As a birthday present to myself, I decided to go to Lviv in Ukraine. I’d never been, and what better present to oneself than a new stamp in the passport?
Lviv reminds me of Belgrade, as it’s a fantastic yet unappreciated city, with a rich history and culture to explore. Like Belgrade, Lviv has just one vegetarian restaurant— and like Radost in Belgrade, Green is a lovely gem, with an amazing atmosphere, friendly, helpful waiters and delicious, unique vegetarian and vegan food.
Discovering the restaurant Green was down the street from my hostel was a bonus. Just off the main market square, the menu is compact but delicious (and fortunately, they do have an English version, with lovely photos of everything.)
The Thai soup is spicy and savory, and I really liked their take on Salat Olivier, which I’ve written about before. This is a sweet version, with pears and pomegranate seeds, blended with creamy nut mayonnaise and balanced with the spicy bite of arugula and the crunch of cucumbers.
If you get there early enough for breakfast, try the sweet cheese pancakes. Lovely and sweet, a touch of orange peel bite, the sweetness is offset with a dollop of tangy yogurt sauce.
Make sure to check out the upstairs. No chairs, sitting on the floor with cushions, great place to write or hangout if you have an unexpected snowy afternoon. They also have a great tea selection (I recommend the winter blend.)
Here’s an interesting cultural thing: shoes. I’m used to taking off my shoes in Polish flats & houses, and being offered house slippers to walk around in. But I wasn’t prepared for a hostel to explain that slippers were the policy…. and certainly wasn’t ready for a museum to insist I wear slippers over my boots. (To protect the floor and save on sweeping?)
In addition to the numerous culture, history and art museums in the city, a must-see is the famous Lychakiv Cemetery. In sheer size and diversity of people interred there, it reminded me of the Père Lachaise in Paris. I saw names in Polish, German and Ukrainian, and a number of famous Poles are buried there.
The main square and castle hill (for the view) are also good places to check out. My explorations were cut bit short due to snow on Sunday, though.
If you visit, take note of language. English is spoken in few places. The hotel and airport are safe, but taxi cab drivers, tram and bus drivers and museum attendants likely won’t speak English. If you have the address to where you’ll be staying, make sure it’s written in Cyrillic. Be prepared to use hand gestures, or take a phrase or guidebook, as well as a smile and a sense of humor. I tried using my rudimentary Polish, as they’re both Slavic languages. However, while that made people more patient with me, as they thought I was a Polish tourist, it didn’t actually help much with communicating. As is often the case, younger people will likely know some English and older folks won’t. Waiters in restaurants knew basic English, but not much beyond the menu.
Which is my final suggestion for traveling in Lviv: self-cater. Near the opera, there was an outdoor market, which had plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. (Steer clear of the meat sellers, unless you have a strong stomach!) Also, Green does sell soy products— their own as well as Ukrainian brands.
In the spring, I’d love to go back— particularly with Lviv’s connection to Wroclaw. (Lviv was Polish before WWII, while Wroclaw was a German city.) I’ve seen traces of the city’s German past in Poland, and I’m curious to see more of the Polish influence in Ukraine.