Taking it easy on my last day in Lviv
07/22/2015 - 07/22/2015 83 °F
Rural Ukraine is known for its wooden churches
I awoke tired and sore from yesterday's Carpathian Mountain hike. I slept in later than I have so far on this trip, before finally getting up and dragging myself down to the breakfast buffet before it closed. My money (and time) saving tactic on overseas trips is to pig out at the breakfast buffet that is usually included in hotel prices. I then skip lunch, grabbing a pop and eating one of my Cliff Bars, at most. I knew I couldn't stay in the hotel all day, even though my aching legs would have enjoyed that. I had to walk over to my travel agency and pick up the tickets they'd arranged and purchased for me. At $2 a ticket, it was worth not making the trip to the bus station and standing in line, and the chance of miscommunication. They'd been super helpful and responsive to my control freak emails, and it was nice to meet the people behind the emails. Of course, I showed them my www.worldwidemike.com website...I figure someone working in a travel agency would enjoy it.
Lviv's over-the-top Opera House
Next, I took the advice of my EF Tours mentor and friend, Tim Dove, and visited the Lviv Opera House. It wasn't open for tours, but the exterior is stunning. Very Romanesque, and overblown in its proliferation of statues carved into the exterior. One carving was a noble lady who was the classic idea of Marie Antoinette. Her supercilious expression seemed to say, "Of course the money spent on this building is worth it! It allows the common people to see ME whenever they wish!" In front of the Opera House was a gushing fountain that flung its mist my way when the breeze was strong. Even cooler, pun intended, were the three mimes in front of the fountain dressed and made up like bronze statues. Yes, I said the seeming oxymoron "cool mimes"! One was a much younger and more attractive version of the Marie Antoinette carving. Her smile and eye contact with all the men in the crowd was anything but supercilious! I couldn't resist including her in a picture so I could send it to Tim later!
Detail showing the elaborate carvings on the facade of the Opera House
After the Opera House, I made my way to the ring road which encircles the Old Town part of Lviv. That is the best place to catch the trams. I was heading to an Open Air museum that exhibited village architecture from all over Ukraine. As is usual in these types of museums, they physically uproot and save buildings destined to be destroyed or are abandoned and not being kept up. They move them to the museum and place them in a natural setting. The park-like area that is the museum is sprawling. I'd read in the guidebook it involved a LOT of walking. I sighed and decided to do it. Honestly, I felt better once I started walking. The soreness seemed to evaporate in the bright sunshine. Plus, the museum is built in a wooded area, so the shade not only made walking cooler, it made the setting more natural and "village like."
Another of the Open Air museum's recovered wooden churches
My favorite parts of the open air museum were the wooden churches. Many areas of rural Ukraine have built their churches out of wood, rather than stone, for centuries. These buildings have similar layouts to the classic Orthodox Church, down to the famous onion-shape domes, but made out of wood. They usually feature a trinity of domes, and are made of blackened wood, giving them a dramatic outline. There was even an Orthodox monk as caretaker of one of them. All of them had their interiors decorated and set up for services -- right down to the "No Photography" signs at a couple!
The interior of one of the wooden churches (that allowed photography, of course!
I purposely worked my way slowly around the park's circular path. At one place, they had a kitchen set up preparing authentic traditional food. A man dressed as a Cossack offered visitors a chance to try their hand at archery. At less than 50 cents, I figured what the heck? I paid the man 10 Hrivnas. He carefully corrected my stance, my grip, and let me have my shots. My first one dove underneath the target -- a man-sized, hanging sack. I adjusted my aim. Thwack! The next one and most of the others hit the target. He offered another go, but I was satisfied that somewhere, deep inside me, lurked a Legolas, so I declined.
Surburia -- or rather country living -- 1800s Ukraine style
Some parts of the park appear to be still under construction. I think the far backside of the park, featuring the Carpathian Hutsul culture, was not really ready to be viewed. You could not go in any of the buildings, and the logs were still numbered for putting the pieces back together. Although there were a number of people visiting the museum today, the vast expanse of the museum swallowed them up. It was rare that someone else was visiting the same building as I was. I almost never had to wait to get the pesky tourists out of my camera shot. Before I knew it, I had spent more than two hours there.
I had purposely planned a light day of sightseeing following the Carpathian hike. I continued on that pace by heading to Rynok Square and planting myself in a cafe. Beer in hand, I watched the crowds pass while I worked on updating my blog. I even broke down and had a pizza at one of the restaurants on the square. I know, I know. Touristy. But coming from a guy whose idea of a vacation almost never includes an all-inclusive, beach resort, I thought I'd earned a little relaxation and pampering. The pizza was Italian style, and very spicy. And of course -- like nearly all sit-down restaurants and cafes in Ukraine, included free wifi. Why is it that the further back from officially becoming "First World" that a country is, the more likely it is to have free (and faster) wifi? Germany's wifi is horrible, Italy's is borderline poor. But hey, Ukraine and Armenia has smoking wifi! Perhaps, the more a country progresses on the Capitalism continuum, the more likely someone decides the people will accept paying for wifi. I know I vote with my feet, so their moneymaking strategy is penny-wise, pound foolish.
1800s windmill at the open air museum in Lviv
It was a much-needed, relaxing sixth day in Ukraine. My four days in Lviv seemed to fly by. I am a fan of this city. If anyone reading my blog feels they want to go to Europe, but can't afford it, I highly recommend Lviv (and Ukraine). Your dollar will go far. You can kick back into the vibe of a Prague-like city. Yes, you have the pesky Cyrillic alphabet to deal with. Only a minority speak English. However, if you're up for a little adventure and reaching out to people of another culture, I say go for it. You make the effort to greet them in Ukrainian, say "thank you" in their language, and they're willing to help. You can go hard-core like I usually do, packing your schedule with sights. Or you can do what I did today and relax, immerse yourself into the vibe of centuries old city, amidst beautiful architecture, and enjoy yourself.