Our trip to the city of many names was relatively uneventful, given how we chose to get there: we walked across the Polish-Ukrainian border. It’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds, and apparently much quicker than taking a bus or train directly through from Krakow. The way to do it is: you take a train from Krakow to Przemyśl (something like 40zl per person), then from Przemyśl, you take a minibus to the border town on the Polish side, called Medyka (2zl per person). At this point, you begin the walk across the border, which took us about 30 minutes, including passing through both checkpoints. As one would expect, given that it is an external EU border, the Polish checkpoint is a lot more professional-looking than the Ukrainian one. After passing the Polish border, you walk for a few minutes through a fenced in area, after which the Ukrainian border guard will give your passport a cursory glance and a careless stamp and wave you on through. I was very excited, because this stamp became the first on my passport extension!we
So anyway, we successfully crossed the border. Then, after the border crossing, you have to walk a ways down the road and then turn left at the first intersection to get to the bus station, which I believe Wikitravel described as ‘new and modern’, although I would beg to differ. From there, it’s fairly easy to catch a small bus, called a marshrutka, to L’viv. Of course, you must first contend with the taxi drivers who will tell you that there is no such bus, as well as the hordes of people trying to push their way onto the bus without tickets. The ticket taking process is a bit suspect – before we boarded, the driver announced, “Only people with tickets can get on!” because of how many people were pushing and shoving. However, once the bus was full, he simply said, “Ok, does everyone have a ticket?” and then we set off. Along the way, we’d stop periodically and cram a few more people from the side of the road in, to the point where the door was bulging outwards.
The bus makes many stops along the way, and the road is in relatively poor condition (perhaps a slightly surprising fact, since it is the main east-west thoroughfare and connects Ukraine to Poland), so by the time we got to L’viv, it was already early evening. Our hostel was fairly mediocre (“WC and shower on the floor” that you actually had to go outside to get to them…although they were on the same floor), but we were seduced by the fact that it had historical value – Pilsudski lived in the building! – and was centrally located. Also, it was 9€ a night,
I’d heard mixed things about L’viv from various people, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The city itself has a slightly more bohemian, laid-back vibe than Krakow – for example, you see many more casually dressed people going out for the evening. Admittedly, we did have a number of excellent recommendations from a friend who is a L’viv native.
Our first night we ate at a place called Gasova Lyampa (Oil Lamp – apparently the first one was invented in L’viv), on Virmens’ka Street, followed by snacks and drinks at a magical place called Kryivka, at Rynek Square 14, where we returned the following evening. Kryivka is a 24-hour Ukrainian-resistance themed restaurant/bar, and you need the password (“haslo” in Ukrainian) in order to enter, after which you are offered a shot of vodka. The restaurant is decorated with pictures of resistance fighters all over, as well as some military equipment, and many of the dishes are named for fighters, with their biographies underneath. Both Gasova Lyampa and Kryivka serve very tasty western Ukrainian food, and they were the culinary highlights of L’viv for me, although the cafe at Dzyga Gallery has some excellent teas (we didn’t eat there).
As we only had one full day in L’viv before heading off to Kyiv, we mostly spent it wandering around the city somewhat aimlessly. We followed some dirt paths up into the hills and simply enjoyed the fact that, for once, it wasn’t pouring.
After cavorting about in the fresh air, we decided to set out for Kiev by the 8:37 train, which we missed by about 2 minutes after a 15 minute wait for a taxi, followed by an incredibly slow-moving ticket line after the realisation that it was not possible to buy tickets on the train.