Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ukraine adventure: Lviv

I debated whether to put Kyiv first or last since the greater part of my visit was last, but it also was my initial impression of Ukraine. Obviously the latter mindset won out, even though I was in Kyiv for not even 24 hours before leaving. No, my first full visit in Ukraine was to Lviv (Львів), the major city of western Ukraine. I had studied a limited amount of its history before going there, but as I saw the city firsthand, I got to see even more and wanted to learn more. We took the intercity train from Kyiv to Lviv, which I mentioned in my last post that I very much enjoyed. After being in the tight spaces of an airplane for the better part of 12 hours, the space we had on the train was downright palatial! HA! Due to the dollar being high, Katie took the liberty of going first class, so that made it even nicer, and it really wasn't that much more expensive at all. I seriously could've traveled that way even longer than the four hours we were on it. Even the snacks available weren't all that expensive. We arrived in Lviv in the evening and were picked up by the owner of the apartment we stayed in. Katie found a website to rent apartments in Lviv, so we were able to stay four nights in a small apartment just a block or two from the central square in Lviv for less than a hotel. And really, it was as nice as a hotel and had everything we needed, even a small kitchen and a washing machine! The owner and his wife were incredibly nice people too. I'll admit walking up to the apartment I wasn't so sure about it, but once inside, it was really nice. I would come to find that's fairly normal for a lot of buildings in Ukraine: they don't look all that great on the outside, sometimes even appearing abandoned or neglected, but inside they are up-to-date and look great with nice finishes.
I very much appreciated the NYC skyline wallpaper in our apartment!
The small furnace is in the corner, next to the closet
Kitchen was small, but had everything we needed and looked nice!
First staircase...see why I was a bit nervous?
General view of the outside. Our doorway is the one on the right that just has a little corner visible
View out the door of our apartment!

The thing that stuck out to me about Lviv was it was the city that felt the most European to me. I know, I know. Ukraine is in Europe, so technically ALL the cities are European, but I mean that classic European feel, like the cities I had been to in Italy (Venice, Florence, Rome) or the pictures I've seen of places like Paris, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen. Kyiv felt, as I said, like an old Soviet city trying to reinvent itself, while Lviv felt like an old European city. I came to find that wasn't by accident. Not only did Lviv get largely spared from the destruction of World War I and World War II, it was also planned that way in the beginning. Lviv, and for that matter the other two cities we visited (Ternopil and Berezhany), has been a part of several countries during its existence, so it has a mixture of the different cultures it has been part of. It was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 (known as Львов or Lvov in Russian) as part of the Soviet-Nazi invasion of Poland to start World War II. It was taken by Nazi Germany from 1941-1944, then retaken by the USSR and made part of the Ukrainian SSR. When Ukraine became independent in 1991, it became part of Ukraine. Prior to the annexation by the Soviet Union, it was part of Poland (when it was known as Lwów), and was also part of the Austrian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire, and a succession of smaller kingdoms before then. Settlement of the area dates as far back as the 5th century AD, and Lviv itself dates to the mid-13th century. Some of the sights we saw in Lviv were Lychakiv Cemetery, High Castle, and City Hall, as well as several really eccentric and fun places to eat. We visited the local bazaar multiple times, and were able to find some really neat souvenirs not only for me, but for others in the family as well. That's where I found my new Ukraine scarf and a t-shirt.

This first set of photos are all from the historic Lychakiv Cemetery. I could probably do an entire Happenin' History post on this cemetery due to its immense history. Not only is it the final resting place of a number of notable people in Lviv's past, but it also has a large Polish military cemetery, a Soviet military cemetery, and a Ukrainian military cemetery. The Polish one in particular was quite interesting.

Inside and outside of a mausoleum I thought was interesting, just sitting there.

