"Euromeet 2010 at Lviv" Lviv by Ekaterinburg
Lviv Travel Guide: 826 reviews and 2,897 photos
I've been wanting to visit Lviv for years, inspired by travel books and photographs and more recently by VT'rs Horscheck and Royslaven. Intrigued by the impression Lviv had made on these two, I was really curious to see it for myself. My chance finally came with this year's Euromeet schedule, and on May 31st, still a little amazed that it was actually happening, I found myself on a train from Krakow to Lviv, with 12 other 'intrepid' explorers. I mention the journey because during the long winter months anticipating this trip, it was the train journey I looked forward to most. Eastern European landscapes flashing by, whooshing through little towns and villages, changing the bogeys before entering Ukraine and ultimately, that magical moment when the train would cross the border and we would 'be there.'
The journey was certainly memorable but for none of the reasons I anticipated. The countryside was uniformly green and uninteresting with very little to see. By the time we finally crosssed the border it was almost dark and a little rainy. When we eventually got our passports back fom the border guards, visibility was poor, so apart from one onion dome in the distance the 'wow moment' didn't happen.
What was great about the journey was the feeling of being a child again,on a school outing - but without supervision. Hanging out the windows, making jokes about the ( very smelly ) toilet, sharing wine and snacks, gossiping and having a laugh. Every adult should have a train ride like this occasionally and to my fellow passengers - Isa, Bernd, Sarah, June, Sue-t, Sue-v, GillyB, Stacy, Carmen, Courtney, Dino and David - thanks for being such good company.
And while I'm thanking people, a thousand thanks to Matt and Ursula, who not only conceived the idea but went through enormous beaurocratic hassle, actually purchasing our train tickets. Matt if it weren't for you, I'd never have set foot in Ukraine , so as we say in Ireland 'Go raibh mile maith agat.'
After 10-11 long hours, the train finally rumbled into Lviv's main railway station. Stretching tired legs and unclenching numb bums, we tottered on to the platform and joined the queues to exchange money. The station was cavernous and shadowy and finally the excitement of being in a new country began to kick in. At a certain stage someone got nervous about openly changing money while people were loitering about and we made a sudden assault on the taxi rank. Maybe if we hadn't been in such a hurry, what happened next could have been avoided. Maybe if we'd spent some time on the train familiarising ourselves with the Ukrainian currency instead of laughing and chatting, we wouldn' have been such sitting ducks but four of us were royally ripped off by an enterprising taxi driver. That taxi driver must have been the happiest man in Lviv. In fairness, I think he did not set out to deceive us - making signs to indicate the amount with his hands. We thought he said 600 and he just accepted it when we handed that amount over. No doubt he felt the stupid tourists got what they deserved. And we did ! EUR 18 each for a taxi ride that should have cost about EUR 1, per person. We'll never live it down !
The chaos of so many of us arriving together at Hotel George at least distracted us from our rip off and now the adventure of the train was taken over by the adventure of the quiet, circular corridoors of a sleeping hotel and the majestic staircase that led to them. Searching for the toilet was the most urgent task for those of us without ensuite rooms and there was lots of giggling and wandering about before finally, way past exhaustion, sinking into bed. Sinking into bed in Lviv, Ukraine - Woohoo !
Breakfast at Hotel George was substantial and delicious and a very social occasion as those who'd arrived on the night train or by car, swapped stories and caught up with the latest news. Hunter V arrived, having travelled thousands of KM to be with us and we were thrilled to meet him. If you haven't already seen it, do watch Hani's video of this breakfast and people welcoming Victor. It's a lovely clip that perfectly illustrates all that's best about VT meetings. Eventually, breakfast over, we arrived in dribs and drabs at reception, where poor Matt struggled to be heard and answered countless questions. We moved outside to a rather damp, grey morning and set off to explore Lviv. Despite, or maybe because of, all the excitement the day before, I was in no fit state for walking. On the train, I'd twisted my back while investigating the top bunk and had woken with a back pain so intense, that I could barely walk. Sue-T came to the rescue with a strong painkiller and with this inside me I was just about able to hobble along. Eventually I dropped out of the main group and wandered at snail pace through the city centre. Late in the afternoon, absolutely wrecked, I sat on the fountain in the main square, to catch my breath. Out of the crowd came two familiar figures - Holger and Sonya, who had made a last minute decision to carry on to Lviv. These were two smiling faces I was so happy to see.
That first day, I was not terribly receptive to what I saw but next morning the sun shone and everything looked so much better.
Continued in the tips below.
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