Normally there are 2 scenarios for spending winter holidays for Ukrainians and Russians. First is to go skiing to Alps. Second – is to escape from cold days to sunny countries. This winter I was out of the scenario, as I went to my favourite Lviv. Western Ukrainian city looks like Europe due to its architecture, but it doesn’t have any ski resorts within the town. It was warm for us, but weather has nothing to do with it – tasty local coffee made us feel hot. This is actually why I came here – to drink the tasties coffee in Ukraine. And to discover missed details, as Lviv always has something new to surprise.
After two years of separation with Lviv I came to visit it again. Nothing has changed much, but when I walk around the city center I notice that actually something did. Colourful 3-storeys houses that create an ensemble of Market Square still stands on their place, the same as merry atmosphere around that covers Lviv all year round. But Euro 2012 Football Championship, that striked Ukraine last year, influenced on the city’s entourage with the growing numbers of hostels, new touristic cafes and informative signs. Even legendary cafe ”Under the blue bottle”, that was always hidden in one yard in the center is declassified. Before to find it was a special ritual for me and other tourists, but today there is a sign mark its location on Rus’ka, 4 street.
But Lviv is used for changes. During its bright history, which started from 13 century, it belonged to Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Germany, Russia and Ukraine. Every other ruler changed its name to Leopolis, Lemberg, Lwow, Lemberik. Due to its lush past Lviv used to be called a piece of Europe in Ukraine. And for those Ukrainians who do not have Shengen visa it is the best opportunity to see Europe without leaving own country!
What also makes it different from other cities in Ukraine is strong coffee culture, borrowed from near Austria. By irony, Austria inherited it from Ukrainian-born soldier and diplomat Yury Kolschitzky. After his heroic help in the Battle of Vienna (1683) that safed the city from Ottoman invetion, he became a local hero and opened one of the first cafes in Europe using coffee beans left by the retreating Turks. Legend says that since than coffee penetrated the whole of Europe. Reality shows that it strongly settled down in Lviv. You notice it while walking around old streets and entering shops and galleries. I noticed it even inside cathedrals!
I was in many so-called coffee capitals, but never met anything similar to Lviv. In Vienna coffee culture smells too aristocratic, in Venice (Bolonga, Milan etc.) it has a posh touch, in New York it is a fashion element. But in Lviv they drink coffee for enjoying it. That’s it! You don’t need to have a plastic cup of coffee for make it part of your style, you don’t need to make a play of it. Lviv showed me that coffee exist for giving you a taste of your life.
And Lviv knows how to make it even more bright. No matter what holiday it is, the city has something to celebrate. This time it was past Christmas days. Market Square functioned as its name suggests – several holiday tents sold chocolate, souvenirs, sweets and other Christmas attributes. Nearby they erected an ice-rink for those who like skating. Ladies in vintage long dresses walked around the Square offering to buy candies. From time to time children wearing traditional holiday costumes appeared. All this together made me feel back in time. But actually this happens to me everytime I visit Lviv. And I think that I becoming Lviv-addicted. And there are no remedies exist from this, luckily.
My favourite cafes in Lviv:
1) Art- cafe Dzyga (Literally ”a whirligig”)
Address: 35, Virmens’ka Street
Why: Here they prepare must-try ”flaming coffee” with rum or cognac. A special ritual of fire the mixture while serving with switched light is trully impressive!
In blog Coffee with books you can find more about it:
Address: Av. Svobody, 28. In the Opera House building, from the right of the main entrance.
Why: It is ideal place to go after Opera or theater! To enter you have to wear proposed costume or hat, so everyone inside reminds opera actors or princesses from the past. The other hightlights are tilted walls and ceiling – the legend says that Opera House is slowly leaning due to the undergroung river Poltva. By the way, here you can also see it! Artifially made and on the screen in real time.
Address: 4, Rus’ka street.
Why: Lately it was a place not for everyone due to its hidden lacation, also due to absence of free places. There are only 5 tables, so the chances to find any place are primitive. I mad eit only from 10th time!
Address: 20, Virmenska Street.
Why: At the entrance you will meet a host with a lamp wearing a huge hat. If you ask he will tell that in Lviv the first kerosene lamp in the world was invented in 1853. This cafe is dedicated to this invention – 3 storeys decorated like some kind laboratory, where waitress bring you mills on frying pan and drinks in glass flasks and tubes.
5) Dim legend (Literally ”the house of legends”)
Why: Every room of this 7-storey building dedicated to one of Lviv’ legends. In one you can count all lions of the city (believe me, there are plenty of them!), in other you will discover different types of pavers, that covered town in different times. It is not allowed to make pictures inside, but you can do it on the roof just near parked old Ukrainian car (called Zaporozhets) decorated with wings.