I landed in Lviv, Ukraine on November 12, 2014. It was the last time I saw sunlight for twelve days.
Lviv is one of the largest cities in western Ukraine. The western part of the country is safe from the war, and we made sure to fly in from the south, rather than the east.
The airport was mostly empty, and only around a dozen flights per day. Stark contrast to what I’m used to in major international hubs.
It was cold, hovering around 32 degrees Fahrenheit the whole time. It was sprinkling very lightly, but the ground remained wet due to the moisture and heavy overcast. Like what I imagined with old European cities, much of the streets were made of cobblestone.
We drove by one of the universities in the city. It looked a bit like MIT from the outside, and the weather fit the Boston cold. After 30 minutes of driving through the cobblestone roads, which were extremely bumpy and under-maintained, we arrived outside our hotel area. This was the square outside the city center, where our hotel was located.
At first glance, I could see public statues scattered everywhere. The statues made me think of the history books of erect Lenin and Stalin statues from Russian/Soviet Union era. Many stood tall and proud, and they looked ripe with age and history. This is how the Lviv markets itself – unlike most of the country and surrounding region, much of the city was not destroyed in World War II and boasted buildings and statues that were hundreds of years old.
We stayed in the Vintage Boutique Hotel, one of the most highly rated hotels on TripAdvisor. Outside of the hotel was the city square, which is where most of the tourists and locals gather on the weekends.
The architecture was not quite like western Europe. I got more ancient and “wise” vibes walking through the streets, while trying not to shiver too much from the cold.
This is the city square, just a one minute walk from the hotel. At night, illuminated by the street lights, you get a sheer feeling that is indescribable.
Most of the folks did not speak any English. Folks speak Ukrainian and virtually all know Russian, although the majority currently refrain from speaking it. I was lucky to have a fluent companion who ordered all the food, provided context on the historical background of the city, and took us everywhere.
This was one of the main roads that led up to a performance hall and church. Folks played musical instruments on the side, walked their dogs, and went about their business.
This is also in the city hall area. The black building is a museum. What’s incredible as a non-local is not being able to uncover the significance of each building. With no understanding of the language, I thought that these were all homes or apartments. On the contrary, many of these are museums, pharmacies, and other multi-purpose buildings.
We ended up visiting a pharmacy, a museum, three churches, and touring the city by foot. More on that on the next post!