Today's post has nothing crafty in it. This is just a long summary of my weekend in Lviv. Stop back later this week for some stamping and card making goodness. Today is just for family and friends that want an update on Lviv. Read it if you are at all interested in Eastern Europe. I won't mind if you skip it also.
It's good to be home. I enjoy my business and personal travel, but no matter where I go, who I go with or how long I am gone, there is a real joy in returning home. Ah, it is wonderful to sleep in my own bed, pet my dogs and get back into a normal routine!
So let me tell you about Lviv Ukraine.
1) Lviv has fabulous and interesting coffee shops. They were EVERYWHERE and each one was unique and interesting. There were big ones, small ones, fancy ones, modern ones, portable ones... every type. They served mostly espresso and cappuccino and yes, it was good coffee. We only saw one coffee shop that was an American Brand. You are thinking - of course - Starbucks - but no. It was Gloria Jeans... This is the Lviv Gloria Jeans. I've never seen a more beautiful Gloria Jeans in all my life. We had dinner there Friday night because Sarah was craving lettuce salad and they had a nice cafe menu.
3) Soviet Influence. It is truly hard to believe that people my age would have lived more than half their life under soviet rule and that in this generation this entire country had to rebuild itself. There was still a large soviet influence in many aspects of the city. Most noticeable (to me) was the uniformed security in the city and airport. We had a large burly soviet looking man who sat on the couch in the hotel lobby 24/7. At one point I was tempted to go down and get a coffee, but the thought of passing this man scared me away. Keep in mind our hotel lobby was very tiny. See below:
4) Shopping: Lviv has very interesting shopping. We went to a pharmacy, convenience store and shopping mall. All were very different from American Shopping. When you go to the pharmacy and convenience store there is no browsing. All items for purchase are behind the counter and you ask the clerk for what you need. This is actually very inefficient because a line forms and the clerk can only wait on one person at a time. Sarah wanted to buy conditioner for her hair and she asked questions about two products and the others behind us just had to wait while she decided and paid before they were helped. The same was true when I bought a water bottle at the convenience store. I could not take the water bottle out of the cooler. The clerk got it for me and checked me out. The shopping mall was interesting and fun. There were no large dept stores. Everything was small shops that specialized in one thing - maybe clothes, maybe just jeans, maybe shoes, maybe make-up. It was not especially efficient and reminded me of a large indoor flea-market.
And oh my, the fashions in Ukraine. Very urban and young and wild. Tight is the way to go and lots of things had zippers or spandex. All the shoes were heels and even in the end of March they were selling mostly boots - either high boots or ankle boots. It seems boots are year round attire in Ukraine. There were also some fun outdoor markets for tourists. Lots of religious artwork, hand crafted linens and soviet era trinkets. I got some fun hand painted eggs for our easter baskets.
5) Churches. Lviv had some beautiful churches. Gorgeous buildings with gold dome tops and ornate statues. We didn't get a chance to really go inside, but they were everywhere - mostly catholic (I'm guessing) and architecturally stunning.
This one (above) was the 'mall church.' It was made of wood and was right in front of the mall and very pretty. The two below were in the heart of the city and very typical of the traditional, historic churches in Lviv. Really, really pretty.
7) Prices. Sarah was outraged at how expensive things were in the city, but I found everything very affordable. For instance, a 20 minute taxi ride to the airport was 45 hryvnia. A 75 minute hair cut and style at a nice salon was 200 hryvnia. So that was a $5.00 taxi ride and a $25.00 haircut. Keep in mind that there is no tipping, so that makes it really affordable in my book. At one point I ordered an entree for lunch that was 80 hryvnia. Sarah was like - that is so expensive. I can't believe you spent 80 hryvnia on that. I was like - that is 10.00 bucks. I spend ten bucks at Panera bread and don't really think of that as expensive and my entree was at a nice restaurant with table service. Everything is relative, but I was happy to boost the Ukraine economy with my business. Surprisingly clothes and shoes were not inexpensive. Unlike America there are no sales and discounts except for rare cases of out of season merchandise. Keep in mind that black is a year - round color and they wear boots year round so these were not on sale when we went looking. Sarah found a nice pair of pants, but they were 500 hryvnia - which is like $50.00. As you all know in the US, you can hit a Kohl's sale and get a nice pair of pants for much less than that. In Ukraine, all the stores had similar prices, just different styles and $50.00 was the going rate for pants and jeans. Boots were similarly priced also. Below is Sarah wearing her new pants that she bought with the birthday money her grandmother sent over.
The older women had their own fasions. They were plain, didn't do themselves up at all, but they were charming and beautiful too, just in a very different way. There were lots of these Babushka - widowed grandmother types with scarfs on their heads and more peasant clothes. They were all over the city selling flowers or trinkets on the streets.
The first picture is the outside of the front of the building. When the taxi pulled up I almost asked him, are you sure you understood that I wanted to go the airport? Doesn't this look like a library or museum? It's the airport!
Remember how I said they weighed my luggage on an old fashioned scale? Below is the check in counter. Do you see the blue thing on the right side? That was the scale. They took my bags over, put them on that and that was their weight system.
Below is the actual gate where we waited until it was time to board the plane. It was small, cramped and crowded, but everyone was friendly and it was fine.
Before I leave the topic of transportation, let's talk about cars, buses and trolleys. The streets are all cobblestone in the city. All of them. That made for a beautiful sight, but a bumpy cab ride. Below is a photo of the street near our hotel. Most of the cars (including cabs) were very old.
The buses were fine. They were cheap, reliable and crowded. Sarah and I decided to do a bus trip from the mall to the city instead of a cab. It was fun, but I don't do it every day. Lots of people were on the bus and we toured the suburban neighborhoods dropping people and picking them up along the way.
10) So, I've been talking a lot about Lviv and the city and the sights, but let's talk for about my reason for being in Ukraine in the first place. Let's talk about my darling daughter Sarah. It was so good to see her. I cried when I hugged her in the airport, and I cried harder when I left, but it's all good. It's just emotions coming out. We had some nice time to talk and hang out and it was great. She is doing so well. I am so proud of the beautiful woman she is becoming. She is already different (in a good way from when she left.) She is confident, strong, expressive, thoughtful and compassionate. I'm so happy she is learning, growing and helping the world be a better place. She reluctantly allowed me to spoil her a bit, which was easy since the prices were low by my standards. She hadn't had a haircut in a long time so I took her to a salon. She finished with 'movie star' hair.
We had a fun, but busy time together and I'm so thankful I got to see her. Thanks for stopping by today and reading about my trip. Leave a comment if you know how.