Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lviv III

You thought we were gone for good, didn't you? I guess we needed a break from the blog and didn't even know it.  We've been back in Seattle since the 6th. It's been a crazy week of unpacking (not just our suitcases but our entire condo-- all our belongings were in moving boxes while we were away). We've been busy visiting people we love that we've neglected for half a year, getting cell phone service, forwarding and reading mail, doing laundry, filling an empty fridge, running errands of all sorts, sending off our first packages from our new shop Handle With Care... and despite our long to-do list at home, we took off on a weekend trip to Idaho to see my (Julia's) side of the family. More on all this later.

We're finally back with a travel post! This post is heavy on the history, but I figured our Ukrainian friends/readers would really appreciate it. 

The city of Lviv is the biggest city on the western side of the country (near the Polish border), and thus has a very European feel.  It was founded by Prince Danylo of Galicia (a former region between Ukraine and Poland) in the 13th century. He named the city after his son, Lev (which means "Lion" in Ukrainian)-- thus it's also known as the Lion City. You may have picked up on this through our recent photos. There are lions everywhere. The lion theme is present on gates, statues, and cafes (the House of Legends we mentioned earlier has a quirky "Lion Room" that's a must-visit).  Since Prince Danylo's reign, Lviv has been a major city of Poland and of Austria-Hungary (ruled by the Hapsburgs, a family we learned about during our time in Vienna and Budapest). Lviv was once part of the USSR, was occupied by the Germans during WWII, and is now an important city in the country of Ukraine, which gained it's independence in 1991. You can see it had a lot of influences from many different cultures, and that's probably why it appealed so much to us. 

Lviv is widely known as the cultural city of Ukraine. It's popular for it's philharmonic orchestra,  opera/ballet house, and many art galleries. We were so glad to catch a musical at the Lviv Theater of Opera & Ballet, which we'll share with you later. If you're into the arts, you will be amazed at how affordable it is to enjoy in Lviv.  Lviv has more than 100 festivals annually, 60 museums, and 100 churches! We loved the atmosphere of Ukrainian pride among narrow cobbled streets, historic buildings, art culture, cozy cafes and restaurants, and delicious homey food. 

The people who live in Lviv are true nationalists and everyone speaks very pure Ukrainian, whereas other major cities of Ukraine (like the capital city Kiev) still have a ton of Russian-speakers left over from the Soviet Union. If you say something in Russian while in Lviv, it's likely you'll be corrected in Ukrainian! I was pretty embarrassed by my accent and poor Ukrainian. 33% of Lviv's residents consider themselves to be followers of Bandera (link in Ukrainain), a controversial figure who was the leader of the Ukrainian Nationalist Movement. Today, some people in Ukraine hate him and still fear his followers called "Banderevtsi" (who are mostly in Lviv). Others praise him as a Ukrainian hero. It seems like Ukrainians can't seem to agree who are the good guys and who are the bad guys to this day. 

If you visit Ukraine, you absolutely have to make a stop in this city to witness the true Ukrainian culture and spirit.

* Julia

[History Sources: Wikipedia, GT, and a walking tour we loved and very highly recommend by InLviv]