28 December 2016
Our bus was leaving from Lublin at 0:30 and should arrive to Lviv at 8:00 AM (Ukrainian time). We stepped into almost full coach. There were two available seats on the back. Unfortunately, separated by some sleeping and slightly drunk guy in the middle. Luckily, before I even opened my mouth, some girl told him to move to the side. It was cold winter in our part of the world, so I wore thermal underpants under my jeans. I was ready for hours of walking on the cold streets of Lviv. I didn't expect the bus to be overheated! Inside the temperature was reaching 30 °C. At least it felt like it. Sleepless night of suffering had begun.
NOT the Train Station but you get the idea...
Finally we had arrived in Lviv. We got off the bus and we saw the monumental building of Lviv's Train Station. We were in the East and we felt it. Our morale has increased despite the fatigue. We decided to think what to do next by the cup of hot coffee. I couldn't find any decent cafe with Wi-Fi nearby, so we walked towards the centre. Why on earth did you walk? you could ask. Well, the taxi was a bit expensive (our budget for the trip was modest) and I didn't know where to buy tickets for the train (now I know). We were searching for McDonalds. Why that piece-of-shit-corporation? I was 100% sure they: 1)will be open at that early hour 2)they will have Wi-Fi (Internet access was needed, my offline maps app was acting a bit weird ). We found one by the Opera.
Sometimes coffee changes everything. No more fatigue, no more anger that we are in some cold and foreign place. We had decided to spend the three hours we had left before we could arrive at our apartment, exploring the Old Town.
Lviv's Old Town is a beautiful place. You can see Armenian, Jewish, Austro-Hungarian and Polish influences (Lviv was Polish for over 430 years). The monuments are incredible - beautiful temples, tenements, Opera, university buildings, Town Hall and many others. Vintage cars on the streets - the city could be named Havana of the East. Cafes and restaurants are amazing. Lviv had buoyant cafe-culture before WWII. It was destroyed by communists to be slowly reborn in 70's and 80's. The fact it was Christmas season and snow falling on the streets added to that extraordinary atmosphere.
We climbed the 408 stairs of City Hall to see the panorama. It was incredible. We've seen whole Old Town with its' backyards, rooftops and other unexplored places and what was beyond – outer ring of Lviv's blocks of flats – resembling at times Kowloon Walled City. The tickets cost us about 15 гр each if I remember correctly.
However, our feet was getting wet from the melting snow and we could use some radiator. Like one that should be in our apartment. It was 12 AM, we could check in already. We went to Virmenska Street where our apartment was located and had seen only closed gate. Since it was Bohdan who booked us the place, I didn't have any number for the landlady. We went to the closest cafe with free Wi-Fi and I had messaged Bohdan: "Hey, we're at the given adress. Could you call the landlady and tell her we are waiting?" Five minutes had passed. Ten. Fifteen. Nothing. I opened messenger to see message from Bohdan - "She told me she is waiting there. Where are you?" - "At the gate" - I replied - "Where is she?!" - "Okay, wait a minute, I'll call her again". Still nothing. We had checked cafe, souvenir shop, etc. No sight of the landlady. Shit! We were wet, cold and angry. I even thought it was some scam. Finally, twenty minutes ago, after hour of waiting the woman showed up. She gave us the key and code to the gate, and that's all we've seen her.
courtyard of our apartment
We had entered our apartment. Windows were facing the courtyard and as soon as I looked outside, I've met stare of an old woman from the next apartment. Luckily, we had thick curtains. The apartament looked nice - big bed, some small kitchen, TV, Wi-Fi. Bathroom looked nice, but reeked like sauerkraut (there must be something with the pipes, all bathrooms in Lviv smell like this, no matter how clean they are, as I have learnt later - only difference is the strength of that smell). In the closet we found dirty rolled sheets. That explained why the woman was late. She was cleaning last minute and pitching us an excuse instead of saying we have to wait a bit more! We could have spent that hour in cafe or somewhere. But we had place to stay at last! We dried our boots on the radiator and took a nap.
When we woke up we were ravenous. To be honest I didn't know where I could get something really tasty and finally we ate burgers at the restaurant next to our apartment - Хліб і вино. Burgers were mediocre, but they have really interesting interior - like an old wine cellar in some castle.
After our late dinner we went for a walk again. Since we had no plan we simply walked away from the centre, towards High Castle Hill (Високий замок). Along the way we had seen Benedictine church and monastery, Old Square (Старий Ринок), and some adorable, but much quieter streets than in Lviv's close centre. For supper we wanted to eat khachapuri, and Lviv is known for great (and cheap) Georgian and Caucasian cuisine. The closest from us was Хінкальня, located opposite the famous Dominican church. The place was unfortunately full, which forced us to look for other place to eat. We finally ate chaczapuri at Міжнародний вареничний фонд on Ruska street. We also did some quick groceries and spent rest of the night trying to comprehend Ukrainian TV.
To be continued...