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LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe
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Author:  wiz [ 22 Nov 2009 14:43 ]
Post subject:  LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe

LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe

Barely 100 km (60 Miles) east of the borders of Poland and Slovakia (the new members of the EU) and less than an hour by air from Warsaw or Kiev, with connecting flights from all over the world, situated in west Ukraine, Lviv is a well hidden marvel.

Lviv, the Capital of western Ukraine, is a cosmopolitan city. Having escaped the urban devastation of WWII, Lviv is a living museum of Western architecture from the Gothic to the present. The old narrow cobbled streets and colourful historic core make it one of the best places in the country to visit. Its wonderful buildings and architecture compare and fare probably better than Florence and Prague.

Prague, its counterpart, may already have peaked, as the Czech republic has had an open-skies policy for several years and has reaped the benefits with a massive increase
in visitors. Ukraine has now got ridden itself of the bureaucratic barriers that it inherited from the Soviet Union. Europeans and other nationalities do not required to obtain visas to visit Lviv. Now you can travel easily to this enchanting town and its surrounding countryside and you will be captivated for ever.

Lviv and its environs rewards travellers with hospitable people, magnificent architecture and miles of gently rolling steppe. The fresh food is excellent, the cost very cheap compared with western standards, and the bandura tunes lodge themselves in your brain for weeks.

Lviv has its share of the thoroughly modern, but it also has an abundance of Gothic, Byzantine and Baroque architecture and art - reminders of its many foreign overlords. There are also dozens of villages with picket fences, duck ponds and overloaded horse carts, where time seems to stand still.

Lviv, the capital of western Ukraine, is a cosmopolitan city. Few cities in the world are like an open-air museum, but one of them is Lviv - a great European city which is an original and inseparable part of the image of contemporary Ukraine. Between 1939 till 1991 it was ruled from Moscow, and it was here that Ukrainian nationalism re-emerged in the late 1980s. Having escaped the urban devastation of WWII, Lviv became a living museum of Western architecture from the Gothic to the present. While there are still plenty of Communist-era monstrosities, the old narrow cobbled streets and colourful historic core make it one of the best places in the country to visit.

Just east of the modern downtown is the Old Town, centred on the broad Ploshcha Rynok, once the hub of Lviv and still the best preserved urban square in Ukraine. At its heart is the 19th century town hall and around the perimeter are beautiful 16th to 18th century buildings with ornate stone carvings. Opposite the south-western corner of the square is one of the city's best Gothic buildings, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, dating from the late 14th century. Inside, the 17th century Boyim Chapel features some of Lviv's most magnificent stone carvings.

Opposite the north-eastern corner is Lviv's oldest pharmacy. Founded in 1735, the pharmacy shares a 16th century building with the Apteka (pharmacy) Museum, featuring exhibits of historic pharmaceutical equipment.

About 2km (1mile) east of the Old Town, is Lviv's open-air Museum of Popular Architecture & Life, where 100 old wooden farmsteads, smithies, windmills, churches and schools are spread out. Representing folk traditions from around the country, the buildings are decked out with historical everyday objects and folk art. Buses and trams from the city centre serve the museum.

Tour of Lviv

Lviv is a little known city - a pity, because it is charming and boasts churches, palaces and museums equally interesting to those that thousands visit in Prague and Cracow. In fact they were built and designed by many of the same architects.

Why is it so little known? For fifty years it was hidden behind the same Iron Curtain as its better known counterparts. However, when the curtain fell away from other cities, it still stayed partly in place around Lviv. Ukraine has got ridden itself of the bureaucratic barriers that it inherited from the Soviet Union and Europeans, Americans and other westerners do not have to obtain visas to visit Lviv and the Ukraine.

Having said that, now let's take a look around of this charming city, which from an architectural and cultural standpoint, has more in common with Vienna than with Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

A quick review of its history reveals the reason. Founded in the 13th. century by Prince Danylo of Galicia (Halicz), a hundred years later all Ruthenia came under the control of the Polish kings. Lvov (Lwów), as it was then called, became one of the important cities of the Polish-Lithuanian Alliance. During this period many of the churches, the Bernardine monastery and other graceful Baroque style buildings were erected. In the first partition of Poland in 1772, all of Malopolska and Galicia were taken by Austria. Then the town was renamed Lemberg. After the Ausgleich of 1867, the city prospered as the semi-autonomous capital of Galicia with strong Polish presence, but also growing and expanding Ukrainian organizations. The city grew rapidly, and many of the downtown buildings, including the Town Hall, the University and the George Hotel, date back to this period.

The Prospekt Svobody (Freedom Boulevard) is an imposing avenue. It runs from the Viennese style Opera House southward to Mitskevicha Square. Chess players occupy the tree lined pedestrian mall, down its middle, which is the best place to watch people promenading at weekends and in the evenings. The buildings lining either side of Svobody Boulevard are all from the Austrian era. Two of the old palaces house important museums. The National Museum should be visited to see the collection of Icons, and a fragment of the ancient city walls connects to it . The Ethnographic Museum contains a large collection of Pysanky (Easter eggs) as well as Ukrainian costumes and embroidery

The center of old Lviv is the eight block square area, east of the Boulevard with Rynok (Market Square) at its centre, surrounded by graceful 3 and 4 storey mansions from the 16th to 18th centuries, their facades decorated with sculptures - unfortunately most are in a poor state of repair. In the centre of the Market Square is the late 19th century Town Hall with its tower (the view from the top is well worth the climb!) At the corners of the Market Square there are fountains decorated with statues of Greek gods and goddesses. Three of the largest mansions, on the east side of the square, together form the History Museum.

