The city center of Lviv is nothing short of breathtaking. The Austrian style buildings resemble that of Disneyland’s Old Town, which makes sense considering that Walt Disney was from Austria.
Ivano-Frankivsk, on the other hand, looks completely different. The city is 140km southeast of Lviv, much further away from the Polish borders.
Ivano-Frankivsk, or Івано-Франківськ in Cryllic script, did not fare as well as Lviv (or most other cities in eastern Europe) during World War II. Most of the buildings were destroyed, leaving much reconstruction to the Soviet bloc. This is evident in all the Soviet-style buildings present today.
According to a colleague, they were built to be as functional as possible, and upheaved in a short amount of time, and thus lacked in aesthetic value. Combined with poor maintenance in public parks and roads, the buildings and surroundings looked grim.
I don’t mean to sensationalize photos, as abandoned buildings like these are also visible in Detroit, but seeing this small town with wild overgrowth, busted windows, and disheveled roads made me feel like I was in a completely different world. The gamer in me thought of both the post-apocalyptic world of “Bulletstorm” and the opening cinematic of “The Last of Us.”
The cost of living of Ivano-Frankivsk is lower than the tourist-heavy Lviv. I was eating meals that ranged from 16-85 Ukrainian Hryvnia per dish. Using today’s conversion rate, $1 USD = 25.62 Hryvnias. This is incredibly inflated, considering yesterday was $1 USD to 25.00 Hryvnias, and three months ago was 1 :: 16. Before the conflict, the currency was stable at 1 USD to 8 Hryvnias, so it has depreciated by over three times in one year. Incredible.
My colleague told me that the average salary of Ukrainian citizens is about $200 USD per month, which means that the meals we ate were comparatively expensive, averaging $12.5-$66 USD per dish scaled for someone who makes $4000 USD per month.
Despite this, there is much beauty in Frankivsk. Restaurants are wonderfully decorated. There are wonderful people there, still working and hustling day to day. More on both next time.