First Balakleya appears in historical documents in 1571. There was the southern edge of the Great Russia, a cordon between Ukrainian region named Slobozhanshchina and the Wild Field – lands of the Tartars, who always meant a big danger. So, during the 16th century, Russian Tsars were building a raw of fortresses here - and Balakleya had become one of them. In 1663 Cossack ataman Yakov Chernigovets together with his Ukrainian migrants from over the Dnieper founded a city here. Never the less, in 1665 the wooden fortress and the city of Balakleya were completely burned by Tartars. But rich grounds, forests and rivers, rich flora and fauna made this place very attractive for living. And soon the city had risen from ashes: in 1765 Balakleya first meant as one of administrative centers of Slobozhanshchina. In January, 1918, Soviet power was proclaimed here. And in 1938 Balakleya was appropriated status of city.
Balakleya has never been big or very industrial – it is a provincial town, situated 90 km south-east from Kharkov (the centre of Eastern Ukraine), and nowadays there live about 35 000 citizen. Though there are some factories and many farms around, and also a railway and two highways - Т-2105 and T-2110 – going through the city to Kharkov, to Donbas and even to Moscow.
Balakleya today is not a very modern but a green, cozy and quiet place. It is the place which every modern citizen needs for a really good and healthy rest – the place which makes a perfect combination of the rich Ukrainian culture, all the necessary comforts and the wild nature. Such conditions do attract many green tourists or ecological tourists to Balakleya.
In this place there are three small rivers – Srednya Balakleyka, Nyzhnya Balakleyka and Volosskaya Balakleyka, which fall into the fourth river - Balakleyka, which named the town in the 16th century. The word "Balakleyka” takes place from the ancient Tyurk language. It means "the river full of fish”. And that’s true - Balakleyka still gives the maximal pleasure of fishing to fishing-lovers nowadays as well as in the ancient times. And more than this – here Balakleyka itself falls into the most beautiful river of the Eastern Ukraine – Severskiy Donets. Donets is famous for its endless and unbelievable variety. When floating down this river, you will see amazing landscapes, water-meadows, chalk cliffs and forests. All of it together with winding river-bed and clean water make Donets just ideal for Kayaking. And there is a water-rowing base in Balakleya. If you prefer swimming, you may choose one of little sandy beaches on Donets. Or you may choose the best sporting complex of the district - city "Palace of sport”, with a swimming pool and sporting hall.
You may travel along river banks by kayak or by feet, or just stand still, looking around and breathing extremely clean air. Or you can take a walk in the forests where plenty of mushrooms and berries grow– you will really enjoy this. Don’t forget about your camera…
The town itself is a very typical Ukrainian provincial centre. You can visit small and pleasant central square with main administrative buildings and a monument to the greatest Ukrainian poet – Taras Shevchenko.
All over the town you may meet memorials to the victims of the World War II. Balakleya was under the Fascists occupation from December, 1941 till February, 1943. And local old people still can remember those horrible times. Now citizens bring flowers to the statues of warriors on the Victory Day – the 9th of May, and on other holidays, too. This is a good tradition. You can often see real cannons of the WW II on such memorials – and touch these witnesses of history with your own hands.
You should visit a district regional museum (sight of architecture of the 19th century), which contains the unique display on Ukraine about life and creation of prominent singer O. Petrusenko.
And it would be interesting to see the station of young naturalists - a kind of mini-zoo, especially if you bring your children with you.
Most Ukrainians are orthodox Christians. So, in Balakleya the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the main but not the only one. However, orthodox christian temples are most interesting, because they are new but they are built in traditions of Ukrainian orthodox architecture. For example, the temple of Cover of our Lady (built in 1994) represents Ukrainian baroque.
Going sightseeing, it is very important to feel the atmosphere of an old Ukrainian town. Take a walk along narrow old streets with rural houses of the 19th century. Smell the aroma of Ukrainian flowers. Go shopping to little local markets, take a good look at wares of folk trades. At last have a gulp of cold clean water from Ukrainian "kolodyaz’ ” – and you may feel it.
And if you are tired of walking, you’ll need some transport. The main public transport in Balakleya is the bus. There are also regular bus lines to villages nearby and to Kharkov. Don’t forget to see the local railway station, by the way.
There are two hotels in Balakleya, cheap and good enough. You may also make a camping just on the river banks. But there is a large offer of rental apartments in Balakleya. And it is a good idea to use it. This is the shortest way to feel the Ukrainian traditional hospitality, cheerfulness and sense of humor. It can be also the shortest way to get acquainted with the Ukrainian traditional cuisine, and it is worth this.
Many tourists consider Ukrainian borsch to be the main impression in their travels in the Ukraine. A great advantage is to have Ukrainian dishes cooked from local, extremely fresh and ecologically net products. And exactly like this you have them in Balakleya. You will never forget real borsch, vareniki, pampushki, zrazy (kartoplyaniki), sausage "krovyanka”, deruny and kulish – a very Ukrainian porridge with meat and pork fat. Ukrainians adore pork fat, call it "salo” and cook it in many different ways, always very delicious.
And you may be even lucky to try a ritual Ukrainian food named "kutya”, used on Christmas and … on funerals, too. Kutya is wheat porridge with honey, poppy, nuts and raisins. And in the Ukraine its sweetness decorates holidays and brightens up your sorrows.