Sunday, 27 May 2012

Six days in Lviv & Western Ukraine

Early in the morning of Monday 7th May, our train arrived into Lviv station, which had a grandiose station building, but the area outside the station didn't appear to be that welcoming to us, however we did manage to find out that we could catch the No31 bus to reach the centre, Due to Lviv, being one of the host cities for Euro 2012, there was a lot of road works being carried, which meant the tram route No9 from the station to the centre (Plosha Rynok) had been truncated. The time we arrived was 08.35, a time when many of the locals were going to work, and the small buses left the stop Full & Standing, eventually we boarded a 31, but passed the centre, ending up at a terminus many kilometers on the other side of the city. We then caught a bus back to a stop by Svobody Avenue, just opposite our hostel, Old City Hostel. Our checking in time wasn't due until the afternoon and so we had a wander around the stalls in Svobody Avenue, a coffee & doughnut, then visited the superb tourist information office in Plosha Rynok, and arranged a tour on Wednesday with a local historian. Around 12 we had sausages & vegetables pan fried (very tasty but arrived in a very hot pan) with a beer in one of the several pavement cafes (this one called Ratesz). When we were able to check into the hostel, we did, had a shower & rest, after meeting the helpful Irena. In the evening we wanted some supper, Irena suggested a local place called Puzata Khata, one of several places in Ukrainian cities. Puzata Khata in Lviv is on the road leading out of town towards the university. We were very impressed with this restaurant, where friendly staff in traditional Ukrainian clothes, stand behind counters offering tasty local food. This evening we tried a local soup, cake & beer. Also on our way we bought some food for breakfast tomorrow morning.

Tuesday 8th May turned out to the coolest & wettest day of the holiday. In the morning we walked around a local market selling mostly clothes & shoes, then returned to a coffee shop in Svobody avenue, while waiting for the Free Tour Lviv to start, meeting the guides & visitors outside the opera house at noon. There were several visitors waiting when the tour guides arrived. Unfortunately the lady who could speak English & knew the history was unwell, and so two others tried their best to show us some of the architecture & history of Lviv, one could speak some English, the other knew the history. After hearing about the opera house, we walked along Svobody Avenue & saw the Wave & Shevchenko memorials. The Wave symbolises the freedom of Ukraine people & T Shevchenko is the national poet. We visited the Latin and Armenian cathedrals, before ending up in the main square, Rynok Plosha. We met Doris from Singapore who is writing an article on Ukraine for a Singapore magazine. Liz & I went for some lunch in Puzata Khata, where we discovered the lovely local soup & Ukrainian cheesecake. In the afternoon we visited a famous cemetery called Lychakiv. The walled cemetery is one of the "must visit" (along with Pere Lachaise in Paris & the Zefriedhof in Vienna) cemetery for its interesting memorials, mausoleums & statues dedicated to famous people including Polish nobles, Polish Child soldiers, Communist, Polish & Ukrainian heroes. The cemetery was created from a paupers burial ground by the Austrian-Hungarians in 1786. We travelled to Lychakiv by tram No7 from the book market place (where there is a statue of a man reading a book). Lviv is also famous for its trams which are quite old, and run on a metre gauge, In the cemetery there was so much to see it took us nearly the whole afternoon. With the weather damp & quite dark, this made the atmosphere even more eerie. We took the tram back to Lviv Book Market Place, and spent the evening in the hostel, we had bought some cold meat, cheese, bread, fruit, beer & wine for our supper. We also met Viktor who is a guide/driver & interpretor & we arranged a tour of Western Ukraine for 7am on Thursday 8th May.  

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