As if our down to the wire panic attack to make the bus to Chernobyl wasn’t enough, it was another down to the last minute effort to make a bus that would take us to the border town of Lviv in Western Ukraine.
We ran back to our hostel (and having lost Andrew along the way), threw our stuff in our bags, and scrambled up and down the streets of Kiev, trying to make sense of a map that I could have been reading upside down, with 17 other people in the group who either trusted me or thought they knew better on how to get there (and they probably did).
Add that to slippery icy streets, the darkness of winter, and the fact we had lost Andrew…and you got yourself another heart attack in the making.
Luckily we ran into Andrew on the way out of the hostel (God bless him for finding a way back on his own) and we thanked our lucky charms nobody slipped and cracked their head open on the icy streets. Down to constant rushing, the bus also waited for us as we arrived to the station 10min late.
The stars must have been aligned in our favor that day.
We then passed out on our 9 hour overnight bus ride to Lviv.
From the Lviv Bus Station we borrowed a fellow traveler’s phone to reorient ourselves and then we took Bus #10 from the bus station to the train station at 6:15am to drop off our luggage at train station’s left luggage facility.
From there we headed onwards on Tram #9 to Ploschka Rynok, Lviv’s UNESCO World Heritage city center, where we wandered around a bit.
We then met up with a friend of a friend, Tolic, who lives in Lviv and wanted to show us around. So first order of business in Ukraine: grab beer and grub at Kryjivka, an underground bar (same building as the restaurant Mason) where you need a password to get past AK-47 wielding guards.
You gotta monsoon with us one day to find out the password. (or google it)
Dining at Kryjivka will get you a discount to eat upstairs at the very expensive Mason, a Free Mason themed restaurant. To find it upstairs, you first need to find the right apartment. And once you do, an old man will open the door and give you a puzzled look of “who are you and why do you want to come in?”
Be insistent on entering this old man’s random living space. If you’re stubborn enough, he’ll lead you past some curtains into a decked out Free Mason restaurant.
Afterwards we went up to the city center tower, which costs 10UAH and a crapload of burnt calories for a 10min slog to the top.
We then were taken to a nearby Jewish-themed restaurant, Under the Golden Rose, where supposedly there are no prices; you haggle the price of the food you order. Not sure if that’s supposed to be flattering (according to the owner, he created the restaurant to honor the city’s Jewish past), but I wouldn’t be surprised if this place got dinged for its stereotyping (for which I’m not a fan).
The restaurant is also known for having a car on its roof and for its views.
Then we hiked up High Castle Hill to get sweeping views of the sunset over Lviv:
Afterwards, we headed back down to the city center, playing Coldplay, Jimmy Eat World and other sunset-fitting songs.
We visited a few churches and then headed to Gaslamp, a gaslight-themed restaurant for dinner. Lviv seems to love its themed-restaurant concept.
Due to the the size of our group, we were able to snag a private room for free and without reservations. And here we are, having dinner and taking naps from a really really long day.
Tomorrow: Krakow, Poland — Auschwitz, Auschwitz Bircanaeu, and Oskar Schindler’s Factory from Schindler’s List.
– At time of posting in Lviv, it was 24.8 °F – Humidity: n/a | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy