Around the World in 80 Pairs of Shoes


April 30, 2014

Most Surprising Destination: I Love Lviv, Lwow, Lvov, Lemberg…

Emma, Rebecca and I are loving reading all the travel link up posts and I think this months topic; your Most Surprising Destination is going to leave us all with a serious case of wanderlust.  Now I’m not a fan of surprises however I’ve got one for you!  I haven’t written a post on my most surprising destination; SURPRISE!! My little sister Lisa has instead and it’s freaking awesome.  Enjoy!

Lviv, Lwow, Lvov, Lemberg, Leopolis…whatever name you know it by this girl loves it.

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But where is this chameleon of a city you ask. Well it has been in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Poland and the Soviet Union without moving an inch but you will find it nestled in western Ukraine.

This is a post about a dorkward young girl with fanciful dreams of a city in a land far away circa 1930’s full of beautiful buildings, market squares, opera houses and cafes with ladies and gentlemen discussing literature. A city where nationalities and religions melded to create a great city, a sister city to Krakow, Poland. Unfortunately there is a common occurence with travellers who have pined over a city or sight for years, they can become disillusioned with the reality, like the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower or the first time the smells of Rome hit me. But with Lviv I was surprised by how much my expectations were exceeded. Here I hope is a little glimpse as to why.

Now firstly Lviv didn’t make it easy, it tried to hide its many charms behind a rather large wad of visa red tape and a three week wait for a ‘fast’ visa but it wasn’t long before we all agreed (my parents and I) that this city was pretty freaking awesome. While I couldn’t actually go back in time the buildings and city still bore so much of the old that it felt like I was there, I could truly see and feel the history. Even though it went through both German and Soviet occupation so many of the original buildings survive so you can retrace steps and still imagine the amazing scenes that unfolded in front of and inside the glorious buildings.

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Secondly I love the quirky and Lviv has this in spades. From restaurants where you can haggle over the price of a meal because there are no set prices and you can even sing for your supper (at Beneath the Golden Rose) to AK47 trips. You can dine in a car on the roof of a building to in an underground bunker (at Kryjivka) and if you want some duty free well there were a number of restaurants with a section reserved as ‘duty free’.

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And I truly got to live my vintage dream in an apartment on Teatral’na Street ( with the Vernissage bazaar (a brilliant hand craft market) right outside my window to pick up those handmade poppy hair clips I couldn’t live without. It was like out of one of my stories, I could imagine the family living in the apartment with a maid, and every time I made my way up the winding central staircase I could only imagine the people who had walked that staircase and the events they had witnessed. And the central courtyard was straight out of a black and white photo.

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It was after three far too short days that Lviv made it to the top of my favourite cities list. It surprised me by being one of those few places that exceeded my expectations, if you want a city where you can truly feel the history look no further than Lviv in the Ukraine. If not for the whole visa paperwork I would be back there in a heartbeat strolling those cobbled streets and relaxing in those glorious squares with their mythological fountains as the trams lazily roll past.

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