Saying goodbye to Lviv

Visiting the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life was my last adventure before departing Lviv.

It was a bit of a hike on dirt paths through a hilly, landscaped park to get to the open air Museum of Folk Architecture in the outskirts of Lviv. Along the way I ran into a friendly young lady named Natalia who was walking her dog. She confirmed, upon my inquiry, that I was going in the right direction and then offered to accompany me.

Natalia, a native of Lviv, studied English in her early school years, then stopped. We still managed to communicate in English quite well. Her job is an insurance sales agent. Her passion is landscape architecture, which she does for a hobby. Twenty minutes later we arrived at the open-air museum. Our brief, friendly encounter was heart-warming.

One aim of the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life is showing rural life in all its forms from villages in western Ukraine. A highlight of the outdoor museum was the unusual architecture of several well-preserved wooden churches including their fine ecclesiastical interiors. One church was a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List of wooden Orthodox (and some Eastern Catholic) churches of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine which were built between 16th and 19th centuries.

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Following are a few photos in memory of my experience in Lviv, a multicultural city that exudes European Charm and UNESCO history. 

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The Cafe Culture of Lviv

Lviv is often referred to as the coffee capital of Ukraine. Three centuries of European influence in the city have left a stamp in the Old Town in the form of unique, atmospheric cafes, with coffee dominating the scene.

Because I was staying in Old Town, I enjoyed visiting many of them frequently. In Rynok Square (Market Square) the street level of historic tenement houses, which are protected by UNESCO, are occupied mostly by commercial establishments – but what delightful commercial establishments some of them are!

The coffee complex

Lvivska Kopalnya Kava, for example, is a popular coffee complex in Rynok Square. It consists of a coffee-themed souvenir shop, a section where you can purchase recently mined and milled beans, plus two cafes. One cafe was a charming, light-filled, covered courtyard located deep inside the complex behind the shop. On weekend nights live music packed the place. I first discovered the inviting courtyard cafe when I was looking for the Lviv Ethnographic Museum. I finally found the stairway access to he museum in the back of the shop next to the cafe. The displays of traditional dress and way of life in the Lviv area was interesting and well done. I found the diversity of this complex intriguing, considering coffee was at its core.

The gingerbread shop

The young staff at the Lvivska Maysternya Pryanykiv (gingerbread shop) got used to me dropping by daily for a couple of their freshly-baked gingerbread cookies. One day as I entered the back of the shop where the cafe was, I noticed two staff persons behind the counter focusing intently on some writing material. They said they were learning French in order to better serve their customers. Another time when I came in, a staff person was patiently teaching children from the community, at a table full of colorful frosting, how to decorate cookies, while their Mothers looked on. I loved dropping in frequently, not necessarily for the delicious cookies, but more because there was always something interesting going on there.

Atlas Cafe

One evening was girl’s night out for myself and my four roommates from my hostel. Our place of choice was the historic, candle-lit Atlas Cafe which was tucked in a corner of Rynok Square. Its dark, carved wood interior with high hand-painted ceilings, brass chandeliers, and oil paintings on the walls, all added drama and mystique to the place. It was the favorite gathering place of bohemians before WWII*.   The interior was badly damaged during the war and is now completely restored.

Honey” restaurant/cafe

Honey” (translated), was a delightful, little cafe/restaurant on one of Old Town’s cobblestone streets near Rynok Square. On weekend evenings Dennis, a Ukrainian guitar player, could be found perched on a stool in front of a widow of the cafe while singing romantic ballads in English, French, and Ukrainian.  He never used any sheet music.  His music, the charming staff, and traditional desserts offered by the cafe, always combined to make a delightful evening for me.  Once I expressed my appreciation to Dennis for his multilingual talents.  He commented that he will not sing any songs in Russian as it is not popular to do so at this time, due to the current political situation between Ukraine and Russia.  

The strudel shop

Whenever I wanted an inviting place to work on my blog, I often visited Lvivska Plyatsky, a cafe in Rynok Square that sells fresh hot apple strudel with several choices of sauces. On arrival I would order some tea and apple strudel at the counter, find a cozy table, open up my computer, and make myself at home. Inspiration flowed, as long as I wasn’t too distracted by the beautiful people around me.

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*Atlas Cafe is included in “Jewish Lviv: 100 Addresses”  https://lia.lvivcenter.org/en/storymaps/100-addresses/

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Lviv’s Street Markets – a Treasure

Visiting some of the numerous street markets in Lviv was a joy and a challenge at the same time. They were colorful, fun, insightful into the local culture, and continually challenged my language skills.

I often walked through the Vernissage Market because it was conveniently located between my hostel and the Opera House, which I frequently enjoyed. Since Ukrainian independence in 1991, the market, often referred to as the “Souvenir Market,” has occupied the area where a building once stood. The building had been bombed during WWII and never replaced.

Vernissage Market offers an assortment of handcrafts and local works of art, among other things. Paintings were displayed under barren trees with a church looming overhead. An assortment of items for sale were spread out at various places on the ground and on tables. Linens and garments for sale were hanging from long ropes. I resisted buying a nice piece of brass ware due to its weight. I would have had to carry it in my backpack, which is already too heavy, until I return home in a few weeks.

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One day Taras, the local young man whom I introduced in a recent Lviv posting, invited me to go with him to the Krakivsky Market in the old Jewish Quarter. The famous market occupies the site of the old Jewish cemetery which had been there for centuries, and was subsequently destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The market is located next to the dome-topped, former Jewish Hospital which was built in the 17th century and is now a maternity hospital.

At one of the market entrances I paused in contemplation, aware of the tragedy that befell the once hallowed ground of the Jews which I was about to walk upon. I then descended into the depths of the huge marketplace.

Some foodstuff and clothing were being sold on open tables and benches. Others were being sold in more up-scale enclosed glass stalls and buildings. At one point we came across a most welcome open area in the middle of the marketplace, where we were able to simply stop and take a breather. Exploring the labyrinth of the marketplace was an adventure, but I was grateful to have a friend with me who knew his way around.

 

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