From Kiev we headed west to L’viv, the city of 700 cafes. We tried to visit them all but came up about 690 short… To be honest, I’d never heard of L’viv until we began loosely planning this trip and Yegor mentioned his grandmother suggested visiting the city. But I think it might have been my favorite stop on our trip.
L’viv is in western Ukraine and is more “quintesentially” Ukrainian than the rest of Ukraine (description taken from my guidebook). While in both Kiev and later Odesa Yegor was able to converse in Russian with most people. Here, he spoke Russian to people and they replied in Ukrainian (similar languages, but Yegor said he didn’t fully understand everything that was said to him). L’viv is also rather European, reminding me of cities I have visited in Austria and the Czech Republic with its narrow cobblestone streets and European architecture.
Funny aside: In college a roommate of mine (Regina) had an assignment for her public speaking class to interview someone about their heritage. She chose me and talked about how my great great grandparents were circus performers in Ukraine who defected on one of their circus tours. Exciting stuff, huh?!? If only she got bonus points for creativity! The truth isn’t quite as exciting, but being in L’viv was exciting for me as Western Ukraine (with all its border moving and ruler swapping) is most likely the region where my ancestors are from given that my great great grandparents immigrated to the US from Austria, but spoke Ukrainian.
We might not have come across any circus performers, but we did stumble upon L’viv’s oldest brewery. And by stumble upon, I mean we specifically planned our day around checking it out. The Lvivske brewery was founded by monks in 1715. They had an exhibit of the history of the beer, which really wasn’t all that exciting. But what was worth the admissions fee was the beers that were included… 2 – 0.3L beers for 20 hryvnia (which equates to $2.50)! Given the $14 beers here in Tronheim, I was in heaven.
After enjoying our beers, one of which was an unfiltered wheat beer – transporting me right back to the beer gardens of Berlin (yum!) – we made our way next door for even more beer and good food at the beer hall. A rather large sampler? I don’t mind if I do…
But it wasn’t all about beer (or yummy desserts – I seriously had some of the most delish deserts in L’viv including a soooo good almond and buttercream cake – sugar overload but that didn’t stop me from eating every last bite). What I found most interesting about L’viv was how so many ethnic groups lived in close proximity to one another, and worked together in the interest of the common good – the city was at the intersection of major trade routes between Europe and Asia. There was an Armenian section of town, a Jewish section, a Polish section… a Jesuit Cathedral, a Greek Orthodox church, a Latin Cathedral, a Dominican church… all within blocks of one another. You’ll have to ask Yegor if you want to learn more about the history of the town. Our guide for the catacombs within the Jesuit Cathedral would talk in Russian for 5 minutes before giving Yegor 60 seconds to translate it all to me. Needless to say, I didn’t catch it all.
With exception of the first day in Kiev, we were blessed with sun every day of our time in Ukraine. With the temperatures warming up (did I mention it was soooo cold when we first arrived in Ukraine, colder than Trondheim!), we decided to spend our last afternoon in town making the trek to the cemetery. Actually, we had been contemplating between visiting the cemetery or visiting the castle on the hill above town but our decision was cemented when we learned that there wasn’t an actual castle up on the hill. How disappointing would that have been to get there and then find out!
The cemetery was built in the late 1700s when some Austro-Hungarian leader declared that all cemeteries had to be moved outside of the city due to problems concerning dead bodies and the drinking water (ewww!). What resulted was a huge, beautiful cemetery on the outskirts of town. I’m sure there were plenty of famous graves (wikipedia confirms that yes, notable people are buried there) but we just wandered around aimlessly, taking in the grave sites on a beautiful fall day.
With that, we finished off our day with a delicious Armenian/Georgian meal with new friends. And then of course another coffee shop stop before heading to the train station for yet another overnight train. This time to Odesa on the Black Sea.
More pictures from our time in L’viv can be found here. (link fixed)