Tuesday, July 11, 2006


5th of July – 8th of July

Welcome to Ukraine! The land where cigarettes cost as little as $0.20, beer costs $0.40 and ice cream comes in wrappers with BMWs on the front. We arrived on an overnight bus to Lviv at the break of dawn, a trip that included a welcoming 3 hour border crossing. We arranged our accommodation with a family in a house since our only other realistic choice was to stay at the Banking Academy Hostel. No kidding!

With faded, ornate buildings and friendly, unjaded locals, it feels very much like Prague because everyone drinks beer like it’s soda while they walk between job interviews. It’s also similar because it’s beautiful but daunting because no-one speaks English.
One could never truly be in Ukraine if one has not cleaned and tasted sunflower seeds. Here, Zhenia buys a glassful from a sweet lady on the street.

The beer drinking spot of choice is the central avenue, Prospect Svobody, which boasts an enormous status of Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), the revered national poet who embodied and stirred the national consciousness, while achieving literary respectability for a Ukrainian language then suppressed under tsarist Russian rule.
Here the locals gather to smoke, sing songs, chat up girls and play chess. All of course, with a bottle of beer in hand.
Later, we climbed the Zamkova Hora to see the High Castle. The 14th century ruined stone fort at the summit was Lviv’s birthplace and offers the best vantage point of the modern city.
A bit on the morbid side and not so much your typical tourist attraction is the Lychakivsky Cemetary, compared as the Père Lachaise of Eastern Europe. Unlike in Paris, no one is holding a vigil for Jim Morrison but it is a final resting place for many important Ukrainians and Poles alike.
Museum of Folk Architecture and Life was a day trip, or rather a hike, up to a somewhat isolated woodland area where we walked around and saw different styles of old farmsteads, windmills, churches and school built in Ukraine. Here, Zhenia stands in the gates of a chimneyless wooden house built in the 17th century in the Lviv region.
Another example of folk architecture with elaborate carvings and straw roof.
Zhenia stops to talk to some nuns eating lunch.

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