Trip Start Aug 31, 2007
90Trip End Apr 19, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Where I stayed
Rynok Square Apartments
In Lviv, we are staying at the lovely Rynok Square Apartment off hostelbookers.com. The location couldn't be better. There's a kitchen and even a washing machine. Miya, who owns the place, kindly came out at midnight to let me in, and I crashed into bed.
My first venture outside the apartment was to get my mother Donna from the airport. I caught van 95, which promised to get me there for 20 cents, and proceeded to ride around the less visited parts of Lviv for an hour. Just as I was beginning to worry Donna would catch a cab and beat me back to the apartment, I saw a sign for the airport and shortly, we were there. I needn't have worried about timing. Ukrainian customs is not simple and afterwards, we had to file a lost luggage claim. Fortunately, my mother had brought her backpack as carry-on, but the box she had checked containing things for me has gone missing. Here's hoping it magically shows up...
Our first night in town, we managed to catch Bizet's opera about Carmen, a girl who spends the show toying with men's hearts and finally has the good sense to die at the end of the 4th act. Bizet appears to have written about a Spanish town where everyone sings in perfect French. My French is half decent, but there was enough vibrato for a back massage, so I missed a good chunk of what was going on. Somehow, the Ukrainian subtitles help, either. But it's opera. You don't go for the plot. The production was adequate (Carmen should have been 20 years younger and the orchestra had an interesting definition of "unison") but only in the former USSR would a city of 650,000 even have a full opera (the place was nearly sold out) and at $15 each for the best seats in the house, who can complain? An even better treat than the opera itself was the opera house
Founded by and named after Prince Lev in the 13th century, Lviv has had a number of rulers and names (Lwow, Lemberg, Lvov) over the centuries, each contributing to the city's UNESCO old town. Like Prague (yes, now I'm drawing parallels) in the early 90s, the buildings are unrefurbished and exude a faded grandeur not seen in other, more touristed European cities. However, now that the Ukraine has scrapped most of its visa requirements, I suspect things will begin to change, and I suspect Miya and her husband Slav will find their apartment, right on the main square, an excellent investment.
Lviv has over 80 churches and, in a particularly pious mood, we visited 11.25% of them this morning. The walking tour included 13, but we found 9 were sufficient. It being Sunday morning, services were in progress everywhere, but it is accepted Orthodox practice for the congregation to come and go during a service, so a couple tourists weren't objected to. The music was wonderful and the incense enough to make you dizzy. All of the churches were extremely well attended and well maintained, with paintings rather than carvings covering any and all flat surfaces.
In addition to places of worship, we visited a small craft market, the town arsenal, and ended our tour on top of Castle Hill, with panoramas of the whole area. In the late afternoon, we enjoyed sachertorte at one of Lviv's many little cafes.
We also visited Lychakivsky cemetery, which I'm sure sounds quite boring, but wasn't. The final resting place of over 400,000 souls, it is overflowing with beautiful tombstones and monuments to the dead. It was interesting to see the deceased's faces looking out at us from carvings on their stones, but I'm not sure I would choose to have my 80 year old visage staring out at posterity.
The weather in Lviv has been wonderful, and we have been enjoying dinners outside, watching local life go by. Today was election day and in the evening, the squares were filled with people watching street performances, dancing, and singing, waiting for the results to come out.