Wednesday, August 10, 2011

L'viv, Львів, Львов, Lwów, or Lemberg - however you say it, you are fantastic

Words literally can't describe how freaking sweet this city is. Lets just say a couple things... 
overly complicated train tickets
  1. if you come to visit me from the states - we're going here (no choice)
  2. if my PC salary / workload could afford both the 250 UAH and the 14 hour travel time - I'd be there on the reg
  3. put on your walking shoes - because why bus when there is so much to see around every corner (and I know a quaint 6km walking tour)
So some few weeks back and through the magic of social networking sites, I mentioned the idea of traveling somewhere / anywhere because I had a light work week before the craziness of August would commence. The idea of L'viv was thrown out there. At frist it was retracted by yours truly because it was a hop, skip, and a half country away. I'll admit L'viv was one of the main cities I was dying to visit, however I was a tad scared of traveling by train solo for such a long distance. However after a little fuss I gave in and purchased the basically non-refundable tickets (they lose like half their value if you return them) and thus locked me into that which became Львів 2011.

Let us begin with a weekend recap video to get y'all pumped to visit - courtesy of iMovie, DSLR, iPod Touch, and one sleepless night

music: Young the Giant - My Body

So as you might have figured out, L'viv is like stepping out of Ukraine and into a real European city - ironically where the people actually speak pure Ukrainian. People seemed really receptive/excited to hear foreigners give a go at their language. 

So the excursion began at midnight in Myrhorod where the Kharkiv - L'viv train picked me up. While their was initial hostel / apt renting complications over the meaning of "booked", it all worked out for the best. Much thanks to Miss Robin Belinsky for letting me crash at her apartment in town while I waited around. Anyways, I don't know why I was nervous at all - trains are freaking awesome! I met a lot of really interesting people, a lot of which knew about the Peace Corps program / had a volunteer in their town. 

So one may ask what an overnight train ride is like in "economy" third class? It's much like the black friday videos of people trying to get into WalMart - but it's totally the way to go. There are no little rooms like the Hogwarts Express however the stewart does come around with a cart of goodies you can purchase (sadly, no chocolate frogs). It's like this, four bunks to a given space, with two other side berths facing perpendicular to the other four bunks (I'm sure there must be a more logical way to describe this). I guess the sardine aspect is a bit of an over exaggeration but it's definitely a forced meet and greet situation - and their is apparently Ukr train etiquette
  • If you have the lower (нижнє) seat, people can and will sit on your bed without asking
    • However once you put the sheets on your bed, a request or invitation is required
  • Sharing food and drinks is highly recommended 
  • Sharing your life story is also highly recommended 
So I arrived around 2:30PM the next day and met up with Kym waiting at the train station and we made our way / out of our way (undesired directional detour) to our castle / hostel we were staying in. In total eight group 41 PCV's from all over descended on L'viv. 

Top Sites
  1. climbing the tower in Ploshcha Rynok square
  2. tall castle (високий замок) lookout 
  3. Криївка bar/restaurant
  4. Hostel Roxelana which was located in a castle
  5. churches from a variety of religious affiliations 
  6. view from the Citadel-Inn
  7. L'viv Handmade Chocolate factory
  8. L'viv Brewery
  9. wheeling and dealing at the craft bazaar
Top Highlights
  1. architecture
  2. bomb homemade dinners / breakfasts daily
  3. taking way to many pictures
  4. getting free apples from the bazaar women
  5. losing at chess with a local 
  6. photo session with a group of baba's
  7. moon-walking on the Taras Shevchenko statue
  8. never ending walking tour (due to frequent cafe, bazaar, beer, girl clothes / jewelry breaks)
  9. meeting creepy Russians
  10. getting hit on by a bazaar baba
  11. guy in the hostel who had an "issue"

All and all, awesome trip, awesome people, would do it all again.