Battle in 1673 by the walls of the castle. February,21, 2007. A century ago.
Filmmakers prefer Khotyn Castle above all Ukrainian castles. With a movie “career” for more than four decades and a long list of “roles”, this fortress is a real movie star! It has played the French La Rochele and grim English castles, a magic palace from H.C. Andersen’s fairy tales and R. L. Stevenson’s medieval stronghold. In each role the fortress has been unsurpassed. In 2007 it became Warsaw in a hugely promoted Russian movie Taras Bulba based on Mykola Gogol's novel (director Vladimir Bortko).
| Movie Star Fortress|
Just as a real movie star, Khotyn fortress hides from impertinent curiosity. You can drive through this whole one-storied town in the Chernivtsi region and not have the slightest idea of the treasure hidden nearby on the bank of the Dnister River. Acting as “guardian” near the entrance to the stronghold there is a monument of Hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi, the hero of the Khotyn war of 1621. Farther is the kilometer long earth mound of the New Fortress, constructed in 1718 as a project overseen by French engineers. And only after that comes the breath-taking view of the 700 year old “Old Fortress”, familiar to us thanks to our favorite Soviet films such as “The Three Musketeers”, “The Arrows of Robin Hood”, and “Ivanhoe”.
It came into being in the times of Kyiv Rus. Even then the stronghold which protected ferriage across the Dnister was one of the mightiest in Eastern Europe. Since the middle of the 14th century its owners were Moldavian boyars, strengthening the frontier outpost.
Five towers on the high walls (up to 60 meters!) are decorated with ornamental red bricks. In some places the ornament is interrupted by enemy cannon balls, the scars on the body of the movie star fortress. Until the beginning of its cinematographic career the castle had been a warrior throughout many centuries. Look at one of the grey wounds and you will see the red silhouette of a jug. They say that this is how the residents of Khotyn literally “set in stone” the memory of the courageous girl who saved the garrison from thirst. It was long ago, during the besiegement of Khotyn, when there was no well on the territory of the castle. The defenders of the stronghold protected it courageously, but thirst was one more enemy that was killing them. A young girl came down to the stream, which envelopes the fortress on the way to the Dnister, by rope ladder. Coming up with the jug of water she became the target of a poisoned arrow. The girl had enough strength to bring the water to the warriors in whose arms she then died. The defenders decided to build a well and it is now in the center of the Governor’s Yard. A 65 meter deep well in solid rocky ground is a real triumph of man over nature.
Nearby the well there are remains of the Governor’s Palace. In that time, when Khotyn belonged to the Ottoman Empire, the palace was transformed into a golden cage for the 37 captives of Pasha’s harem. The beauties had a swimming-pool and even their own cosmetologist, whose miraculous recipes were actually found by archeologists a few years ago.
White stone gothic windows and massive portals decorate the castle chapel. In its foundation there is a diorama of the Khotyn battle of 1621, when Cossacks saved Europe from Turkish invasion. It seemed as if the 57 thousand Polish and 40 thousand Cossacks would not be able to withstand the 400 thousand warriors of Osman II. The Khan predicted self-confidently that he would have breakfast under the walls of Khotyn among the Cossacks troops and would have dinner in the fortress with the Polish troops. He did not manage to do it though, because the intense battling continued for five weeks. Half of the soldiers were killed, but the fortress remained unconquerable.
But that was long ago. Now Khotyn fortress welcomes thousands of tourists who come here in order to discover the magic and fall in love with a movie star castle forever.
The fortress is located at 40A St. Pokrovska Str., tel: (03731) 229-32, firstname.lastname@example.org. It is open daily for visitors from 9:00 a. m. to 6:00 p.m.. Entrance ticket for adults costs 4 hrn, children – 2 hrn. For permission to take photos you will have to pay an additional 1 hrn.
You can reach Khotyn from Chernivtsi (50 km) or Kamyanets-Podilskyi (22 km) by bus. There are daily trains to Chernivtsi from Kyiv (http://www.uz.gov.ua/).
© Panorama Magazine