viv - Lvov - Lemberg
June 24 - June 30, 2002
Lviv confirmed the place Ukraine had won in our affections. Former center of Polish culture and now a magnet for the relatively strong Polish zloty, Lviv is a charming city rich in history and culture and with a decidedly European outlook. Sadly for Jan, more Polish than Russian is spoken. [more to come.]
The main train station, as you can see, has recently had a face-lift. It probably looks as good as when it was built sometime in the 19th century.
We came here a couple of times looking for information about trains to Poland but in the end we took a bus from the out-of-town bus station. The bus station was fairly new, but was scruffy compared to this gem.
The "high culture" artistic life in Ukraine is still alive, even if not quite so subsidized as it was in Soviet days. Now rock and other formerly disapproved alternatives are easily available and draw a clientele that would have gone to concerts and operas.
In Kiev we did make it to a concert in a lovely greek-revival concert hall. Unfortunately we had failed to understand it was a reprise of new music, not to our taste, and we left at the interval.
The Kiev Opera is an attractive building, but sadly seen by us only from the outside, since we failed to understand that the season was not over; only when we saw people going in one evening did we realize our mistake.
We had better luck in Lviv. There, a miniature Vienna opera house sits at the end of a long, grassy mall that begins just outside the St. George hotel. Inside is a very ornate room that was like an old-fashioned version of Rudaki Hall, our old haunt in Tehran.
We spent a very pleasant evening at this baroque opera building and saw a very good performance of Verdi's Nabucco.
More lovely buildings that give on to Svoboda, or Freedom, Square, the main square of the city. The green mall down the center of the square becomes a center for chess-players in the warm summer evenings.
Expert speed-chess players take on all-comers for a bet of half or one griven. It doubtless doubles their income as they rarely lose.
Gerry played a couple
of games before concluding that he was more than outclassed and
had better stop sending good money after bad.
This is another view of the main street of Lviv. The opera is the building to the right.
Many people like this friendly lady bring their garden produce into the city to sell on the sidewalks. One day we bought some delicious fresh raspberries on the street in Lviv from a little old lady equipped with a basket of fruit and a large jam jar that when filled cost only 25 cents.
This open air market surprised us by specializing in wedding dresses. It reminded us of Stella and the other women we met on the bus from Romania to Ukraine who crossed the border on a regular basis to sell hand-made wedding dresses for the stronger Romanian currency. Perhaps these were for rich Poles coming across the border from the West.
Confirmation dresses were also for sale in the market. The rebirth of religion in Ukraine has also caused a boom in confirmation (first communion) ceremonies.
While visiting an exhibit by a local artist at the Lviv art museum, we met the artist himself and bought one of his smaller works. The museum was interesting, but it was clear from the efforts of museum guards to sell us things that the museums are now relatively underfunded and their employees therefore, like almost all state employees, are underpaid.