Excuse me Ukraine, how did you become so great? Before entering your expansive borders, I was swayed by media to believe you to be dangerous and deadly, and that I along with any foreigner would was a fool looking for trouble by crossing your boundaries. Shame on you… Shame on me!
But thankfully, I considered those warnings to steer clear of the country as precautionary and instead of avoiding the entire land I stuck to the western oblasts, starting in Lviv and moving only as far east as I felt comfortable.
Follow my lead. Give it a chance! One day in Lviv and you’ll see enough to trust me and turn a deaf ear to those negative reports you’ve heard. Start with a morning stroll in Old Town, sit down to a full breakfast of vegetable omelette, cabbage salad with a sweet and tangy dressing and wash it down with fresh compote. Don’t worry, there’s more! The kind waitstaff will soon bring you a fresh chocolate stuffed croissant and frothy cappuccino. The bill? Fifty grivna. A hefty price to pay until you realize the conversion rate puts that at 2 euros. Lay down your cash and step into the sunshine.
Next, buy a flower headband from one of several young ladies in traditional dresses, their red skirts matching the red poppies sewn along the colors of their freshly pressed who blouses. Don’t listen to your stomach telling you it’s full. You’re going to gain some weight here but it will be worth it. If you’re feeling energetic and decide to burn a few calories, take a hike through windy forest paths to Lviv’s High Castle and enjoy a 360 degree view of the city. Get lost on the way down and stumble across hidden neighborhoods and playgrounds filled with screeching children ever-so delighted in their freedom to move. When you’re ready, follow the topography to lower ground and you’ll once again find yourself amongst tourists and locals galore. Take one final hike before dinner up to Lviv Town Hall’s tower overlooking Market Square. You can watch with a bird’s eye view while golden painted figures dance around fountains, trying to earn a few grivna. Souvenirs are plentiful, and you’ll soon find yourself with arms full of Putin toilet paper and Communist-Era propaganda to bring home for friends.
Finally, give in to those hunger pangs (or lack there of, in which case you’l give into smells of fresh varenyky (the Ukrainian equivalent to Poland’s pierogi) and the colorful traditional beet soup, Borsch. No you have two options: “Pravda” Beer Theatre where you can sample several types of in-house beers and listen to live music from any of the four levels; or The First Lviv Grill Restaurant of Meat and Justice, where you will become the victim of a medieval torture chamber while trying to ‘enjoy’ a meal. Careful! Past participants have noted particularly difficult days to follow, guys especially.
Guess that means you’ll have to spend another day in Lviv. Or in my case, another four days. With plenty of markets, parks, and churches to explore beyond the cafe scene, you’ll find your time well spent and your wallet still weighing heavy. And the people you’ll meet? Don’t worry, they’re just as great as the cuisine.