Like many cities in the west of Ukraine, energetic Chernivtsi displays the hallmarks of a more elegant past, most obviously in the shape of its star attraction, the phantasmagorical university building. Shabby, leafy and slightly chaotic, this Ukrainian city sometimes has a somewhat un-Slavic flavour, possibly the residue of centuries of Romanian/Moldovan influence. Renovators have been busy with the stucco and whitewash in the city centre, and some of the old Austro-Hungarian tenements are looking pretty dapper, but in general Chernivtsi remains a ramshackle place with a local student population keeping things lively.
Just over six centuries old, Chernivtsi was once the chief city of Bukovyna (Beech Tree Land) in old Moldavia (now Moldova). It belonged to the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century, when much of the city's ornate architecture was built, and after WWI was temporarily drawn into Romania. Today the city remains the 'capital' of the unofficial Bukovyna region, but its past Jewish, Armenian and German communities are now just ghostly presences.