Saturday, August 16, 2008

UA - Lviv

I rolled over and greeted Svitlana with “Dobry utra,” which means “good morning.”

“Yes,” was the response. I’m starting to get the impression that Svitlana is not much of a morning person.

Another early morning, we caught a marshrutka to Ivano-Frankivsk followed by a bus to Lviv. We were finally back and it was now about 15:00 – plenty of time to explore the city before our train at about 22:45. However, I’ll admit that it was stifling hot. Both bus rides were brutal, with ventilation virtually non-existent.

At Lviv’s train station, however, the girls refused to go out into the city until it cooled down. Personally, I can think of no reason that would delay me from exploration. If it’s hot, I’ll drink more water. If it’s cold, I’ll wear more clothes. If it’s raining, I’ll wear my hat, use an umbrella, or just get wet. If there are floods, I’ll bring a swimsuit. If there is famine, I’ll pack a lunch. If there are riots, I’ll bring a torch. If there is war, I’ll wear camo. What’s always important, however, is that you bring a towel; and don’t panic.

I left on my own, which again suits my tastes perfectly. The weather played perfect alibi to my desire to go forth and do what I want at my own pace. I went down vul Chernivetska and onto vul Horodotska – the latter of which was closed down right in the core for some major road reconstruction. That’s a perfect attraction for someone in my line of work. Indeed, much of the city’s infrastructure was being reconstructed – roads, tramways; it was a lovely destination for a civil engineer.

At the Transfiguration Church, I was a bit annoyed when they forbade anyone from entering so that they could, as best I could tell, wash the front steps. The Armenian Cathedral was kind of neat, mostly in the same fashion as how the Orthodox churches were all new to me – so it was interesting to see the architecture and interior design. Pl Rynok – the central square – was lovely for the central town hall and the surrounding buildings. The buildings fronting the square are almost all of uniform dimensions, mostly owing to a tax on more than 3 windows at the time.

I continued east to the Uspenska Church and then caught a service at the St. Mary Carmelite Monastery. I believe the latter is a part of the Uniate Church, which is a mix of Orthodox and Catholic practices and officially pays allegiance to the Vatican. I moved on along the last remaining segment of the city walls to the Bernardine Church & Monastery, where I caught another service at yet another Uniate church.

I meandered about the streets east – first down vul Ivana Franka, then onto vul Levytskoho, then onto a couple assorted streets northward until I got onto vul Pekarska, which ultimately took me to the Lychakivsky Cemetery. This cemetery was absolutely beautiful: it felt overgrown and unkempt, but at the same time well cared for. While many people may not think of a cemetery as any particular attraction, this is certainly a must-see in Lviv in the same vein as Arlington is for visitors to Washington, D.C.; albeit not nearly as manicured as Arlington.

With the sun becoming lower in the sky, I left the cemetery and went north to vul Lychakivska. I turned west along this roadway and, since street name signs seemed to be a rarity, I started heading northward when the time felt right. I think I turned north onto vul Lysenka – surprisingly the exact road I was hoping to turn onto. However, it didn’t feel like the correct road when I was on it, so I didn’t turn right again when I should’ve; ultimately negating the whole reason I wanted to be there in the first place – to cut the corner & reduce the time needed to reach my next destination: the High Castle.

I turned right onto vul Vynnychenka and up the hill then left onto vul Kryvonosa. As I walked along this street, it really didn’t feel like I was on the right path. Specifically, the map in my Lonely Planet guide didn’t appear to correspond to the actual street layout. Oddly, considering a map is provided, in the description accompanying the High Castle info it describes how to get there. I sort of seemed to be on the right track; sort of didn’t… but I think I eventually found where the book’s directions linked up with the path I took.

Regardless, I made it to the High Castle, which spirals around and around itself until you reach the peak. Here, you get an excellent panoramic over the city. I stopped on briefly to catch photos because, looking west, I spotted lightning bolts off in the distance. When that storm hit, I was hoping to be surrounded by really tall buildings; or ideally back at the train station. Lightning was my bigger concern, and the buildings could absorb that well enough. Getting wet was secondary, since I really don’t mind it all that much.

I arrived at the central square soon enough and began taking some evening photos, albeit without my tripod. For some reason, I didn’t really think I’d need it. I figured that catching a train in the 10pm hour would give me little time for night shots, anyway… when in fact I should have known that I’d have plenty of time. Oh well, the city’s lights let me get away with a short enough exposure time that I was more-or-less able to keep a steady shot.

I had just grabbed a couple photos when I spotted a girl just in front of me with long brown hair. I thought of how familiar she seemed to look, until I realized it was Svitlana. Following the direction of the camera, I soon spotted Anastasia, too. Reunited by happenstance, we went about the square getting some more photos before ending up at a nearby café for some cake and coffee (though I replaced the latter with apple juice).

It managed to take about 25 minutes to prepare this, making it a good thing I didn’t go ahead with my original plans for a meal and milkshake – both of which were quoted as taking 20 minutes to prepare, though I now suspect likely much longer. The place wasn’t even busy, either.

With about half an hour before we had to be on our train to Kyiv, we walked west to Prospekt Svobody and hailed a taxi. A 15 minute ride later and we were at the station and picking up our backpacks. I went to get some juice, which seemed an easy enough task. The price was 14 hryvnia, so I gave 54 – expecting 40 in change. The clerk became aggravated and was asking something back, until eventually giving me 16 hryvnia in change.

I’ve taken classes in calculus and differential equations – sometimes a couple times – and I didn’t need that matheducation to know that that wasn’t the right amount of change. She kept saying something and I had no idea what, and I kept looking over my shoulder trying to spot the girls whom had, seconds prior, been right beside me. Unable to make any progress, I pushed the change back toward the clerk & placed the juice back into the fridge. She gave me my 54 hryvnia back and I turned to leave. Would you know it, the girls were now standing near me again.

So with translators by my side, we gave it another attempt. I handed just the 50 to Svitlana, whom passed it onto the clerk. I got my juice and the appropriate change without any issue, so I have absolutely no idea what the problem was the first time around.

Our cabin was shared with a petite girl. It was otherwise almost the same as on the train that got us here – we even took the same seat assignments. This time around, however, I certainly did need the allergy-inducing blanket: the AC seemed to be at half-mast throughout the whole trip. It wasn’t too bad, though. Cool enough to get to sleep and warm enough to keep me passed out. The train seemed noisier than last time, waking me up in the middle of the night.

I had a weird dream that I can only remember was of the three of us playing some game which was a combination of Mario Kart’s Battle Mode, albeit in a pool in inner tubes; and I had a needle to pop people’s tubes. I dearly wish I could remember more.

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