Monument in the military section. The monument itself is for soldiers who died in the Polish-Ukrainian War
Looking down at the Ukrainian and Soviet graves. Many of the Ukrainian graves were from the ongoing war with insurgents in the eastern part of the country, so were recent. The Soviet graves were mainly from the 1920s and into WWII.
Triumphal Arch in the Defenders of Lwow cemetery, the main Polish burial place. What was remarkable about this entire section is that it has been completely restored. After Lviv became part of the Soviet Union, this part was neglected and parts were outright destroyed, which was a policy towards most Polish things in the city. I found a photo of this area in 1997 and it was stunning how bad it was and how good it looks now. 
Defenders of Lwow Cemetery
Defenders of Lwow is such a beautiful cemetery, even more impressive once you see how bad it was by the late 1990s.
Monument to the three Americans buried at Defenders of Lwow Cemetery
Defenders of Lwow Cemetery
Defenders of Lwow Cemetery
Defenders of Lwow Cemetery Triumphal Arch. Apparently, the Soviets tried to destroy it with tanks. I guess they gave up!

Thought this was quite a tombstone! Talk about ornate!
It even has this adjacent bench and small plaza!
This and the picture below give somewhat of an idea how crowded the cemetery is, though don't do any justice how huge it is. Best I could find, some 300,000 people are buried there.

Katie also showed me two places in town I could get great views. The first was from a place called High Castle, which is basically a large hill in the middle of town that was once the home of a castle. Only a small ruin of a wall is left. From the top you can see the entire city. I'm glad we went the day we did because the next day was cloudy and colder, so the wind up there would've been brutal!

The lone remnant of the castle that gives High Castle its name. Yeah, not too impressive, but still cool

The tower is City Hall, where we went the next day for some other wonderful views!

One of the reasons Lviv feels so much more European is because the Soviet Microdistricts are out on the periphery of town, not in the middle. 

The next day we went to City Hall. We had tried the day before, but got there too close to closing time. I didn't mind too much because we stayed close to City Hall, so it wasn't like we'd have to make a big long trip back there.

The opening to the left of the church is where the bazaar is where I got my scarf (we had just come from there). Our apartment was just to the right along that same street.

Closeup of High Castle hill from City Hall
High Castle Hill in the background
Lviv tram coming into the square
Yep, those are the real bells. We were fortunate to be right in the doorway when they rang. Thankfully, we were there at 1PM and not noon!
Yeah it was chilly and windy up there!

Looking out towards where our apartment was!
One of many such staircases I saw in Ukraine. This was in the City Hall tower and was actually the lower of three staircases. Let's just say getting up there was a COMPLETE leg workout!

Lviv had so many other things to offer too, culturally and architecturally. Even though we didn't go inside the Opera House, we did have lunch in this cool place underneath the Opera House! We also had lunch at this eccentric place that reminded me of Mike's Place in Kent. Oh, and having a cup of melted chocolate at the Lviv Chocolate Factory? WOW. I also enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate from a small cafe in town. Seriously, it was like drinking a brownie!

How fun to see the local LDS church! When we got there, a nice missionary couple was inside, so we were able to  use the restroom and take a break. Ended up meeting two of the missionaries and their mission leader, which is what I do (mission leader) in Ohio! Both elders are from Ukraine, one from Kyiv, and the other from a smaller village in the east. The taller elder told me I looked "so American!" :)

Katie and I sure had a laugh when we saw a tram pull up slowly behind a truck and realized it was being PULLED by the truck. No wonder everything was going so slow! 
Lviv Opera House. I took this not too long before we left since it was much sunnier that day than the day I had first seen it! Such a beautiful building.
Above and below are some details of the Lviv Opera House

In that eccentric restaurant that reminded me of a Ukrainian Mike's Place! On the roof was even more craziness!
LOL...I got a picture of Katie taking a picture of me and vice versa...
Can see the car on the roof. Yes, it has oars.

OF COURSE we got in! 
Lviv Chocolate Company. OMG so good.

I really liked the architecture of the Lviv train station too
Main entry lobby of the Lviv train station
Main platform at Lviv
In case it wasn't obvious, yes, I really enjoyed my time in Lviv. I could easily see myself living in that city as it has everything I would need and plenty more to see. The city's slogan "Open to the world" is quite appropriate! After our wonderful visit, we took the train (via a sleeper car that may have survived World War II!) about two hours to the southeast to Ternopil (Тернопіль).

File:Логотип Львова англійською.pngFile:Логотип Львова.png

No comments: