Lviv Me Do

After a long night of tossing and turning sleep on the train from Kiev, we made it to L’viv at around 6:30 in the morning. Walking to the cabbies, we heard something familiar – Ukrainian! Being spoken! Not Russian! Now we’re talkin’ (literally, haha). Now Jaro and his family could actually communicate with the locals without problems. A short (and cheap) cab ride later and we were at our apartment. Or so we thought. Turns out, the address provided was incorrect and our actual apartment was across town. Really… this wasn’t a big deal. Although the landlord admitted people show up at the wrong place all the time. Probably a good sign that they should be clearer in their directions.

Anywho, we got to the apartment. It was on a lovely boulevard called pr Schevchenka, right in the center of town. This was our view:

pr Schevchenka

Such a pretty street! Not a Soviet-style, project-looking building in sight. Lovely!

On that first day, Jaro and I did a Lonely Planet walking tour of the city, which was pretty decent and helped us get oriented. It included a nice long climb up Castle Hill, which had great views of the city. We just so happened to run into his family up there too, so they snapped this pic of us. 🙂

Jaro & I on Castle Hill, Lviv

We continued our tour and passed several beautiful cathedrals and charming streets. Just look at the cute town square (A UNESCO World Heritage Site):

pl Rynok

Ended up at Pid Synoyu Plyashkoyu or “Under the Blue Bottle” for some mud coffee and sandwiches at lunchtime. Both were just okay. It was a cool, little place though, tucked away in the back of an alley. After more moseying, we stopped at a quaint cafe called Fresca and cuddled up under a blanket on their patio to savor some hot beer with coffee(delicious), hot tea with brandy (also delicious) and chocolate-covered salo. Do you know what salo is? Well if you clicked the link, you do now. I thought it was going to have a bacon-y taste and texture, getting that whole mix of salty n’ sweet, but it really just felt like I was chewing on rubber. Not the biggest fan, but I was happy to have tried it anyway. Later that evening, we all gathered for a birthday dinner at Amadeus (happy birthday, Marta!), a small Italian/Ukrainian bistro in the heart of town with a menu the size of the Bible. Service was friendly, atmosphere was cozy and food was good. Yes, yes, yes.

Day #2 took four of us (the parents and us) to Lvivske Brewery, the oldest still-functioning brewery in Ukraine. While I wouldn’t recommend the museum, it’s worth it to pay for the entrance anyway because two (big!) beers are included. There is also Robert Doms Beer House (underground cave, which becomes a theme on this trip as you’ll see) on site where we got some snacks and had more beers. This brewery is an easy walk from city center! Good place to watch a game as the cave had monstrous tv’s. After the long walk home, we were pretty much ready for dinner (who’s surprised), and after a quick drink at Four Friends (English style pub), we went to the most memorable meal of the trip – at Kryjivka.

This guy…

Kryjivka doorman

…met us at the door, handed us each a shot out of that canteen and let us in. Another underground (see?) Ukrainian-themed restaurant; such a fun experience. Here’s our whole group enjoying!

Cheers to L'viv!

Stuffed my face full of varenykyj, potato pancakes, sausage, beer and vodka and woke up the next morning thinking I was dead. And in hell. Alas, I just had a nasty hangover.

Day #3 took Jaro and I to Dzyga cafe (pronounced “Jigga”) for beers (pre-noon, we’re crazy like that), Livy Bereh for lunch (underneath {again with the caves!} the opera house), a pick up football game for his job, Lychakivske Cemetery, and finally dinner at Veronica’s (you guessed it, underground), which had the same Bible-length menu as Amadeus. No complaints here. Phew, long day.

Day #4 was Orthodox Easter. Jaro and I had every intention of making the last 30 minutes of mass, but these Ukes have things way more stream-lined than the ones in Chicago. Mass was over in an astoundingly short 2.5 hours. So, dressed in our Sunday Finest, we joined his parents for Easter Brunch at Dim Lehend. And by “Easter Brunch”, I mean we made it one by all ordering the same egg dish and having champagne next to our OJ. Niiice. Very weird decor in there, but that is just keeping things par for the course interesting, right?

After that, we thought it’d be a good idea to burn it off by climbing the tower in the middle of Rynok Square. Here’s a cute one of Jaro with his parents:

Happy Easter from Lviv!

This tower had the best views of the city. See?

Naturally, a climb such as this required re-fueling at another bar, Smachna Plitka (underground, but don’t bother), a sweet stop at Veronica’s (heavenly pastries in there) and a late dinner at Cafe 1.

Day #5 was lazy. Jaro and I spent much of the day working/reading in a coffee shop and wandering around some more. It was starting to feel like enough. We then had a little romantic date night at Centaur, a restaurant on the square where we tried rabbit baked in sour cream and I may be definitely am dreaming about it. It was that heavenly.

Day #6 was more wandering, more sitting in cafes. Definitely enough. But we didn’t depart on the train back to Kiev until we had one last family dinner at Kryjivka! No shots for me this time. Just loads of potato varenykyj.

I was so amazed at the difference between this city and Kiev. It was like two totally different worlds. Did many people in L’viv speak English? Not really. But when ordering off a menu (almost all had English translations), a point and a smile speaks volumes.

Despite my language constraints, I really enjoyed being there. In a place where we didn’t stick out like sore thumbs. Just thumbs. And that’s okay, because a regular old thumb is normal. Would I go back? Sure. Might not be on the top of my list, but I will say this – Anyone traveling to Ukraine should try to get out to L’viv. Such a great, relaxed cafe culture. Where women (gasp!) wear flats. Where people smile. Where prices are reasonable. Where buildings are charming. Where people speak the language of the country they inhabit.

Then compare it to Kiev and tell me what you think. Over Lviv coffee a Lvivske 1715.