TUESDAY JULY 22
Morning sleep is disturbed by what sounds like a washing machine kachunking. What I am listening to is rain pelting down on metal outside. No point in getting up early, so I turn off the alarm and we sleep until 0830. Two runny eggs, soda pop, few slices of cheese, tomato and terrible greasy meat is breakfast fare. The coffee is lousy, but I require more than one cup to get mobile so request another cup. This is not Denny's, so I pay the sixty-five kopijok for the refill.
The rain has stopped, but it is cold. In search of Franko Park, we come across a superb old brick building. It is crowned with a fancy bulbous dome and as near as I can figure it appears to be a medical school/facility. Looking through windows, the equipment in the lab areas appears to be old fashioned. We spend some time in a park across the road. There are some amusing wooden statues that are rotting, but I am still not certain if we are in fact in Franko Park. Heading I think west, we enter a small orthodox church. Again notes are sparse, but this may be the St. Peter and Paul Church. It is rather plain, but a good walk brings us to the monolithic Elizabeth Catholic Cathedral. Unfortunately there is extensive renovations in progress and the new interior does not match the fabulous exterior. The magnificent tall columns, the worn stone floor and massive high ceiling have me wishing I had seen it prior to the facelift.
Still on foot, we head for St. George Cathedral. The exterior is impressive with a large sculpture of George perched high above. Technology has infiltrated the old church as we note with amusement the satellite dish attached to an exterior wall. The bell tower apparently houses the oldest bell in the Ukraine. The interior provides many interesting religious artifacts to look at, but the main reason we are here is to see the crypt. We climb down a dark staircase to the small room which is located below the alter. The room is dimly lit as I rustle through my pages of information as to who is buried in which coffin. A woman visitor is crying as a guide/family member(?) speaks about the persons buried here. I sit quietly until they leave and then figure out which coffin belongs to the Metropolitans Slipyi, Sembratovich and Sheptytsky. I am about to leave when a group of students arrive accompanied by a nun. Their uniforms are mini skirts, nylons, Nike and Club Monaco. I stay for their class and learn that this is the fourth church to be built on this site. Atop a sarcophagus (still have not figured out whose) is a miniature re-creation of the third church. I learn that the walls contain the remains of persons who were good caring citizens or who dedicated their life to the church. The nun gives a long explanation of the ornate old Bible also resting on the sarcophagus. I strain to listen, as I am having difficulty understanding the language and am missing some interesting points. Bill had excused himself earlier to go in search of bathroom facilities. We leave the crypt when he returns. As we leave, I hear the nun ask the students to bow their head in prayer as she "knows that amongst you are those who believe in religion". I too have a bursting bladder, but Bill assures me that I should be content to dribble as the toilet was the most disgusting he has experienced to date.
We head for the hotel, but piddling will have to be put on hold as we come upon the Pototsky Palace. An authoritarian guardian at the door says she will show us around. We are escorted through a few large rooms, now used for weddings and receptions. The tour is occasionally interrupted as she excuses herself to return to the main foyer to yell at people who enter and demand to know what they are doing here. She expects US$ for the tour and not wishing to infuriate her I comply. Behind the palace are some interesting statues and in front is a shop for the purchase of wedding paraphernalia.
The afternoon is gratefully warmer, so we change before setting off again. Probably, not a wise move as a few blocks away a woman opens her umbrella and a street vendor is covering his music tapes with plastic. They are obviously astute at predicting the weather for within a few minutes, we are deluged with rain. We take refuge in the Boyim Chapel. A Hungarian family was buried in the chapel floor but according to the curator their remains have been moved to a cemetery. She was an accommodating lady who possibly accurately observed that the cause of erratic weather was due to all those airborne planes and Sputniks and events such as Chernobyl. "God is not doing this -- we are doing it to ourselves". The inside rivals the richly carved facade. There are paintings of the family as well as an interesting sculpture of Georgy, his wife, children and grandchildren on the wall to the right. It is impossible to easily view all the relief sculptures without climbing a ladder as they rise to the top of the high ceiling. This is pretty well a WOW place. We bide the time until the rain stops.
Stopping again for a closer look at the various styles of architecture in Ploshcha Rynok, we again huddle under eaves as rain trickles down. A couple of blocks later we are told we are indeed at the Armenian Cathedral, but I am puzzled as my notes say it has been restored but evidence of this is not visible. We cannot enter as the gates are locked, but judging from the lack of maintenance of the grounds, it appears to be abandoned. An adjoining apartment has expanded to the degree that it now forms part of the tall medieval archway entrance.
By contrast the Transfiguration Church is a definite WOW! place. Even Bill who has quietly followed me about and has endured waiting patiently until I have had my fill of the interior of assorted churches is in awe. We don't know what to look at first, as this church is the most beautiful in L'viv. In addition to the main alter, there are numerous generously adorned alcoves set aside for prayer. Sheer curtains with delicate cross stitching separate them from the main hall. Hundreds of paintings small and enormous in size cover the walls. The embroidered towels framing the pictures are superb and I counted a minimum of twenty five standards embroidered with different scenes on each side. The vibrant colours of thread and the complexity of stitches in the embroidery are testament to the gift of creativity of the women who contributed these masterpieces. Gold and silver icons, adorned with brightly coloured stones are everywhere. We comment on the vast number of fresh flowers left by worshippers. Drained by the splendour we seek refuge outdoors.
