Feb 3rd, 2017, 12:28 AM

A City of Contrasts

By Anastasiia Yarova
Image Credit: Anastasiia Yarova
Lviv, in Western Ukraine, is the perfect winter destination.

You might have always thought "Why would I ever want to spend my holiday in Ukraine?" You might also say that it's nothing special, maybe a little boring and definitely dangerous.  Much of this can be blamed on the media's portrayal of Ukraine, especially when considering the recent revolution and the ongoing war in the Eastern departments of the country. Much of it is, in fact, exaggerated.

Image Credit: Sofia Kaminskaya

Ukraine is a safe, exciting and great country to visit, especially in the winter. Lviv during the winter time is a true Eastern European wonderland. As the cultural capital of the country, it is a unique experience with over 100 annual festivals, 60 museums and dozens more cultural locations.

While exploring Lviv, you might be surprised by the number of foreigners, who mostly come from Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and sometimes even from India. You will never feel lost in Lviv; people are very helpful and friendly to foreigners, a fact which is reflected in the service. Waitresses smile at you and can help you to choose something special on their menu, all while being proficient in English.

The Rynok Square. Image Credit: Valeria Teverovska

“The city welcomes everyone, it will warm you up with local coffee, feed with plyatski (West Ukrainian cakes) and will give you to drink a Drunk Cherry (cocktail based on vodka) or True beer,” says Valeria Teverovska, 24, who has been living in Lviv for seven years.

True beer comes from the Beer Theater “Pravda” (ukr. pravda - truth), located in the very heart of Lviv in the Rynok Square. You can watch them brew their own beer, the process of which you can look at from their built-in restaurant. The beer is not just delicious, but there is also a great variety of different types. It has light beer called “Frau Ribbentrop” with a picture of Angela Merkel on the bottle. Or even dark beer “Obama Hope” with Barack pictured on the dollar bill. You might also want to try strong light ale "Putin Huilo" (ukr. huilo - di**head) with naked Putin on the golden chair holding baby-Medvedev. Though maybe you might just want to buy it as a great souvenir.

The average beer price is 30-70 UAH (€1.5).

Christmas Market near Opera House. Image Credit: Anastasiia Yarova

Before drinking beer, go visit some sights. As was said before, the center of the old town is the Rynok Square. It's the square with the City Council or the Town Hall in the middle of it. You can enter the building, go by stairs to the last floor following the sign “Tower”, where you buy the ticket for 15 UAH (€0.5). The tower is 65 meters high and there is no elevator, so be ready to walk 408 stairs up to the top. The view is worth it as it contains one of the best city panoramas you can find in Lviv.

Another one is on the top of the High Castle, which is the name of the highest hill in the city, which is a little outside of the old city. You will not find any castle there, but there is a beautiful park, especially in the winter with all trees and the ground in the snow so that everything is so white creating the festive atmosphere. During this period of time, the park is not filled with lots of people. Embrace your inner child as you play with the snow, make a snowman or just peacefully enjoy the silence and the great views in one of the oldest cities in Ukraine.

The Dominican Church of Holly Communion. Image Credit: Anastasiia Yarova

On your way down back to the city center, stop by Cabinet to rest up with a great cup of coffee and tasty pastries. It is a two-floor cafe with a beautiful vintage looking spiral staircase, which has bookshelves instead of regular walls. Elegant chandeliers are hanging in big bird cages from the ceiling to the first floor, so that people sitting on the second balcony-type level become viewers of these cages and the city behind the big window. The interior design is amazing and one of the best in the cities. It is a bit more expensive compared to other Lviv’s restaurants and cafes. One cup of latte costs 60 UAH (€2), while the average price is 25-35 UAH.

Warmed up? 3 minutes away from Cabinet there is Hlyniany Gate, the focal point of the remaining fortifications that has been defending Lviv from enemies since 1618. When you cross the small bridge and enter the gate, to the right there is a great thematic restaurant with a quite exclusive name. “First Lviv’s Grill Hospitality of Meat and Justice”. Tells a lot, ha? 

Image Credit: Igor Zvenigorodskiy

You will be more interested, when you read that the main character in the restaurant is executioner. Historically, executioners were the first municipal employee in Lviv who did all the dirty jobs in the city. After democracy was established, he had to search for another occupation and this was how he opened meat restaurant. Since who else but executioner knows everything about cutting up meat, right? There also takes place a little show, where he ‘punishes’ the customers by putting them into the cage.

If you are looking for some more extreme  impressions, must visit place is “Masoch Cafe,” which was inspired by the famous Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Born in Lviv, he is known as the father of the term 'masochism.' The cafe is quite dark and red-colored with bras hanging above the bar. Its slogan is “Hot. Spicy. Literary.” True to Leopold's identity, they have a habit of whipping without warning, beating customers from time to time while sitting at the table enjoying a cocktail or beer. 

Taras Shevchenko monument. Image Credit: Montaser Al Ismee

Lviv is rich in its art, creativity, history and hilariously amusing contrasts. Guranteed to leave an imprint in your memory, there is no regrets when it comes to Lviv.

And since the city is located in the Western Ukraine, far from the combat zone line, there is no need to worry about safety. Compelte with a large international airport that was built for EURO 2012, and a railway station that connects Lviv with every major city in Ukraine, as well as with foreign cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest and Moscow, it is the closest city to Europe in Ukraine. A visa is also not required for EU and US citizens.