Gogol’s Dikanka, Ukraine – a real magical place

Dikanka in Poltava region.

Ukraine is full of wonders and magic. And it’s not just about the charming landscapes and surprisingly responsive people. In the literal sense, some parts of the country are overfilled with mysticism and magic. One of these places is legendary Dikanka in Poltava region. Every adult remembers the fascinating story of Gogol’s ‘Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka,’ which is always accompanied by books and screen versions every Christmas. But Dikanka itself, outside of its literary image, is a beautiful place with many sights and accompanying stories. Let’s make this little journey together, after which you will definitely want to go to Poltava region!

Dikanka in Poltava region

Where is this wonderful Dikanka?

The small urban village Dikanka is located in the district of the same name in Poltava region of Ukraine. In the old days, there used to grow thick and majestic Ukrainian forests, and the locals coexisted peacefully with the forces of nature. According to the local legend, the village was founded by a certain Cossack with the surname Dikan. Perhaps that is why the village is called by such a name. By the way, there are still quite a lot of people here with that surname. Whether they are heirs of the founder or just namesakes – no one knows for sure. But it all adds a certain atmosphere to the place.

Ukrainians first heard about Dikanka when the legendary battle between Pushkar and Vygovsky took place nearby. It was then, in 1658, that Dikanka was first mentioned in historical documents. Before the settlement was inhabited by Cossacks, Ukrainians lived here in dungeons, fearing being devastated by Tatars. Several caves connected by underground tunnels testify to this fact. Later peasants, who were looking for a better life beyond the Polish rule, came here.

Dikanka history

Kochubey General Judge's manor

Later, Dikanka became an ennobled estate of the general judge Kochubey, who turned the small Cossack village into a picturesque place before his execution for betraying Mazepa. Gardens and parks were created here, sculptures and fountains were brought from distant Italy and Greece. And along the thorny paths of parks walked peacocks and pheasants. But like many other wealthy estates and manors, Dikanka was virtually destroyed with the advent of Soviet power. The sculptures and elegant buildings were destroyed, gardens were cut down, and many ornaments and riches were taken away. Gradually turning into an ordinary Soviet village, Dikanka was given the status of a township as early as 1957.

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What will the magical land of Poltava surprise you with?

Speaking of those first underground settlements, where Ukrainians hid from the Tatars. If you are interested not only in Gogol’s atmosphere of Dikanka, but also in its true history, you should take a trip to the east of the village. Here are the ruins of the first underground towns of Dikanka. According to excavations and some historical data, the monks lived in the cave hermitages until 1602. They also took in refugees, who were trying to escape the Tatar yoke. But where and why did the monks leave this place – is still not uniquely known.

Video – search for the caves near Dikanka and informative history of the area

Despite the fact that the Soviet authorities during the October Revolution were very indiscriminate in destroying the “bourgeois wealth,” some buildings from the time of Judge Kochubey and his heirs remained to this day.

Everyone who comes here in the context of a tour or on their own, should definitely visit the surviving part of the legendary estate. One of the most significant pieces of pride here is the Arc de Triomphe. Back in 1820 it was built upon the project of an Italian architect Luigi Rusca. The arch, along with the entire palace complex, was built just before the entrance to the estate, when Dikanka was visited by Emperor Alexander I. In addition, it embodied the pride of local residents for the victory over the French in the War of 1812. But, as already mentioned, the times of the civil war and revolutionary actions greatly “affected” the local beauty. The palace and many of the adjoining buildings were destroyed, and the building materials were taken away for party needs. The only thing that has survived is the Arc de Triomphe. Now it is a calling card of Dikanka and the whole Poltava region. It is a unique symbiosis of Italian architecture and Ukrainian motifs.

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Arch of Triumph in Dikanka

Nicholas Church

Dikanka sights

Continuing the theme of artistic buildings, it is worth recalling the Church of St. Nicholas. It was built in 1794. Formally, it is a reconstructed wooden church, in which the dome was replaced, the walls were made of stone, and a striking, in its beauty, carved oak iconostasis was placed inside. In the church underground are the tombs of the eight members of the Kochubey family.

But Dikanka surprises not only with its architectural forms. Approaching the village, pay your attention to the legendary Kochubey oaks. These ancient and massive trees are over 500 years old. They reach a height of 22 meters and a diameter of 180 centimeters. The oaks themselves were not planted for any particular reason. But later history itself has arranged this place. According to local legends, the meetings of Hetman Mazepa and Motri Kochubei took place under these oaks. Even later the world learned about these oaks – Alexander Pushkin wrote about them in his poem “Poltava”. But even if you do not take into account a certain historical significance, just to admire the natural grandeur is also worthwhile.

oak tree in Dikanka

legendary Kochubey oaks

And to the south of the village there is another natural wonder – Lilac Grove. Great-grandson of judge Kochubey Victor Pavlovich planted a small grove for his beloved daughter Anna. Unfortunately, the daughter died when she was a child of illness, but the garden is still a joy to the eyes of local residents and tourists. The grove is an area of 2 hectares, fully planted with almost 40 species of lilacs. It is an unrepeatable feeling to stroll through the alleys here during the blooming season and think about the beautiful things on one of the benches. Dikanka residents liked the grove so much that in honor of it, during the lilacs blooming, the annual holiday “Songs of the Lilac Grove” is held.

