Lviv Trip Part 2

Day 2 of our trip was jammed packed full of fun!  It started with a buffet breakfast at our hotel.  I must say that the hotel we stayed in was phenomenal and exceeded expectations.  It was centrally located, had a buffet breakfast with eggs to order, a great bar, and heated toilet seats.  Ladies and gents, if you have not experienced heated toilet seats, it is something that I highly recommend if given the opportunity:)

The concierge had given us a map of the area and circled various items of interest for us to explore when we checked in the day before.   We decided to go to High Castle, which is actually ruins of a castle on top of a hill with a fantastic view of the city of Lviv.  We took an Uber there, as it was quite a walk from the hotel.  The Uber was super cheap (I think less than $3 USD) so we were fine with that.  We ended up doing a lot of walking around the hill to get to the top of High Castle, so we did get our exercise in that way.

Our next stop was Pototski Palace, which we randomly saw on a magnet in one of the souvenir stands on High Castle.  Yep, we saw a picture of a palace that was in Lviv and said, “let’s go here.”  So we did.  Pototski Palace was well kept and had a ton of beautiful artwork for us to enjoy.  For an entrance fee of less than $4 USD per person, it was well worth the time and money to visit.

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After a busy morning hiking up the hill and exploring a palace, we worked up an appetite.  Lucky for us, I noticed on the map that the concierge gave us that there was an Asian food festival going on at one of the local parks that afternoon, so we walked there to check it out.  In addition to Asian food, there was barbeque, local vendors selling crafts and honey, and archery.

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Once we had our share of bites, beverages, and ice cream, we headed to the Lviv Opera House.  We paid less than $4 USD for a self-guided tour, and were so impressed that we decided to come back a couple of hours later to see a performance.  We ended up seeing the opera Don Pasquale.

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After the performance we went to a Mexican restaurant for tacos and margaritas.  We walked back enjoying the town lit up at night.  The next day we headed back to Kyiv on the express train.  All in all, it was a wonderful holiday in a beautiful city.  I would definitely come back to Lviv again!

Lviv Trip Part 1

Recently my husband and I went on a short holiday to Lviv, Ukraine.  Located west of Kyiv about 431 km (268 miles) from the Polish border, Lviv was on my bucket list of places to travel while posted here in Ukraine.  The architecture and ambiance had been described and shown in pictures as a dreamy romantic getaway city, and it did not disappoint.

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The fact that we could travel there by train, car, or plane left us with several options.  I had heard good things about the express train to Lviv, so we decided to take that route.  The time it took to travel from Kyiv to Lviv was a little over five hours.  The train ride was air conditioned, with WiFi, and there were snacks and beverages available for purchase.

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When we arrived in Lviv, there was overwhelming commotion – construction (and lots of nonstop construction noise), endless tour buses, cars, and tourists in and around the station.

Train Station

Needless to say, the ambiance was not what I expected at first.  Once we got in our Uber and entered the Opera and Rynok Square areas about 15 or 20 minutes away from the train station, I saw exactly what I envisioned.  We arrived at our hotel around noon, and luckily they allowed us to check in early.  Our hotel was located fairly close to Rynok Square and the Opera House, which allowed for us to walk pretty much anywhere we wanted to go.  So, we dropped our bags off, freshened up, and headed out to explore the cobblestone streets of Lviv.

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Our first stop was Rynok Square.  We were hungry, and it was lunchtime, so we wandered around until we found Baczewski Restaurant, which had outstanding Pierogis and beer.  We sat outside and people watched during our meal.

Afterwards, we explored more of the square, with its many stores and vendors.  We popped into Lviv Chocolates for a sweet treat and then walked around some more, buying some souvenirs.

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While exploring the square, a restaurant that caught my interest was one that I called the sword and the stone restaurant.  From the pictures below, you can see why I gave it that name:

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One thing I noticed were the many lion symbols throughout the city.  This is due to the fact that Lviv is translated to English as Leo’s lands or Leo’s City.

IMG_0721After a long day of travel and walking around, we called it a night and went back to the hotel, gearing up for a fun second day in Lviv!  Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Lviv holiday..

Museums and Park Sunday Funday

About a month or so ago, my husband and I went on a city tour arranged by our CLO office.  During the tour, we visited Taras Shevshenko Park. Unfortunately our camera was not functioning that day, so this past weekend we went back to take some pictures of the park and to visit some of the museums in the area that were pointed out on the tour as well.

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Taras Shevshenko was a Ukrainian poet, writer, and artist.  He was also an academic, political figure, and ethnographer.  To read more about his life, check out this Wikipedia site

Taras Shevshenko Park has a restaurant, a few food and drink stands, and unique benches.  Here are some pictures of the beautiful park:

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There is a museum about a block away with Taras Shevshenko’s work, but we ended up going to a couple of other museums instead after walking around the park. The first museum that we went to was the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Art. We did not take many pictures, but the artwork there was phenomenal.  Ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Roman art was displayed, as well as very old Ukrainian art.  Admission was less than $4 USD per person and worth every penny.  As we entered the most beautiful sculpture caught our eyes:

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After exploring the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Art, we went to the Kyiv National Museum of Russian Art.   The price of admission was under $4 USD as well, and had some really wonderful art.  Below were some of our favorite art that was displayed in the museum.

