19 August 2016

I woke up completely unprepared for the day ahead.

Chase and I headed for a coffee shop to plan the day. It was an unexpected 80 Degrees (Fahrenheit). For some reason I thought that I’d feel comfortable relying on online top ten lists to develop an itinerary, but the lists were not consistent. I started the day lacking the confidence that we were indulging in the best of Lviv.

Chase continued to put up with my stress for the first few hours of the morning. I searched frantically for guide books, and tried desperately to develop a path that aligned with the history I had read, to no avail. We ended up finding the official tourist center near ’Rynok Square’ (center of Lviv), where we picked up a map that denoted city highlights along an organized route.

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At each stop we found a plaque (placed by the tourist center) that fortunately provided english context for what we were viewing. Based on the years provided, I was able to place the structures in the historical context that I needed to appreciate them. In short, the history of Lviv (and the region that surrounds it, ‘Galicia’) can be understood as follows:

Kievan Rus ~882: First organization of Eastern Slavs. Broke into three primary kingdoms after Mongol attacks, two of which would later join to form the Grand Duchy of Moscow, which would later develop into the Russian Empire. The third kingdom was…

Kingdom of Galicia and Volhynia ~1240: Merged former provinces of Kievan Rus. Capital was soon moved to new city of Lviv. Wrought by wars of succession in 14th century. Lithuania took Volhynia, Poland took Galicia.

Kingdom of Poland, 1349: Lviv remained capital of the Ruthenian Voivodeship (administrative unit). Would remain part of Poland once merged with Lithuania to form the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569 (Union of Lublin). Was occupied by Austrian Empire during the Partitions of Poland.

Austrian Empire, 1776:Became a crown land (private land) of the Hapsburg family, ‘The Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria’’. Lviv remained the capital. Would remain of Austria once merged with Hungary to form the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867. I give up at WWI.

We started in Rynok Square at the Korniakt Palace, completed in 1580, which was in the 17th century a palatial residence of King Jan III Sobieski of Poland.

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It became very clear, very fast, that we were going to be spending lots of time in churches.

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We had a beautiful view of the city from Castle Hill, where ruins of the High Castle (defensive fort from 13th century) lie. It was also the highest point in Lviv.

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We had a particularly nice view from the ‘Union of Lublin Mound’, where now stands an imposing television tower that reigns over the city.

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We really enjoyed the ‘Liberation Museum’ but could not understand a word of it.

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We grabbed lunch in the city square, I had mushroom soup per Tanya’s suggestion. We indulged in wine and beer, and used the down time to organize the rest of the day.

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It is really such a beautiful city with a striking diversity of architecture, a testament to the diversity of occupiers. A good portion of the city was built in the Baroque style from what I understand. The streets are black cobblestone- pleasant to walk on, frustrating to drive on.

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Among other sights we visited was the renowned Opera House.

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We traveled back to the hostel, where Chase patiently waited while I showered- I’d not showered since Wednesday morning.

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Afterwards, we drove to the Lychavik Cemetery, where 300,000 Lvivians have been buried since the 18th century.

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Among the notable interred include Ivano Franko, the famed Ukrainian writer and praised nationalist figure.

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The mountain of headstones lied stunning among the fur trees and setting sun.

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We parked the car back at the hostel around 8:40, then walked away from city square towards the home of Rabbi Shlomo Bald.

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Tanya had provided contact information in Boryslav. There were about twenty people at the dinner table, about half of whom were children of the Rabbi. The Rabbi wore a large circular fur hat, but unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures because it was Shabbes.

Rabbi Bald belongs to the Karliner branch of Hassidism. He was originally of Burough Park, New York, but moved to Lviv with his wife about 25 years ago to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Lviv. Dinner was in true Yiddish style: Gefilte Fish, Matzoh Ball soup, a variety of salads, Scotch Whisky, chicken, and fruit with cake for desert.

Unfortunately, the rabbi was determined to provide meaningful anecdotes from the lives of Moses and the prophet Noah, rather than provide insight into the lives of the remaining Jews of Lviv. His stories were tangential and frequently incoherent, he talked with limited interruption until past midnight, but it was nevertheless very special to enjoy a Shabbes dinner in the homeland of our ancestors.

From dinner we walked back to city square, where we struggled to find a Hookah lounge, but ended up enjoying locally brewed beer until about 3 am.

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