Lilac Grove in Dikanka

Lilac Grove

Lilac Grove in Poltava

A more modern local landmark is the art gallery. In its halls are collected ancient and modern works of art. Eight rooms, more than 450 items. There are paintings, sculptures, bas-reliefs, carved wood and metalwork. Creative beginning of Poltava region in all its grandeur.

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Gogol’s echoes in the streets of Dikanka

Poltava land for Gogol is a place of endless inspiration. And most admirers of his works associate Nikolai Vasilyevich with these very lands, which were native to him. Poltava itself, just like Dikanka, is grateful to the Ukrainian author. After all, thanks to his lines here for many years come tourists. And everything started in 1831, when the world got acquainted with the legendary work ‘Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka. It is hard to say whether Dikanka was really a concentration of Ukrainian mysticism and magic. Apparently, it was just the local picturesque and colorful places that inspired Gogol to create such an impulse. After all, in truth, all Ukrainians were experts in magic. Only in Poltava region Nikolai Vasilyevich collected so many folk rites and folklore, that a lot of beautiful works came out of it.

In any case, you should come here and personally get acquainted with the traditions and stories. And the locals and tour guides have plenty of them. They will gladly guide you through the historical and, of course, Gogol’s places. Everything, perhaps, will begin with the monument to the writer himself.

Monument to Nikolai Gogol in Dikanka

Trinity Church

Trinity Church was built back in 1780. Its base is erected in the form of a cross, and the finishing is done in the best traditions of late baroque. And even here you can feel the echoes of Gogol’s stories. Locals say that the blacksmith Vacula used to “chisel” his masterpieces in Trinity Church.

Another echo of the story “Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka” is in the expositions of the local history museum named after Garmash. All in all, there are 9 halls and 8 thousand exhibits. And there is certainly something to keep your eyes open. There are artifacts from the excavations, and clothing, household items, weapons and art of Poltava region. Everything from the Scythians to the last Cossack settlements. But one of the most beloved exhibits here is the chest of the blacksmith Vacula. Perhaps it is the one that, according to the story, Vakula was supposed to make to his beloved Oksana. “It will be, my heart, by the holidays the chest will be ready. And how it will be painted!” – everyone remembers these lines, don’t they? So why not see with your own eyes the work of a master craftsman in love?

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On the way to stories and fairy tales.

Needless to say, you can easily get to Dikanka on your own. Calculate the route, buy gasoline or tickets, and be sure to take care of your accommodation. Believe me, it’s a near-impossible task to see all the beauties of Dikanka during one day. When it comes to the hotel, you have a choice – either stay in Poltava and get to Dikanka by bus or “settle down” directly in the village. Despite the fact that Dikanka is a city-type settlement, there are several hotels here, too. Truth be told, most of them are private houses or hotel-type estates. But it even has its own coziness and flavor. So, for example, you can stay in “Sadiba on Sadovaya”. This is a small homestead, where you will be offered to settle in a separate house or a room, with food options and opportunities for excursions. There is also a bathhouse, a barbecue, a small garden area around the estate. The price for accommodation starts from 100 UAH ($7.5) per day. Another option is Smereka Estate. This is a hotel room and board, as well as excursions. The homestead is conveniently located in the center of Dikanka, and is just a couple kilometers from the main tourist attractions. The price ranges from 130 UAH ($7.5) per day.

hamlet in Dikanka

Dikanka market

cottage in Dikanka

If you decide to go to Dikanka by taking a tour, you also have a lot of options. Many travel agencies organize themed trips. But more often the tour covers not only Dikanka, but also other attractions of Poltava region. These are Poltava itself, and Velikie Sorochintsy, and many other picturesque places.

The advantage of the Ukrainian tours is that they are very cheap, but at the same time rich and informative. So, for example, there is a tour “In Gogol’s places”, which is extremely popular among tourists. Its cost is 240 UAH ($740) per person, and it lasts for 8 hours. During this time you will see the main sights of Poltava (the Gogol’s Heroes Alley, Cathedral Square, the Kotlyarevsky Estate), Dikanka (Church of St. Nicholas and the Trinity Church, the Triumphal Arch), the village Gogolevo (writer’s manor museum) and the Great Sorochints (literary and memorial museum). The cost of the tour includes bus transportation to the tourist sites, entrance tickets and guide services. You’ll have to get to Poltava and plan the meals by yourself.

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Poltava traditions

Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka

There are also other tour options, but you should take into account that almost all of them are held on several localities in a kind of non-stop regime. Therefore, if you want to get acquainted in detail with Dikanka and its unique atmosphere, find a few days and stay here by yourself. Trust me, it won’t be a problem to plan your sightseeing tour by yourself. And the rest will be more informative and interesting.

To summarize the tour.

In general, it’s difficult to describe Dikanka itself on the page of the blog. All this land is a large and significant part of Ukrainian history. Both military and domestic. And literary, of course. Yes, the world has changed: instead of carts, the streets are lined with cars, and Cossacks have been replaced by managers and lawyers. But the real spirit of the Ukrainian villages will not disappear, as long as their stories live on the pages of works and in the hearts of local people. Often, when people watch the film adaptations of books, they say that the book was better. Well, take my word for it, no matter how great the work of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was, in life is really better.

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