Lviv has almost as many beautiful churches as Cracow. A few steps from Neptune's fountain on the south-west corner of the Rynok Square you come across to the Roman Catholic Cathedral (Katolitsky Sobor), an awesome building with huge decorated columns and dark frescoes. Just outside, on Staroyevreys'ka Vulytsia (Old Jewish Street), you must see Lviv's most exquisite architectural masterpiece, the small Boim Chapel. Built in 1609 by a rich Hungarian merchant family, it is in Renaissance style with a richly sculpted facade and ornate interior.

Before the Soviet takeover, Lviv had four cathedrals - Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian. The Armenian Cathedral , built in the 14th. C., has been closed for many years and is in poor condition. It may be seen one block north of the Market Square on Virmenska St. Head east one block to Pidvalna Street. and the 18th.C. Rococo Dominican Church with its huge green dome, is now converted into the Museum of Religion. Go inside to see several lovely sculptures of the old gentry. Just south of it you will find the sumptuous Orthodox Assumption Church (Uspenska Tserkva) with the 66 meter high (215 feet) Kornyakt bell tower. This church is full of ancient icons, but photography is not allowed, so you can only admire them.

Continue further south, past the Armory (the Military Museum), then west again on Valovy (Walls) Street to the Greek Catholic church of St. Andrew's. This large complex was originally the Roman Catholic Bernardine Monastery. There is a massive gold and black granite altar. When the monastery was built, in the 17th. C. it was adjacent to and incorporated part of the old city walls, which are still there today. Note the covered gallery that leads along the top of the wall. By now you will be hungry. Go west past the fruit and vegetable stalls of the Halytska market place to the imposing, ornate, late 19th. century, George Hotel - Lviv's most prestigious, but reasonably priced hotel. It is located at the corner of Mitskevicha Square and Shevchenko Boulevard. Along the latter you will find a number of restaurants. In the hotel, English speaking staff at reception can provide information and may make reservations for you.

St.George is the Greek-Catholic Cathedral, built in the 18th.C. An imposing late-Rococo style edifice with a statue of St.George slaying the dragon on top, it dominates the skyline next to Ivan Franko Park, a few blocks west of Mitskevicha Square. In the crypt there is a collection of ancient icons. The park looks down on the University, the oldest in Ukraine. Further south, on another of Lviv's seven hills, lies Strijsky Park, Lviv's largest, with swans swimming in its ponds, flower gardens and lovely shaded walks.

Go north east from the Opera, or take a bus, to Lviv's highest hill Zamkova Hora (Castle Hill). The Polish King Casimir erected a castle here in the 14th. C., but, damaged by several sieges, it was torn down 200 years ago. Today it is a park with panoramic views of the whole city. Below it nestles the oldest part of the city Podzamcze (Under the Castle) and Lviv's oldest churches - the quaint Church of St. John the Baptist, and St. Nicholas with two green cupolas, both dating back to the 13th. C., all that remains of the very early days of the city. This is also the area in which most of the Jewish population lived, before it was exterminated by the Nazis.

The Old Market Place (Staryi Rynok) offers little of interest to the tourist. Cemeteries are not usual fare for the tourist, but Lviv's Lychakivsky Cemetery (reached by tram No7) is an exception. The many beautiful statues to Ukrainian heroes and artists are worth the visit to this park like setting.

Click here to view 50 photos from my personal Lviv Photo Gallery

Text and Photos are Copyright of Yannis Papaioannou

Author:  wiz [ 19 Jan 2011 08:48 ]
Post subject:  Re: LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe

Lviv Video Pictures

Lviv (Lvov) is a stunning city in the west of Ukraine. The UNESCO World Heritage
listed old town contains stunning architecture from many styles.

Author:  Vinnvinny [ 20 Jan 2011 23:55 ]
Post subject:  Re: LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe

Nice work wiz. You could do with adding some photos from this century though. [thumbs.gif]

Author:  wiz [ 28 Feb 2011 20:42 ]
Post subject:  Re: LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe

Photos from Lviv and its environs - May 2005

When I was travelling around Ukraine, I took a lot of photos and have created few albums and presentations.

I hope you enjoy these photos from Lviv and the interesting places around.


Click on the photo to view the Album presentation.

The link to the Album presentation opens in a new window.
Use the navigation buttons at the top to view the photos
and at the last photo there is a link to come back to the board.

Enjoy it!


Author:  wiz [ 28 Feb 2011 20:52 ]
Post subject:  Re: LVIV - Ukraine - The Florence of Eastern Europe

Vinnvinny wrote:
Nice work wiz. You could do with adding some photos from this century though. [thumbs.gif]

I hope these photos above are from this century...... but Lviv was like that when I visited and I loved every minute of my visit and went back again and again.

That was its charm old boy that made me go back several times and not any woman as you may think, knowing you" [tonque.gif]


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