One of the leading attractions of the Small Vienna, which is another name for Chernovtsy, is a ship house that is located at the crossing of Sholom Aleichem and Main streets. The locals have a habit of calling this house Shifa, which is German for a ship.
The history of this house appearing in Chernovtsy is surrounded by legends. One legend tells us that there were two brothers who were madly in love with the sea and lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. One of them managed to make his dream come true – he became the captain of a ship. Another brother worked with financing. Although another version of the same legend states that both brothers became captains. Having spend the bigger parts of their lives, the brothers both retired. Unfortunately, none of them managed to create families and have children. That is why they decided to spend the rest of their lives together. Clearly they needed a house, but they didn’t like any of the houses they were offered. Chernovtsy seemed like a nice place to live in, so they chose the corner of the two busy streets.
The liner house that was constructed there shortly after these events can hardly be attributed to any of the existing architecture styles. The only thing the brothers cared about while constructing the building was the shape of the house, and this is how their dream came true. Today the Shifa house with a tall lighting tower that stands for the mast attracts tourists who wander in the streets of Chernovtsy. The fore part of the building is decorated with a lion’s head, and all along the perimeter there are griffons that symbolize vigilance, which is highly appreciated in sea travels. Moreover, the atmosphere of a sea journey is supported by sea weed and dolphins.
Ironically, the lion, who generally has nothing to do with water, is the wettest part of the ship house – its chops were used as a fountain for clear water. This place used to be the only spot in Chernovtsy where you could have free water.
The brothers occupied mainly the second floor that was equipped with bridges, rudders and steering wheels. Every morning the brothers used to go out to do their morning exercise, and on holidays they usually dressed up on their uniform and stood by the steering wheels.
However, there is a more common version of how the ship house was created. The story is that the building was constructed much later, in the end of the XIX century, and was named after a building next to it that used to be called Zum Goldenen Shiff.