Lviv, Ukraine: a happy city

A city nearly 1000 years old, L’viv is purely Ukrainian (as I was told by a proud young citizen of the town). While Russian is the language spoken by most people in Kiev and Odessa, here people speak Ukrainian.

Perhaps more than anyplace else I’ve visited in Ukraine, this city seems to be happy. Lively people fill the many squares on a beautiful spring afternoon. Street markets offer art and handmade doilies and books. Sidewalk cafés line the streets.

L’viv is located in the western part of the Ukraine about 50 miles from the border with Poland. At various times over the centuries it has been ruled by Poland, Russia, the Hapsburgs of Austria and a place called Ruthenia. Written in English the name can be found as Lviv, L’viv, and Lvov.

The city is centered by a large market square and in the center of that square is the town hall which has an enormous tower sprouting from its center. It is a city filled with old churches. It seems every block has at least one church and sometimes two or three.  Church towers built by Italians and Poles and Russians, by Catholic orders, by Greek Ukrainians sprout up all over the center of the town. The city center is beautiful. There’s a strong French touch — buildings much like those seen in Paris. Pastel buildings about four stories tall surround the square. Lviv is a very popular destination for tourists, particularly young adults. The tourist office here employs the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve encountered anywhere.

Anya and Oksana, employees of the Lviv Tourist Office, helped me a great deal — not once, but on three different occasions. They are lovely young women, well spoken in English, very knowledgeable about their city, very interested in people from other places. Their office is in the Town Hall in case you are looking for it.

I’m staying in an AirBnB apartment located about two kilometers from the city center in an area filled with multi-story apartment buildings. It’s interesting to note the differences and similarities between Ukraine and the United  States. There’s a Walmart-size grocery store on my corner where I can buy Lay’s Potato Chips and Coca Cola and peanut butter. There’s a health club in my building and a multi-story shopping mall on the corner. But people who appear to be poor and leftover from the 20th century are seen offering a few things for sale on street corners. The people I see around me here are a mix of middle aged and young adults in fashionable dress and older people, the women in headscarves and old coats, the men in flat hats like berets.

Here are a few photos that I hope will give you a taste of Lviv, Ukraine.

The view from a corner of the main city square.

400 steps to the top of the city hall tower! But the view is awesome.


Another side of the market square at city hall. It’s really a lovely city center.

Apparently the results of a contest, huge Easter eggs displayed in a city square. Easter in Orthodox countries is one week later than in western countries.

Book sellers gather in this small market space behind the statue. The city displays an old trolley car here.

In another small square artists display many of their works for sale.

The altar of the Roman Catholic cathedral.

The view from my apartment. I think the little pink house is typical of pre-apartment block houses. There are still streets of small single-family houses in Lviv.

A tiny market, three or four women selling their eggs and some vegetables on the corner in the late afternoon.

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