July 14th, 15th 2010
I took the overnight train from Kiev to Lviv. I departed around 10 pm and arrived around 7 am the next day. The train itself was old and I had a bunk that was a bit cramped but I surprisingly slept for most of the journey. The train ride cost 93 HRY (roughly $12), surprisingly cheap but I guess old train + Eastern Europe + common route = cheap prices.
After taking tram #9 to the city center, I got off and looked around for Drukarska Street. Bear in mind, I had to find this street with no map, and in Cyrillic. A kind old lady took it upon herself to show me where it was (the only words shared between us were “Drukarska? Drukarska. Drukarska? Yay! Drukarska!”. My hostel was located at the top floor of a real old building, much like my hostel in Kiev. Old Soviet style buildings, converted into living spaces for travellers.
With a map provided by Igor, the guy who works at the hostel, I set about exploring the city. Hiked to the top of Vysoky Zamok (Castle Hill) and got a nice overview of the city. Walking around this time was easier after I had some practice reading Cyrillic. I could make out street names, compare it to my map, and not get lost. Plus, the city itself wasn’t too big so it was difficult to get lost.
After walking around for a bit, it was time for lunch. I tried to find a self-service cafeteria (like the one in Kiev) that Igor told me about. It was supposed to be next to Lviv University but I didn’t find it. I didn’t know its name, just the whereabouts, but I figured it would be obvious. I decided to consult my guide book for another place to eat and turns out, they listed a self-service cafeteria (Puzata Khata) located around the same spot Igor pointed out to me. It must’ve been the same one and it was. I translated the name into Cyrillic and found it that way. Again, eating good meals for a few dollars, gotta love it. At the end of my 2 days, I must’ve tried almost 60-70% of the main dishes the place had to offer.
I decided to check out whatever was playing at the Grand Opera House at 6 pm. Turns out, I just made it to the start of a ballet performance. I don’t remember ever going to a ballet performance before so I think this was my first one. There was a story but instead of words, they danced so it was left to the audience to interpret what the story was. At least it was for me, I think the Ukranians had a pamphlet they could read to give them an idea. I heard that the next night would be opera night so I decided to check that out too. BTW, the ticket was 45 HRY (or $6). I’m not talking about watching amateur hour here. It is the Grand Opera House of Lviv. And I paid $6 to watch some world-class ballet.
Next day, I went to check out the famous Lychakiv Cemetery. Once I got there, I thought to myself, ‘Why the f*** am I here? It’s a cemetery!’. But walking around for a bit and looking at various death dates on tombstones, I contemplated life and death. We live, then we die. Some die old, some die young. What we do in between is important.We have to try to live our lives as fully as we can because we never know when our one and only chance at life will be taken from us.
I also visited the Pharmacy Museum (just for my sister). It was located right next to my hostel, so might as well. It was a functioning pharmacy that’s been around since the 1700s. The museum had old cabinets filled with old bottles and old vials. There were some old medical looking devices around but I had no idea what they were.
That evening, the opera ticket cost me 35 HRY ($4). I didn’t know what was playing but I found out later, it was ‘Carmen’. Familiar tunes were played (I’m sure most of you have heard ‘Prelude’, ‘Habanera’, and ‘Toreador’) and I never realized they were from ‘Carmen’. The songs were sung in French (it’s written by a French guy, George Bizet) but the Ukrainians had the benefit of subtitles overhead. I, on the other hand, had nothing. I had to appreciate the opera for the music itself but after 3 hours of still not knowing what the hell the plot was, I decided to leave during one of the intermissions. There was still 1 hour left but I decided to eat dinner instead. Back to Puzata Khata for OK food and cheap prices! I think the people there were familiar with me as one lady asked me if I wanted Borsch again. I had picked up what I thought was a cake for dessert at the end. I finished my meal, then took a bite of the “cake”. The pickle garnish on top should’ve been a warning sign to me but it was more like a layered kebab meat cake, with mayo layers instead of sweet cream. It was disgusting yet delicious.