My plan to visit every country in Europe in 2012 should have involved a lot of planning, but it hasn’t. It involved Microsoft paint, a map of Europe and a red line. With that in mind, my first stop in Ukraine was Lviv, in the west.
Much like Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Tallinn (Estonia), Lviv’s old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which I’ve learned to understand means that it’s gonna be bloody beautiful, and it was. This is quite widely, and quite rightly, recognized as Ukraine’s ‘nicest’ city.
As soon as I dropped my bags at my hostel I went exploring. As you guys probably know, Ukraine is hosting the 2012 European Football Championships, which is a pretty big deal in Europe. Lviv was buzzing with football stuff going on everywhere, but when I saw a huge queue in front of the beautiful ballet and opera theatre in the city centre I had to check out what was going on. On display was the actual trophy that the champions are gonna lift, complete with a 3 hour queue to get a picture with it. What idiot would queue up just to touch a bloody trophy?! This idiot:
Ok, Lviv had now cemented itself as one of my favourite cities due to this alone, but there’s a lot more to offer. Endless (cheap) bars and restaurants, with so much character, none more so than CHECK?, where you need a password to enter (more about that in tomorrow’s post). The architecture throughout the old town is beautiful and there’s more churches than you can imagine.
A couple of days is perfect for sightseeing, stay longer if you wanna kick back and chill, Lviv is an awesome place to recharge those waning traveling batteries. When you’re here though check out the top 6 things to see in Lviv:
I thought this was a bit off, snapping pics in a cemetery but in a time where Auschwtiz, the Killing Fields, Hiroshima and Chernobyl are frequented by backpackers, I guess this is no different.
About a 30 minute walk (or tram 7) from the city centre, is one of Europe’s most picturesque cemeteries (is that an oxymoron?). The Ukranians are nothing if not a religious bunch and this cemetery highlights that with some of the most ornate tombstones you’re ever likely to see. It’s nice to walk around, but I just felt a little weird taking pics of people’s graves.
Bang in the city centre, for $2 you can climb the 400 steps or so to the top and get great views of the whole city. It’s a bit of a trek so be prepared, but the views really stretch far.
Not so much a castle anymore as a quaint viewing point on a hill, where you can bask in the summer sun, overlooking all of Lviv. You can walk to the bottom of the hill from the city in around 20 mins, and give yourself at least another 20 to walk to the top.
I could write 200 articles on the churches in Lviv alone, but I won’t. I’m getting a little churched out with my trip through Europe but I can still appreciate beauty. Of all the churches try to see the Armenia Cathedral and the Assumption Church & Three Saints Chapel.
Taras Shevchenko, a poet and a critic of Russian oppression, has a statue all to himself. Much to my dismay I’m afraid though, when I heard about the Shevchenko statue I completely expected to see a shrine to Andrey Shevchenko, the Ukraine and former AC Milan footballer, apparently the poet is more important. Philistines.
Anyways, in the strip of park in the city centre is a monument for him, the area is beautiful and there’s free wifi, so bring your iphone or laptop and chill for an hour or so.
Ivano-Franko Opera & Ballet theatre:
In the same strip as Shevchenko’s statue is the very impressive theatre building, complete with beautiful fountain. A photo can be enough but go inside and try to open your cultural mind with a performance (tickets start at $10!). I was out of luck though.
After those 6, a walk around old town, a night sampling some fine Ukrainian beers and you’ll be doing Lviv some justice. I’m off to Kiev next, night train for 10 hours ($18). Happy travels!