Six hundred years old in October 2008, Chernivtsi was once the chief city of Bukovyna (Beech Tree Land) in old
oldavia (now Moldova). It belonged to the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century, when much of the city’s ornate architecture was built. After WWI, it rested temporarily within Romania. Today, the city remains the ‘capital’ of the unofficial Bukovynian region, but its past Jewish, Armenian, and German communities are now just ghostly presences.
Archeological evidence indicates there was a population in the area since the Neolithic era. Artifacts from the Bronze and Iron ages have been found in the city. Remains of early Slavic tribes discovered in the area date back to the 2nd to 5th century, and artifacts of Croatian and Tiverian people originate from the 9th to 11th century. Legends refer to the city as Chern, meaning “black city”, allegedly named for the black walls that then protected the settlement. The major architectural styles of Chernovtsi are Viennese art deco and neoclassicism, with elements of baroque and late gothic, plus fragments of traditional Moldovan and Hungarian architecture. The keen observer also notes the presence of the Roman-Byzantium style, as well as scattered elements of cubism. Sounds like the perfect tour stop for an architectural student!