We stayed just a couple blocks from the Lviv University (officially called the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv) so one of the days we decided to head over and check it out. There is a big statue of Ivan Franko facing the University. Ivan Franko was a poet, writer, social and literary critic, journalist, interpreter, economist, political activist, doctor of philosophy, and the author of the first detective novels and modern poetry in the Ukrainian language. Along with Taras Shevchenko, he has had a tremendous impact on modern literary and political thought in Ukraine. While we were standing by the statue a huge flock of crows took to the air right behind Ivan Franko, it was quite a sight (see photo below). We decided to head inside the University and pretend we were students. It was really dark in the hallways, even though some evening classes were still going. Not sure if they were conserving energy or if this was normal, but it was eerily dark. We found an empty classroom, so we stepped inside. The classroom was very minimalist, no posters or art on the wall, no furniture other than desks, just a bust of Taras Shevchenko in front of the classroom. Definitely didn't feel like a classroom that we were used to here in America.
The next day we got our first day of sunshine, which worked out perfectly because we were planning on heading up to the Lviv High Castle Hill, the highest point in Lviv (413 meters above sea level). On the way, we passed through a park where kids were going down a hill on old-school wooden sleds. It looked like everyone was having such a great time, we ended up hanging out for a while watching them. There was one kid we especially enjoyed photographing who was having a hard time on the sled. Every time he went down he crashed into a hill, a tree stump, or a piece of playground equipment and went flying off his sled. Each time he got up with a smile, brushed himself off, and pulled his sled back up the hill to try again. He was about 5 years old-- such a tough kid. Adults watched on without stopping any of this. It was hard to imagine American parents allowing kids to slide down a hill with such "dangerous" obstacles. We had a lot of good laughs... and really wished we had a sled.
From there we hiked up to the top of the hill on hundreds of incredibly icy steps and were rewarded with a 360 degree view of Lviv. All along the way, we saw couple's names that have been etched or painted into the stairs, surrounded by hearts and dates. It was fun to read out the common Slavic names and we spotted quite a few "Julia" & "Yuriy"s in the mix. Lviv's first fortress was built on High Castle Hill in 1256 and served as the main defensive fort of the city. The fortress has withstood several attacks in the distant past and stood atop the hill from the 13th century until the 19th. The hill has quite a history but today is pretty quiet with a giant TV tower, an observatory platform, and frequent starry-eyed lovers.
So neat that cold weather doesn't keep people indoors in Ukraine. So many friends and families were hanging out around the city.