In the far west of Ukraine, on the border of Slovakia and just 25 kilometers from Hungary, lies Uzhhorod. Named for the Uzh river which runs through the heart of the old town, the city has quite the storied history. However other than sights for history buffs, the city has a very unique claim to fame…the Uzhhorod cherry blossom festival. If you plan on making the trip, check out my comprehensive guide to Uzhhorod for plenty of other things to see and do.
Tthere are a few different origin stories about the Uzhhorod cherry blossoms and even the locals believe different things.
1. The Japanese cherry trees were simply gifted to Uzhhorod by the emperor of Austro-Hungary around the 1850’s.
2. After Czechoslovakia got control of the city in the 1920’s, they decided to plant Japanese cherry trees in Uzhhorod as the land was suitable for growth and they wanted to beautify the city.
3. Ambassadors from Japan, en route to meet the Emperor Franz Joseph I, stopped for a few days in Uzhhorod. They were apparently bringing trees to Vienna as a gift of friendship when locals decided to steal some in the dead of night. The trees were planted around the city center and have been beautifying the city ever since.
What do you think is the correct history of Uzhhorod’s famous cherry blossoms? Number 3 is my favorite, but I think number 1 is more likely.
Sakura Fest is the famous cherry blossom festival that takes place in Uzhhorod at the end of April and beginning of May. In fact, the viewing season for sakura is only about 2 weeks, in which time the city becomes the most touristic place in all Ukraine.
The best places in Uzhhorod to see these Japanese cherry trees are Dovzhenka Street, Rakotsi Street, and Mytna street. Don’t worry, they are all within a few minutes walk of each other. In fact, during the viewing season the entire area is known as Sakura Alley.
However, it wouldn’t be a Ukrainian festival without a feast, and a feast you shall have. Located by the Heroes of Maidan park, and the Owl’s Nest (old Hungarian brewery) are dozens of stalls. Here you can find everything from traditional transcarpathian handicrafts, to homemade honey, wine, sausages, and more!
In fact, a big part of Uzhhorod Sakura Fest is the wine. The style of choice? Rosé of course. After all, you want your glass to match the color of the cherry blossoms! The most popular Uzhhorod winery is called Chizay, and if you have the time you can even visit the vineyards for a tour and a tasting. Of course you can’t get away from Sakura Fest without eating heavily; Make sure to try some of the spit-roasted whole pig.