I took a 9-hour train ride from Kyiv to Lviv. A second class cabin cost 170 hryvnia or UAH (approximately $25), and it comes with a set of comforter, blanket, pillow and towel. There is also a tea/coffee service.
The hostel that I stayed is located near the Old Town Square. It is in an old building with a huge courtyard. The spiral wooden staircase gave a squeaky sound as I walked up the stairs. After checking in, I took a quick shower. With no time to waste, I began to explore the historic city center which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
In the heart of Lviv lies the S. Krushelnystka Opera House which offers regular performances of various operas and ballets ranging in prices from 50UAH to 80UAH. Unfortunately, no shows were playing that day. I decided to walk around the Old City Center before my guided walking tour at noon.
Lviv's historic churches, buildings and relics date from the 13th century. The buildings have many stone sculptures and carvings, particularly on large doors, which are hundreds of years old. Most buildings are three-window houses. It would be a privilege to have a six-window house at that time. Constantine Corniaktos, a famous Lviv merchant, earned that right to build one for his merits. Churches are almost every where. Most of them are situated among rows of three to five storey buildings that have hidden inner courtyards and grottoes in various styles. Some of these churches worth spending time at are the Ensemble of the Armenian Church Cathedral, St. George Cathedral, and the Dominican Monastery and Cathedral. Monuments to Taras Shevchenko - the great Ukrainian poet and artist; Ivan Fedorov - the first Ukrainian and Russian book printers; King Danilo Galitsky - the founder of Lviv; and Leopold von acher-Masoch - Austrian write and journalist, are some of the city sculptures commemorating people and topics reflecting the rich history of Lviv.
As the city was preparing for its 20th anniversary of independence from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were lots of activities going on in the Market Square (Ploshcha Rynok) where the City Hall is located. A large stage was being set-up for the event, while groups of teenagers were rehearsing for various traditional Ukrainian dances nearby.
Cafes, restaurants and gifts shops made this Square a huge draw to both locals and tourists.
The Pharmacy Museum, The Museum of Ethnography and Crafts, and The Lviv National Museum are some of the museums recommended by the tour guide. The guide was really enthusiastic about the history and culture of Lviv, and the tour lasted for almost four hours. After a day of walking, I went to a local restaurant for dinner. A grilled chicken leg and thigh, with salad and rissole cost about 36 UAH (less than $5).
Venture out of the Old City Center, you would probably come across a city's architecture that reflects various European styles and periods with cobblestones roads that are all very well-maintained. Most of these buildings are residential with a few family run businesses scattered around.
By evening, the celebration was in full swing. Participants from all over the world parading in their costumes to the thousands of enthusiastic spectators. Song and dance by local talents were performed live on stage, while not too far away, two ladies were doing the hoopla with fire to the beat of the drums. Local politicians took the opportunities to voice their opinions to the community, while children were seen 'rock climbing' from the wave monument behind Taras Shevchenko.
I am glad that I was at the right place at the right time. Witnessing the independence celebration by the Ukrainians in their traditional costumes showed how much they loved their country.