The old Kamyanets-Podilsky fortress is a real treasure such as legends are made of. They say that Turkish gold is hidden in the Smotrych River flowing under it and that is has a 20 km tunnel leading to Khotyn fortress. Well, these are just legends. However, the architectural highlight of Kamyanets-Podilskyi in Khmelnytsky region is full of wonders as it is.
| Old Fortress’ Legends |
The town of Kamyanets occupies third place in Ukraine as far as number of architectural places of interest (after Kyiv and Lviv). There are more than one hundred here! But only the Old Fortress has become the symbol of the town. It is thought that the first fortifications appeared where the modern fortress now stands at the time of the Roman Emperor Trojan (101-107 A. C.). And it is a fact that during the era of the state of Kyiv Rus, an earthen fortress was constructed here.
The Chronicle describes construction of a stone fortress for the Lithuanian prince Koriatovych, who governed in the Podillia Principality at the end of the 14th century. And in the 17th century the New Fortress (people call it the Bank), a project overseen by French engineers, appeared around the castle. In addition to the fortress, Smotrych Island with the Old City was also fortified with an Armenian bastion and the defense gate near the entrance to the city through the impressive Turkish bridge (one of the oldest in Eastern Europe) as well as the Riznytska and Kravetska towers.
| "Let God conquer it!”, |
...Every decent castle should have the usual inventory of heroic tales, secret tunnels and ghosts who have inhabited its old walls for centuries. The first are in the Old Fortress in sufficient number, and of the second there are numerous legends, but there is an obvious lack of ghosts here. The real-life destiny for this central stronghold of the region was too real and hard to leave time for romantic fairy tales.
It is a rock with mighty walls and twelve towers. They say that Khan Osman saw the fortifications of Kamianets, asked: “Who has built such a mighty town?” “It was God”, was the answer. “So let God himself conquer it!”, and with that he turned his troops away from the mighty walls.
The fortress suffered two defeats, and those for valid reasons. In 1393 the Lithuanian Prince Vitowt conquered the stronghold thanks to discord in the garrison, and in 1672 the Turks conquered this fortress of the Podillia region by simply outnumbering their foe (more than 60 times!). The events of that time became the historic outline of the novel Fire in the Steppe (original title Pan Wołodyjowski) by the 1905 Nobel Prize laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz.
The underground vault under the Commandant’s Tower is “protected” by the soldiers from the Wołodyjowski’s detachment. In the Day (Denna) Tower tourists meet a clerk, an ambassador and a burgomaster, who present “ancient” diplomas to every tourist who requests them.
But most of all visitors are drawn to the diorama “Assault of the Fortress in 1672”, located in the underground vaults near the Rozhanka Tower. Here the musketeer (believe it or not, they also took part in the defense of the castle!) directs his musket at guests as they go down the damp stairs. Also here a monk says his prayer near the body of a deceased soldier, while a cruel janissary (Turkish warrior) lifts his arched yataghan (curved sword).
And do not forget to see the 40-metre-deep well in the New Eastern Tower and stroll through the fortress gallery.
But the fortress has more than just a glorious past. Be sure to visit the “Terra Heroica” Annual International Military and Historical Festival and witness impressive “battle scene” re-enactments. And who knows, you might even be the one to finally find a ghost at the Old fortress.
Address: 1 Zamkova Str., Kamyanets-Podilskyi. The fortress is open to visitors every day from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Entrance tickets to the fortress cost UAH4 for adults and UAH2 for children.
| Getting There|
You can reach Kamyanets from Kyiv (480 km) by daily trains (http://www.uz.gov.ua/) or by bus.
© Panorama Magazine