02 February 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

Lviv, Ukraine is a breath of fresh air, in every contradicting sense of the word 'fresh.'
Fresh vegetables. Unlike other architecturally impressive cities, Lviv's buildings have yet to be pickled, marinated, frozen or dried in a way that makes them taste altered. In fact, a huge part of what seemed so fresh about it was its grittiness. Like carrots with dirt still on the roots. Crumbling facades and chipped paint hint at the sort of postcard-ready squares of Riga or Wroclaw.
The city was spared any major destruction during the wars of the past few centuries, so there's a veritable mini chronology of architectural history scattered about. Renaissance, baroque, classic, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, still standing in Eastern Europe. It really is amazing.
A fresh take on things. Every time an impression was made on us, we would turn a corner and find something completely new. On the way up a hill to the High Castle ruin, we saw a group of people crossing themselves at a nativity scene, complete with live sheep, we stumbled upon an alleyway art gallery filled with portraits of everyone from Lenin to David Beckham and we zig zagged around stray dogs to take a picture of this din-filled trailer on the side of the street. It was surprise after surprise and, luckily, the weather held up for us to just keep on exploring.
Fresh as a daisy. There's a big student population here, giving the city an electric energy, vigor. Even now, in winter, there were street musicians on the corners, people waiting for the opera ticket office to open and sidewalk art sales. This used book market happened every day around an enormous statue of Ivan Fedorovych holding an enormous tome (he was a typographer).
You can always count on students to throw a fresh coat of paint on something.
So fresh and so clean (clean). Eastern Europeans have a style all their own, but the residents of Lviv's style is refreshingly diverse. Heels like the ones above are the norm, like in Russia and Belarus. Even down cobblestone, icy hills, they pound the pavement. Women from their teens to their seventies where shoes that add about five inches to their height and fur of all colors, patterns, cuts, styles. Here, though, you're just as likely to see a sneaker-clad female or blinged-out Uggs. My arches rejoice in these sightings.
Fresh Coffee. I mean this one literally. After two weeks of instant coffee packets, having real, espresso-machined cafes just about everywhere is amazing. Cafes outnumber bars and restaurants here. The coolest one we've been to was called "Blue Bottle," located down an alleyway and marked only by - you guess it - a blue bottle hanging on a brick wall. That would sound too cool for school in most other places, but it was small and comfy and had this amazing sink in its bathroom. Viva la Lviv.

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