Visiting Villages in the Heart of Ukraine

On the road between Kiev and Poltava, through an area affectionately referred to as the ‘Heart of Ukraine’, travelers will come across a number of villages overflowing with history and culture. Located alongside the Sula River near Lubny, the Ukrainian Baroque-style Mharsky Monastery is an interesting attraction dating back to 1619 in the village of Mhar. The monastery features five domes – one central larger dome surrounded by four smaller domes – as well as a free-standing neoclassical bell tower that was built more than a hundred years after the original building was completed. The monastery suffered some damage in the early to mid-1900s and was used for non-religious purposes for a time, but was restored to the monks at the end of the 20th century.

Immortalized in Nikolai Gogol’s short story collection, Evenings on a Farm Near Dykanka, the village of Dykanka is a charming place to visit. As is the case with many villages, towns and cities throughout Ukraine, the oldest architectural landmark in Dykanka is a religious building, in this case the single-domed Mykolayivska Church named for St Nickolas. The church has a separate bell-tower with three archways on each side and a sloping roof. Located on the outskirts of the village is a four-columned triumphal arch which was built in 1820 as a commemoration of the victory over Napoleon.

The village of Opishnya is renowned for its various traditional handicrafts, particularly pottery and ceramics, and is home to the National Museum of Ukrainian Pottery which was founded in 1986. There are more than 35,000 items on display at the museum, many of which were created by master potters and ceramists. Visitors to the museum can try their hand at creating their own work of art on the potter’s wheel, perhaps discovering a talent they were unaware of. The museum also hosts workshops, international festivals and competitions for pottery and ceramics. Moreover, many museums around the world display pottery and ceramics made in Opishnya.

Traveling by car, the distance between Poltava and Kiev can be covered in around three hours, but taking a bit longer and stopping off at one or more of the villages along the way will be time well spent.