Day 8: Strolling through a UNESCO World Heritage city

Lviv Travel Blog

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arriving at Lviv station
People I met here and/or traveled with: Aleksandra (Ukraine)

Last night I spent my fourth night on a train this week. Not that I mind, I find the trains in Ukraine a great way to travel. They are comfortable, reliable and cheap. I had slept like a little baby all night and arrived awake and refreshed in Lviv. (or Lvov, depending on which spelling you use).

Although... the train had arrived at a little before 7, so there I was, standing at the station, with all my luggage, without a hotel reservation or in fact any idea of where I was going. My trip to Lviv had been such a spur of the moment decision, that I hadn't really planned anything.

Not to worry though, Lviv is Ukraine's most touristic city, and while they didn't have an apartment booking agency at the train station, like in Odessa, they did have Internet facilities.
Lviv station
So I sat down and looked up some websites for hotels and apartment rentals.
I was very conscious of the time and the fact that Ukrainians usually don't rise very early, so I spent some time checking my mails first before I called one of the agencies. A somewhat sleepy voice answered the phone and asked me to call me back in 10 minutes. A few minutes later however I already received a text message saying “Vladimir has apartment available” with a telephone number. So I phoned this Vladimir, who told me he would have an apartment available, but since check-in time was not until 12, I had to call him back in about an hour.

After the whole unexpected chain of events from yesterday I was in such a good and relaxed mood that I didn't mind a bit. I dropped off my luggage at the station and took a tram into town.
Streets of Lviv
These trams were once proud examples of Soviet mass transit, but these days the ramshackle carriages which date back from the fifties look a bit like a joke. Then again, the prices also still seem to date back from the 50s and at 9 cents a trip I did not complain. Besides, while they are anything but quick, but they are fun. And it was not as if I was in a hurry, now was I?

While looking outside from the tram it became clear what all the fuzz about Lviv was all about. This is in fact a very beautiful city. For some reason the city had remained largely unharmed by Stalinist purges, WWII and Sovietification. I have not been able to figure out why, but for some reason Stalin did not feel the need to tear down the churches in this city, and when the war came the Germans seemed all to happy to have the former Hapsburg city they call Lemsburg reunited with their Prussian empire, so they didn't bomb it like they had done with Kiev and Warsaw and so many other cities in this region.
Streets of Lviv


These days Lviv is like an open air museum and its entire centre is protected by UNESCO's World Heritage. Apparently it rivals Krakow with its beauty and it has one trump card over its Polish counterpart: an almost complete absence of tourists.
That said, this is the most touristic city of Ukraine, but rather than whole flocks of people, you see a handful of group tours roaming the streets with a guide, mainly national tourists from Ukraine, or Polish. I think I only heard English spoken once.

When I got off the tram in the centre I went in search for a place to have some breakfast. This clearly isn't Odessa with a Top Sandwich on every street corner, but eventually I found a great place with a terrace where I could enjoy an omelet and a couple of espressos in the early morning sun.
breakfast time


Another reason why Lviv is a rarity in Ukraine: it has a genuine tourist office! And that was a good thing, since I needed to figure out how to get to Moldova from here, in order to catch my flight to Istanbul. Turns out the tourist office has moved, but next door of this address there was an agency for long-distance bus tickets. The lady didn't speak a word of English, but we managed to communicate fairly well and she gave me the info I needed for buses to Chişinău. I was pleased to hear there is in fact a daily bus, but unfortunately she wasn't able to sell me tickets. I would have to go to the bus station, 8 kilometres from the centre.
Ah well, it was not as if I was in any hurry, now was I? So off I went on a city bus to the station. Buying the ticket was a piece of cake, though I was somewhat worried when I found out the bus journey would take 17 hours.
couple of babushka's catching up on the latest gossip
Surely this was a mistake, since Chişinău is only 450 kilometres away...

Back in the centre I met with Vladimir in front of my apartment, which was located smack in the city centre. He told me that business was a bit slow at the moment, so I could have a big apartment for the price of a small one. And with big apartment he actually meant huge! Not one, but two living rooms (both with a TV) a separate kitchen and a spacious bedroom. Wait, I think it is better if I give a little tour around my apartment using some photos, because words cannot do it any justice.
And the furnishing? Absolutely horrible! I loved it!

