Lviv’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I stayed right in the heart of it, just off Plohcha Rynok (Market Square). Rynok Square is dominated by City Hall in the middle. The east side is lined with palace museums, one of which was owned by a Polish king. Fountains with Greek mythological figures dot the square. Historic, tenement houses which are occupied on street level with shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs, line the square. Many have underground cellar pubs.
Lviv is a little slice of Europe, more so than the former Soviet capital of Kiev. This is due, in part, to its far western location within Ukraine in Galicia, a historical and geographic region between Central and Eastern Europe.
Lviv is a magical city with a turbulent history, especially during the 20th century. By all appearances it is recovering well. Live music of various genres greeted me at every turn, whether it was simply by walking around as a tourist, dining day or night, or by searching for it.
Rynok Square is always alive with music. One afternoon as I was passing through the square, a young guitar player was performing pop songs in front of one of the palace museums on the east side. Under the clock tower of City Hall, a lively brass band had their audience swaying to their music. Two men on a sidewalk were playing traditional tunes and were dressed accordingly. A Hare Kirsna religious group was just coming into the square from a side street, in song.
Each day at the top of the hour, quite regularly, a trumpet player opened a door from a third-story window near the clock tower of City Hall, extended his trumpet out of the window, played a brief tune, waived to the crowd below, then quickly disappeared behind a wooden shutter. If I heard it, I quickly proceeded to the window where he was playing to see if I could get a glimpse of the elusive player. I saw him only twice. This game of cat and mouse is apparently played regularly by many tourists.
I expected to find beautiful organ music in a church in Lviv, but instead found it at the Organ Hall and at the National Museum of Religion. Due to centuries of European influence in Lviv, a large percentage of churches are Greek Catholic churches, and they traditionally don’t use organs.
I was introduced to Taras, a charming young man from Lviv, by a friend in the States. Taras was hired last year to develop a former Polish Catholic church into a concert hall. Many organs that were in churches around Ukraine were destroyed during communist times, but this one was saved. As a guest of Taras, who was the organizer, I attended a beautiful classical concert with organ, piano and a tenor singer, in this venue. The setting was exquisite.
I heard another lovey organ recital on a restored 17th century organ at the Museum of Religious History. It had been acquired from the neighboring Dominican Cathedral. After the concert Mr. Pivnov, the performer, proudly showed me some of the details of the treasured organ which he had restored himself.
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