Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day 8: Lviving la vida loca

Groan, first I'll start out by apologising for the title - not only is it a terrible pun on a tired old song, but my day in Lviv could not by any stretch of the imagination be described as 'la vida loca'. I'll also say sorry for the fact that the blog post below is very "and then... and then...", I wrote it fresh off the train this morning when I was a bit braindead. Since I still haven't slept and I was out all day, I'm still a bit braindead, but hey ho.

Another scrappy day of not doing much. I still had no access to cash, which definitely helped from a budget point of view! I ate as much as I could fit in for breakfast at the hotel (free) and then checked out and walked up to St. George's Cathedral, the centre of the 'Greek Catholic Church', a kind of odd arrangement where they are under the Pope, but the service is basically Eastern Orthodox. Anyway, there was a service going on when I got there, so I just took a couple of hopefully discreet snaps from the doorway and in the courtyard and that was that. My guidebook said there were wonderful views from up there, but if there were I couldn't find them, too many trees.

St George Cathedral

A building in the cathedral grounds

Some things I saw on my way to and from the cathedral:

A building I liked the look of

There was no plaque, but according to my guidebook, this was the birthplace of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, for whom 'masochism' is named. It now seems to be a lawyers' office - some would say that's more sadism than masochism, hi-oh! (I kid, literally my best friend is a lawyer, although she's no longer practising, so she might agree!)

Statue of St. George killing the dragon

Some interesting statues

The Lviv Inventors' Club

Statues around the doorway of the Lviv Inventors' Club

Me in front of the university

After that, I walked back into town and went to the Boim Chapel, the exterior of which I already put a photo up of. (Sorry for that terribly-constructed sentence, by the way.) Anyway, my guidebook didn't say anything about the inside, but I decided to check it out anyway. Wow! No idea why it doesn't tell you to go in, it's amazing! All of one wall and the ceiling is totally covered with incredibly detailed stone carvings. The great thing is, because it's so small you can really see everything if you take your time and really look at the thing. Even then, you get the feeling there's always more to discover.

Some of my million and one photos of the Boim Chapel:

I was trying to look like I wasn't taking a photo of myself in case the attendant came to investigate and told me off for sticking my camera on this wooden thing

I think after that I took a quick look at the Bernadine Cathedral, another Greek Catholic affair, and then I went up the tower of the town hall in the middle of Rynok Square. It was a bit of a hike up there, but well worth it. The views were even better when you were right in the middle of the old town and could really pick out all the different churches and cathedrals and other points of interest.

Views from the tower:

View of one side of Rynok Square

Rynok Square and the Dominican Cathedral

The Latin Cathedral from the tower

View of the Dominican church

View of the square with the statue of Shevchenko

Another side of Rynok Square

My next stop was the Museum of Religion, less because I was super eager to learn about the different religions practiced in Ukraine and more because I was hoping to see some cool old icons. Anyway, the museum was pretty hilarious. Most exhibits came from the 19th or 20th century, and many of them were just reproductions or even photocopies! However, sometimes the crappiest museums can be the best, and there were enough amusing things that I actually had a pretty good time looking at bizarre paintings or awkward use of Ukrenglish labels. There was an entire room dedicated to Pope John Paul II, I think based on this museum his visit to Lviv was the most exciting thing that ever happened in the city. I enjoyed that there were dozens of photos of him, and in most of them this young priest was hanging around next to him, with this permanent huge grin on his face, quite sweet. It would have been nice if I could read more of the information which maybe would have given some context on the actual history of the religions, and how the different denominations and faiths interacted and how they fared under communism. The museum used to be a museum of atheism in the Soviet period, so it's already a bit of a statement turning it into a museum of religion instead, and there was one exhibit of a Soviet propaganda poster saying “1 pound of church treasures = 25 pounds of bread = 5 starving people saved” and the label said something like “Communist propaganda lies in order to steal from and suppress the church” - don't be shy about it now...

A prehistoric grave of a man and woman embracing. I don't know how they ended up like that, but I thought it was quite sweet.

A bizarre painting in the Museum of Religion, captioned 'Boleslaw the Brave punishes the wives of noblemen, whose husbands returned from the Rus campaign'. I'm left with so many questions - why were they punished? Why were they punished by having to breastfeed small creatures while their babies were suckled by animals? How does that make Boleslaw brave? Answers on the back of an envelope please.

Painting in the Museum of Religion of the Last Judgement

Anyway, I popped into the Church of the Assumption, an Orthodox church, and then went and had some cake and a glass of wine (Georgian again, a bit rough) for afternoon tea, since I hadn't had anything since breakfast.

It was hard to pass up a favourite dainty from childhood, but I did manage to resist the weightiness scum

Then basically I just chilled out reading on a bench for ages, killing time since I had checked out of the hotel and my train wasn't till 11 pm. I had dinner at a self-service Ukrainian fast-food type, and then it was finally time to get to the train station.

Lviv train station

This leg was in 2nd class, and I was a bit nervous about whether my suitcase would fit and how it would be. The top bunk is really really high up, and really narrow, so I was a bit nervous about staying up there and/or getting up and down.

I don't know if you can really see from this photo, but it's high and scary up there!

When we started off though, the bottom bunk was empty, so I decided to just claim it. Mistake – at 1.30 in the morning, a couple of hours after we got going, I was woken up by someone else coming in and had to strip the bed and remake the top bunk and try to get back to sleep. It was pretty hot and someone was snoring, plus the bed wasn't ultra comfortable and the train had a tendency to make these huge jerks and crashing sounds like it was shunting things out of its way, but all things considered, not too bad.

Got to Chernivtsi at about 8.15 in the morning, managed to find the hostel (no sign!) and get some money out, and now I'm just waiting to take a day trip out to Kamyanets-Podilsky, a medieval fortress town. Pretty stoked that the hostel is doing an organised trip so I don't have to try and deal with it myself, I had my doubts about whether I even wanted to tackle it after a night of not much sleep, but this was the entire reason for me making a detour here, so I'm glad to be doing it.

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