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Tourist season launched in Kamianets-Podilsky

03 April, 00:00

The city of Kamianets-Podilsky is an ancient Podillian city of stone on the high banks of the Smotrych River. It is famous throughout Ukraine for its beautiful natural surroundings and the talented building skills of our unforgettable ancestors. “Our cherished dream is for travelers to visit Kamianets-Podilsky and leave their money here,” Mayor Oleksandr Mazurchak says, describing the city authorities’ pragmatic approach to 174 preserved or scrupulously restored historic monuments.

The city fathers recently took another step on the way to the golden dream by organizing a large-scale project to mark the opening of the 2007 tourist season. This is information on what is on offer to tourists visiting Kamianets-Podilsky: hotels, restaurants, entertainment centers, and educational tours. Over the past few years the city has seen an impressive rise in the volume of tourism. In 2001 the city welcomed 95,000 tourists, 125,000 in 2002, 132,000 in 2003, 166,000 in 2004, and 200,000 in 2005.

Repeat visitors to Kamianets- Podilsky, who come two or three years after their first visit, credit citizens’ private initiative, especially local residents, for the rise in tourism. At last, tourists know where to find accommodations. There are several hotels with different price ranges to suit every pocket: the well-heeled can snag a room for 1,100 hryvnias a night, while budget-minded tourists can find economy-class apartments for 214 hryvnias a night. Tourists will return home with unforgettable impressions of hotel interiors and high standards of restaurant service. No one will miss an opportunity to enjoy the view of the old and contemporary city from their hotel’s observation deck.

From there you can see the walls of the Old Fortress’s walls, the Old Castle. One of the castle towers, built in 1503-13, used to be called the Pope’s Tower because the money for its construction was donated by popes Julius the Second and Leo X. In 19th century, when the fortress was turned into a prison, the famous Podillian opryshok (brigand) Ustym Karmaliuk was jailed there. In 1823 Karmaliuk organized his escape from the Pope’s Tower, later renamed Karmaliuk’s Tower.

A walk around the old city brings visitors to the Polish Market Square, above which towers the City Council building. Beyond Castle Bridge are the Triumphal Arch and SS. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral.

After this bird’s eye view of these and other city monuments, visitors will definitely be inspired to examine them more closely and plunge into history, while listening to the tour guide’s narration. You will hear that the oldest chronicle of the Old Fortress dates back to 1494, and that you could reach the castle from the city through the gate guarded from the tower. The five- sided New Eastern Tower extends beyond the edge of the walls. A plaque on one of its walls bears the inscription: “1544, To God Alone Be the Glory. Ion Pretvych, architect.”

During the ceremony to launch the opening of the 2007 tourist season listeners were acquainted with the city’s tourism infrastructure. They heard from budding hotel owners and their more seasoned competitors, some of whom boasted about the visit to their establishment of Viktor Yushchenko on the eve of his presidency. Others recounted the impression that their hotel produced on a foreign diplomat. A female hotel owner mentioned a feature film that was shot in her establishment, in which she played the leading role. Restaurateurs recounted what some celebrities drank and ate. But everyone had nothing but praise for the city fathers for fulfilling point after point of the plan to boost tourism, which is aimed at transforming Kamianets-Podilsky with its historic heritage into a tourist mecca.

Representatives from the Polish cities of Zawercze, Przemysl (Peremyshl), and Czestochowa, Villasana de Mena (Spain,) and Ponte Lambro (Italy) took part in the launch. In their speeches at the scientific-practical conference on “Castles and Fortresses as Tourism Objects: Practice, Experience, and Perspectives” they talked about their historical heritage and the way business is organized in their cities.

“An analysis of foreign practices has convinced us that Poland’s experience is the most accessible and acceptable for Kamianets-Podilsky. Like us, they are starting out, although they are a step ahead,” said Deputy Mayor Oleh Demchuk.

Kamianets-Podilsky is applying its neighbors’ experience in a creative way. One popular event is an “Evening with Ghosts” - nocturnal visits guided by flaming torches to the castle ruins. There was a presentation of one nocturnal excursion to the Old Castle, a version of a Polish tourism product in the Kamianets-Podilsky style. The next phase of borrowings will set the stage for organizing excursions through historical eras and various themed events.

A professional approach has put an end to the days of amateurism. The mayor of Ponte Lambro, Andrea Cattaneo, told the audience that in his city an association takes care of tourism development. Its analogue in Kamianets-Podilsky is the Ratusha Festival Agency. Eight candidates competed for the director’s post, and the city authorities chose Dmytro Nazarenko.

Among the association’s first projects was the signing of an agreement on volunteer exchanges. This summer 20 representatives from the city on the Smotrych River will travel to Spain, where they will learn how to organize festivals.

Video festivals devoted to auto rallies, barbeques, gliding, and Terra Heroica take place in Spain, the US, Poland, and Italy. Such large-scale projects have already been held in Kamianets-Podilsky, and new ones beckon. A Stone-Age technopark is opening in April 2007, which is being organized in concert with the city’s twelfth twin-city, Zawercze. The signing of the agreement with Zawercze took place during the launch of the 2007 tourist season.

Kamianets-Podilsky’s historical heritage is working in favor of the city. “Entrepreneurs are catering to tourists, creating jobs, and deducting taxes,” said Mayor Oleksandr Mazurchak. This is the logic of organizing life in an ancient city, where at one time the giants of socio-industry are resting in eternal sleep. Small- and medium-sized businesses are generating more than one-third of the city’s income.

There is a certain downside, however. When business people equip their establishments according to European standards, they do not always take into consideration what is going on outside their star hotels, restaurants, and bed-and- breakfast spots. Unfortunately, here and there you can still spot traces of Soviet-era Kamianets-Podilsky in the potholes, uneven borders, dusty sidewalks, untidy neighboring buildings, and bent fences. After investing a large amount of money into their establishments, they should pay more attention to the surroundings. There would definitely be benefits.

But these growing pains are par for the course. Today more has been accomplished than not.

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