Stomach growling signals it's time for food. No small wonder as we have been too busy to stop for lunch. The Flamingo Bar is a small modern establishment. The service is excellent, the food good and reasonably priced. We stroll past the Marionette Theatre admiring assorted hand and string puppets displayed in the windows. Nearby is the Church of Maria Sniznoi. As I appear to be determined to visit every church in L'viv, we climb the stairs only to find it is locked. Our next destination is the old Rus quarter north of town. The Benedictine Church and Monastery is totally under construction so little is seen except for a bit of the outside. Workers and a woman combine their knowledge of the area and we are directed to Staryi Rynok (the old section of L'viv). Soon a short walk up a hill brings us to the quaint Church of St. John the Baptist. We arrive just as the gate is being locked so miss seeing the favourite place of worship of Prince Lev's wife. We are not doing well as St. Nicholas Church is also locked.
The sun is hot as we continue my quest for more churches. I had spent months researching sights in Ukraine so am determined that all I read about is at the least worthy of a walk past. The problem is that the packets of information I so carefully compiled and the walking tours mapped out are seldom consulted and when I do pour over them, they do not make sense. Consequently I usually do not know where I am or how I got there. Bill has an excellent sense of direction, so with his help we continue down a street with nondescript buildings. Guided by the silver cupola sparkling in the sunshine, we arrive at St. Paraskeva-Piatnytsia Church. A fellow graciously unlocks the door to the relatively small church. The richly carved wood iconostasis with a kazillion icons (well about 70) is breathtaking. We sit for ages trying to take it all in but we are overwhelmed by this masterpiece. The rest of the church, although nice gets little of our attention.
It is almost unbearably warm as we walk a short distance (in the wrong direction) in pursuit of Vysoky Zamok. The plan is to climb to the top of High Castle Hill for a panoramic view of the city. Not only did we zig when we should have zagged but within minutes we are soaking wet as a rain storm hits without warning. Seeking protection we huddle under trees with amazingly good effect. The deluge lasts about fifteen minutes filling the road with water. As the rain abates, we set off and as we back track to St. Pytatnytsya, rays of sunshine are again peeking through the clouds. Bill guides me across railway tracks and we soon find ourselves at a gate with steep steps. Rain is again aggravating us, so we slog through mud hopeful to find shelter at the top. Inquiries at a kiosk inform me we are at St. Onuphrius Church. Five priests are singing, but there are few people attending the service. We stay only a short time and exit through the main archway at the front of the church. I am becoming a little depressed at the number of beggars we encounter at the entrance to each church.
Jackets are again removed and umbrella tucked away as we backtrack to St. Nicholas church. It was built by Prince Lev in the 13th century and has the distinction of being the oldest church in L'viv. The exterior is quite simple in design with two green onion domes providing the most redeeming features. The doors are open, but as we look about, we are glared at by a man wearing a suit. Work is being done so it is difficult to see the interior as most parts are blocked by scaffolding. What I could see was not exceptionally well decorated. The village church had more gilt and embroidery.
We bask in sunshine at a small park across the street. We have been here earlier, so I rifle through my papers to plot a route different from those already travelled. I give up as we have to go past the little St. John the Baptist church to get on the road to Castle Hill. A relatively easy walk uphill brings us to the park entrance. I am trying to figure out which path to take to the top when here comes the damn rain again. Initially the rain is light so despite Bill's warnings of more to come, I drag him down a road beyond the restaurant. At a spot where a partial view of the city is available, we watch as the sky turns the colour of ink. An angry crack of lightning sends not only us but a couple of lovebirds scurrying for shelter. Within minutes, rain is bouncing off the pavement. Bolts of lightning come in rapid succession and the booms of thunder are reverberating off my sternum. It occurs to me that standing under a tree in these conditions is really dumb so we abandon our canopy of branches and run hell bent toward the restaurant. It is 1900h when we settle into the warmth of the spacious room. A hot toddy would be more appropriate, but not knowing how to order one, we settle on lukewarm beer. The toilet is a pit and stinks. The outhouses in the village are starting to look pretty good in comparison to public facilities in the city. When the rain stops we do a short explore near the restaurant, but as we are in need of dry socks, we return to the hotel. We will need to buy new running shoes as ours are basically destroyed.
Dinner at the same restaurant as last evening is uneventful, except that there is more food on the plate. Shops do not stock regular non-carbonated water, so we continue to look like mad dogs when brushing our teeth. Bill falls asleep quickly while I lay awake entertained by the ditta Boom, ditta Boom Boom BOOM from the theatre across the street.
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