They say that once there was a small brook in Podilia (a historic region in Western Ukraine). The people who inhabited its shores kept a calendar by marking days on sand. But one day a brook spilled by the nearby meadows and fields, and all the marks were wiped. “Who wiped the days?”, - people would ask. “The brook wiped the days!” This is how the river got its name: Dnister (in Ukrainian, ‘dni’ means ‘days’, ‘ster’ means ‘wiped’). But scientists, who prefer facts to legends, believe that the name of the river derives from the Sarmatian Iranian ‘Danastris’ (‘rapid water’).
In Ukraine, the Dnister is the third longest river: 1362 kilometres. Its sources are on the north-eastern slopes of Ukrainian Carpathians. In old times, the river was used as a transportation waterway linking the Carpathian Mounts and Podilia to the Balkan Peninsula, and Near East. Boats, loaded with tableware, fabrics, fur, grain and honey, were trading down the Dnister.
In the 1980’s, the Dnister reservoir was created on a territory in the Chernivtsi, Khmelnytsky and Vinnytsia regions, which swelled the river.
The magnificent landscapes and fantastic curves of the Dnister Canyon are strikingly picturesque throughout its entire path. But there is an area of the canyon especially popular among tourists: from the village of Luka (Ivano-Frankivsk region) to the city of Khotyn (Chernivtsi region). Rafting between the high Dnister ‘walls’ (from 150 to 300 metres high!) is exhilarating. The river’s steep slopes are like the halls of a museum of Nature, silent greetings from the past of the Earth: here you can see rifts from the Jurassic era and the world’s largest rifts from the Silurian era (over 400 million years old).
Here we are, exploring the canyon in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. Between the Dnister steep slopes, the Rakovetskiy Castle, built almost four centuries ago, stretches its high tower into the sky. And now we are already in the Ternopil area: the raft passes by the Red Mountain. This area, also known as Warm Podilia, is the warmest place on the Dnister: its climate is comparable to Crimea.
We continue in the Ternopil region and arrive to one its most impressive towns, Zalishchyky. The Dnister dances such curves around the town that it seems the river is clutching Zalishchyky to its bosom. From a 170-metres-high bank of the Dnister, a village named Khreshchatyk (just like Kyiv’s main street) is ‘watching’ the breathtaking panorama of Zalishchyky. Khreshchatyk, which is in the Chernivtsi region, hosts the St. John the Divine monastery dating back to the 17th century. According to a legend, one misty morning the horse carriage of a local magnate ran towards a precipice. A few centimetres from the abyss, a monk who lived in a cave near a source, stopped the frightened horses. The magnate, whose life was saved by the monk, gave money to build a chapel near the cave. Today, lots of people come to the monastery: here the soul rests, the local water is clear and tasty, and the views are simply gorgeous.
Further, the canyon brings us to the pride of the Chernivtsi region, the magnificent 13th -17th centuries Khotyn Fortress hanging over the Dnister. In 1621, the historic battle of Khotyn was fought by the walls of this stronghold. A mere 57 thousand Polish soldiers and 40 thousand Ukrainian Cossacks defeated the 400 thousand warriors of Osman II. The victory of Cossacks in this brutal fight, which lasted five weeks, saved Europe from a Turkish invasion. Today, the Khotyn stronghold attracts both history and cinema lovers: over 50 films were shot here, among which were old favourites such as The Three Musketeers, The Arrows of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe and, last year, Gogol’s Taras Bulba. Mighty 60-meters-high stone walls, five towers overlooking the fantastic landscapes of the Dnister canyon… such sceneries cannot be built in a studio!
Looking for waterfalls? There are plenty of them on the Dnister. The most picturesque, Dzhurynsky waterfall is found some 3-4 kilometres from the river, near the Ustechko and Nahorianka villages in the Ternopil region. It is Ukraine’s highest plain waterfall: 16 metres high. By the way, it is not of natural origin: in the 17th century, the Turks changed the path of the Dzhuryn River during a siege. The Dnister is also a real paradise for ornithologists. Here, you can see white egrets and grey herons, storks, swans, seagulls...
And the number of legends about the Dnister canyon in countless! They say that in the village of Trubchyn (Ternopil region) enemies caught Taras Bulba, who escaped to get his pipe that he forgot on the shore. And people who live along the Dnister are convinced that gems, gold and other precious metals were buried by its shores since the 18th century. Dreaming about treasures? Come along to the Dnister Canyon! If you do not discover Turkish gold, you are sure to find fascinating adventures and experiences, a more enduring treasure.