After a shower and changing into a clean set of clothes I set out to explore the rest of the city. I strolled around for a couple of hours, since that is what people do in Lviv.
the streets of Lviv
The city isn't really renowned for its museums or activities, so its buildings are definitely the city's strong point.

I was really glad to have had the opportunity to have seen this place, as it surely is the most beautiful place I have seen in Ukraine.

Dinner was at Puzhata Khata, a Ukrainian restaurant chain which has a huge branch in Lviv. To describe it I can best compare it to the Dutch chain restaurant La Place, only with traditional Ukrainian food.

I met a nice Lvivian student who joined me for dinner and a chat. She spoke quite decent English (even though she felt otherwise) and quite ironically she had to cut our conversation short because she had to go to English classes, which she is following in order to be able to move to Italy where she has some sort of boyfriend.
Dominican cathedral
I did not dare ask. Ukrainian women seem to be the country's number one export product and sometimes it really seems as if every girl in the country is looking for a husband.

Of course I heard stories/jokes and seen websites advertising Ukrainian women. There's bound to be a sponsored link to one somewhere on this page. However, I always thought these links to be either scams or links to porn sites. And they probably are. But apparently there are many Ukrainian marriage agencies which are genuinely the real deal. Every map or brochure I opened this past week had at least one advertisement for such a company, not to mention most of the apartment rental agencies doubling as marriage agencies as well. And with marriage agency I don't mean an online escort service, no, real dating agencies with the intention of marrying off these girls, offering assistance with legal documents and interpretation services.
Let's do a virtual tour through my apartment: this is the hallway


Anyway, I did not ask any further and let her leave for her classes. I spent the rest of the evening working on my blog in a sheesha bar with free wi-fi. Strange how the best Internet in the country seems can be found in sheesha bars. Not that I am complaining though!

Biedjee says:
Yeah, that was pretty much what I figured (in less words though :-))
Posted on: Jul 18, 2010
Lenusha says:
The sad situation with all 25+ yr old girls trying to marry out of the country is easy to explain. We have an enormous social gap between girls who were still born and raised in Soviet Union and guys of the same age. Latter lived through a major collapse of self-esteem during last years of USSR and pretty much all of the 90's: absence of jobs and certainty resulted in decline of masculinity and horrible alcoholism statistics. Somehow women who are currently between 30 and 40 adapted faster. They are generally more successful, articulate and well-groomed, which makes them either settle for low-grade local husbands or look into marrying a foreigner.

That said, the situation has changed considerably for those who are under 25. My little bro is 21 and all his friends are about the same. These kids were born and went to school after collapse of the Soviet Union - they do not expect the government to sort their shit out for them. They also tend to be much more cosmopolitan, stylish and informed. So chances are the girls who are currently in their teens won't be annoying the hell out of the Western world by maintaining Ukraine's lead wife importer status.
Posted on: Jul 16, 2010
dukeBG says:
Seems like you talk more about girls than about your journey and as your friend I have to remind you about all eastern girls, especially these in the former USSR republic... :)))

Strange journey curve and if you look at the map you'll find that great situation of Sofia and may be, just may be, in the next few days you will combine Sofia with Istanbul... ;)
Posted on: Apr 16, 2010
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arriving at Lviv station
arriving at Lviv station
Lviv station
Lviv station
Streets of Lviv
Streets of Lviv
Streets of Lviv
Streets of Lviv
breakfast time
breakfast time
couple of babushkas catching up o…
couple of babushka's catching up …
the streets of Lviv
the streets of Lviv
Dominican cathedral
Dominican cathedral
Lets do a virtual tour through my…
Let's do a virtual tour through m…
this is the (first) sitting room
this is the (first) sitting room
and the kitchen
and the kitchen
and the bedroom
and the bedroom
and the second sitting room
and the second sitting room
and finally, the very spaceous toi…
and finally, the very spaceous to…
Streets of Lviv
Streets of Lviv
The Black Mansion on Ploscha Rynok
The Black Mansion on Ploscha Rynok
Dominican Cathedral
Dominican Cathedral
Lviv Art Gallery
Lviv Art Gallery
Lviv
photo by: Biedjee