is how, according to legend, the Dzhurynskyi waterfall appeared. But it is not alone here!

The former resort town on the peninsula, Zalishchyky, is also here. Only the Mediterranean climate remained in the resort, but the town and nature are still beautiful!

And now, actually, what is above the water? Three of the five viaducts in Western Ukraine are located in Ternopil region. Plebanivka Viaduct is over 120 years old, has nine arches, is 30 meters (98 feet) high, and is over 100 meters (328 feet) long. It survived two world wars and is still standing.


There are works of art that have many masters and are passed down from generation to generation. Didukh, for example, is a traditional sheaf of straw that the owner brought into the house for a good harvest year on Christmas Eve. Yes, something like a Christmas tree tradition.

Ukrainians did not have a Christmas tree tradition. The Christmas tree appeared already in post-war Soviet Ukraine to destroy the didukh tradition and spread a different ideology. The difference between a Christmas tree and a didukh is huge: cultural and meaningful. The Christmas tree stood for some time – and was thrown away, no one threw away the sheaf of didukh, at most it was burned in the garden to protect against weeds. Now many modern masters have appeared, and this symbol of Christmas comes to life in Ukraine.

There is no single place of origin of didukh, its manufacturing technique was developed in the Ivano-Frankivsk region, Lviv region, Ternopil region, and other regions of Ukraine, especially where wheat grew.

Reinterpreted tradition

Ternopil region is also a legendary beer producer. The first large brewery in Ternopil is “Opillia”, founded in 1851. And “Mykulynetskyi Brovar” now produces 20 different types of beer, both craft and under foreign licenses. 

Now, other Ternopil residents are also engaged in brewing. This is already a family business: craft beer. Almost all the ingredients are grown on-site. They buy Ukrainian hops, grow their own barley, and the waste from production is used or sold as animal feed.

But Ternopil is known not only for entrepreneurship but also for the volunteer movement.

Hospitable and friendly locals willingly accepted about 90,000 people who sought refuge from the war in other regions. They entered homes and shared their stories. They treated us to food and talked about traditions. Likewise, they got to know each other, became friends, and agreed to visit each other after the victory. This is what the city of Ternopil is like!

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Last updated 24.02.2023

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