By the time I got into the hostel, at a little past 12:30am, with the one hour time change taken into consideration, the trip from Krakow ended up taking just over 8 hours...similar to taking the original direct train but taking the train would not have provided such a great life experience AND it would have cost twice as much to boot.
Līviv itself reminded me alot of Krakow...both cities are just over 725 years old and both where largely untouched during the war, in terms of major destruction due to bombing. Both are also considered the cultural hearts of their respective countries. This, combined with the relative closeness (about 350kms) create a lot of similarities. The only real difference was the lack of tourists compared to Krakow.
Only in the last two years have the borders opened up to Visa-less entry for westerners following the orange revolution. Because the old town area has not been destroyed and the city lacks major tourist infrastructure, the best part of visiting was just walking around the city enjoying the sights and sounds.
There is only one full-time hostel in the city although Iīm sure that will change shortly. The hostel was very small...the smallest I have stayed in so far with room for only ten people in two rooms. Of the five people staying, three of us where Canadians, so it was good to sit down for a bit and talk about the CBC, Canadian Tire, Coffee Crisp and other things that no one else in the world would understand but all of us knew very well, despite us all being from different parts of the country. Coffee Crisp literally unites a nation.
Language was a real challenge in Līviv as we found very few people who spoke english. It was mostly Russian and Ukraine...both of which use Cyrillic symbols so virtually impossible to even guess what signs, menus and directions where saying. One of the Canadians could read a very small amount of Ukraine, which helped...but, luckily Yulia, the girl working at the hostel and her friend, Natalie, helped us with translation and wrote down a lot of things on paper for me to take with me when trying to buy train tickets or other things. Very appreciated and worthy of a bottle of cognac.
A few different people I met said Krakow is the new Prague and Līviv is the new Krakow. Iīm not sure if I agree with that but there is no doubt that Līviv will be a new tourist hot spot in only a few more years once people realize it is "open for tourism" and more hostels and hotels are opened.
After the ordeal getting across the border from Poland, I felt a bit better a couple days later when a Dutch backpacker came in, having done the exact same thing as me but he had waited three hours instead of two before someone had pushed him to the front of his line.