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Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

The CLO office offered an excursion to see the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, which is translated into English as the Monastery of the Caves. The excursion included a guided tour of the Monastery and access to local honey vendors, so of course I signed my husband and I up.

Dating back to the 10th Century, the Monastery has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also voted as one of the seven wonders of Ukraine. There are many buildings on the grounds, including quite a few churches, a Seminary, a bell tower, and catacombs. The grounds offer a nice view of the Dnieper River and the city as well.

Some of the grounds are undergoing renovation, and there are over 100 monks in residence. At one point there were over 1,000 monks! We were able to peek in several of the churches to listen to the beautiful music and see the Baroque architecture. We also got to see the catacombs and caves, which we had to light candles and to see. It was a cool experience. A side note, women are supposed to cover their heads in most churches here in Ukraine, so I was advised to bring a scarf. They also frown upon shorts, which ended up not being an issue because our tour was on an unseasonably cool day in August.

On the grounds there were also vendors selling fresh honey, which is a seasonal thing here, so we bought some. There were at least twenty vendors selling different types of honey- but our favorites were sunflower honey and buckwheat honey. The vendors allowed us to try so many types of honey that I was almost in sugar shock:). We even got to try honey that has the consistency of butter, which was AMAZING!! Of course we bought that as well.

Photography is prohibited inside the buildings, which is a shame because they are so stunning inside. Thus, here are some pictures of the grounds and our honey haul:

Our honey haul, I believe we got all this for around $12 or $13 USD.

Babushkas

Babushka is the Russian word for grandmother. In our apartment building, the front desk attendants are of a certain age that they could be grandmothers, so of course I call them the babushkas.

The babushkas take their job very seriously. They monitor who goes in and who goes out, and if they don’t know you, they will stop you and ask what you are doing here and who you are here to see. One afternoon I came home from running errands to a babushka who waved me down to let me know that two people from the Embassy came to visit earlier that day while I was gone.

One time a person was parked in our parking spot in the garage and we told the babushka, and she quickly took care of the matter. Another responsibility of the babushka is to give us our monthly utility bills. They also tend to the many plants that are in our lobby.

Of course most of our communication is non verbal. I use Google Translate and hand gestures the majority of the time. Somehow, we understand each other fairly well. With each week of language lessons I am able to communicate with them better. A few weeks ago I said good afternoon (добрий день), and I got the biggest smile from one of the babushkas.

The babushkas act as a grandmotherly figure to those in the building and dote on the little children who live in the building. I have heard stories of the babushkas making sure you are dressed properly in the wintertime, making sure everyone wears a hat and has a good warm coat and gloves on before they go outside, and I completely believe that the babushkas would do that.

I think each building should have a babushka. We would all benefit from babushkas in our lives.

National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War

On a glorious sunny 70 degree weekend day, my husband and I decided to go to the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War. The Memorial Complex is both indoor and outdoor, on extensive grounds covering quite a few acres.

We spent about two and a half hours there. The grounds contained two indoor museums and a long pathway that had sculptures and war machines such as tanks and helicopters. The grounds were truly beautiful and there were so many artifacts to see in the museums.

It was quite an informative and sobering afternoon spent learning about the war from the Ukrainian perspective. Admission to the grounds is free, however you pay small entrance fees to different areas if you want to get a closer look at different machines (such as the inside of a WW2 helicopter) or the indoor museums. The money spent was completely worth it as the items we saw were carefully curated and everything was so nicely done.

There was a guided tour in English that we encountered while in one of the museums, for those who want a more involved and informative experience. I highly recommend visiting this museum to anyone who comes to Kyiv.

Getting Around Kyiv

There are a good amount of methods of transportation that you can use to get around Kyiv:

Tram:

For 8 UAH (about $.25 USD) you can purchase a one-way tram ticket. Trams come approximately every 15 minutes and are fairly speedy. You buy your ticket on a tram and then use a machine on the tram to punch holes in the ticket to show that you are using it for your trip.

Metro:

Also 8 UAH (about $.25), you can purchase a one-way Metro ticket. Kyiv’s Metro is one of the deepest metros in the world and is super fast.

City Bus:

Another option is the city bus, which I have not yet taken. I have heard that they run quite frequently and are faster than the tram.

Uber:

Uber is super cheap here in Ukraine and I rarely have to wait more than 8 minutes for a ride. On average they have been around 4 minutes wait time for me. To get around town costs about 75-125 UAH (about $3-$5 USD) on average.

POV (A.K.A., your car):

We have a sturdy vehicle for road trips and weekend use. The issues with driving around Kyiv are there is rarely any on street parking (just make your own spot sidewalk parking) and the occasional parking garage has super tight parking spaces if they exist. Additionally, the streets are not in the best condition and you will be apologizing to your car for all the potholes that you will drive over. My advice, have very good shocks on your vehicle and bring whatever extra parts you anticipate needing replacement.