Struck by lightning in Lviv
Lviv Travel Blog› entry 3 of 15 › view all entries
This morning we had our official tour of the city. We pretty much went to the same places we explored by ourselves yesterday, but (according to John and Lydia) more charming and thoughtful commentary :( One of the interesting things our guide told us about were some of the differences between Ukrainian orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic churches. At the alter the catholic churches have statues, but the orthodox churches have icons, because they don't believe it is possible to represent god in three dimensions. They also portray Jesus differently on the cross, Catholics having a single nail going through both feel and orthodox having one nail per foot.
We went back to ploshcha Rynok, the central town square, and were told that it was called Rynok ("ring") because of the ring of merchant houses that surrounded the square - 44 buildings in all, each with the same height and most with three windows on the ground floor (the lord wanted each merchant to have equal opportunity to display wares, and so heavily taxed houses with more than three ground floor windows - large houses have multiple windows, but only three on the ground floor). At each corner of the square is a statue of a Greek God - Adonis, Neptun, Diana and Amphitriite. The trident of Neptune is a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism, so when the Soviets were trying to suppress nationalism they removed Neptun's trident, the original stone trident is now gone, but has been replaced by a new cast iron one.
We revisited the Pharmacy museum, where we got to hear the very opinionated medical views of our guide ("doctors are going back to herbs because chemicals are bad for the body" and "the only way to give medicine to children is through a suppository, my daughter always complains 'but I don't want to have a rocket up the arse!'" and "doctors must have the eye of a falcon, the hands of a virgin, the heart of a lion and the mind of a serpent"). Following the Pharmacy museum we went to the Armenian street where we had very good drinking chocolate, which each came with a fortune. Lydia's fortune was "you are the moonlight glinting off the dew on a chrysanthemum" while mine was "you are borrowing the memories of old people because your mind will not hold your own memories".
We then walked to the old Jewish quarter (30% of the city was Jewish before the holocaust, with over 30 synagogs, now there are very few Jews and only two synagogs left) and to the remains of the old fortifications. Our guide told us the story that when the Tatars were invading the guardsman wanted to get everyone back into the city walls without causing a stampede and a panic, so instead of calling the alarm he moved the hands on the clock tower to 5:55 (the city gates closed at 6) so everyone rushed back to the city and they closed the gates.
After our tour we visited the spectacular Opera House at the end of Prospekt Svobody, and attempted to have lunch (a successful attempt for John and Lydia, but a dismal failure for me as all the "vegetarian" dishes I got ended up having pork in them). We then walked up here to Castle Hill, the site of some ruins of the old Polish fortresses on the ring of hills after Lviv. Not long ago it started to rain, just a light patter after a morning of nice blue skies, with lightning far off in the distance, but once we hit the top it started to pour down and the lightning and storm was just above us. We made it to the cafe at the base, dripping wet, which is better than the man and boy who just straggled in after being forced to weather out the brunt of the storm on the top after paths were blocked by fallen trees.
After note: the storm was actually pretty extreme. It passed within the hour giving beautiful blue skies again, but walking back along Prosekt Svobody there were broken branches and powerlines everywhere, with entire large trees uprooted and thrown around. John and I went out in search of dinner while Lydia napped, and the entire city was shut down by the damage and blackouts. After an hour we found a fresh produce market where we were able to get a loaf of bread, some cheese and a couple of bananas, which ended up being the nicest meal I've had here so far.
Additional after note: the storm was actually a hurricane, and killed five and injured twenty that day in Lviv.