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Published: September 5th 2016
Day 2 Lviv, Ukraine
As we continue to get lost in Lviv we're getting a bit of a complex about it.
It's partially because we have been searching on-line for information ( e.g. For the Post Office in Lviv) where the location and the marker given on Google Maps is placed wrongly.
But also, we keep going 180 degrees in the wrong direction as we set out..... doh..
Anyway, we've been outside the central grid that I talked about yesterday and found a flowing, elegant 1890's - 1915 Lviv, Secessionist buildings and cobbled streets everywhere. It's a bit faded, with rendering and painting needing attention, but not without charm. Around the Philharmonic Hall e.g. and past the Lviv Art Gallery on Stefanyka Street up towards the Museum Prison of Lontskoho Street and beyond we found some fine Jugendstil facades. And it's true that Lviv feels more Austrian or Poilish than Russian, the churches are more Baroque in style: the Austro Hungarian Empire has left its legacy.
We were heading for the Post Office when we past 'Puppets and People' one of two puppet theatres here, and realised a show was
just starting. It is a small space with a proscenium arch, like Angoulême's children's theatre that we know well. There were five actor/puppeteers and a technician, and a a front of house person as well. It was sold out, but the takings would only be about £50. How do they survive?
This was chalk to Kiev's puppet cheese. The set was a high fixed wall with one or two fixed props above: a chair, a parasol, a house. There were four disparate characters, a pig, a dog, a girl and a magician cat. I can't tell you what the story was 'cos there was no visual narrative, and I don't speak Ukrainian. There was lots of dialogue, some fighting, a menu and a balloon. The bit when the children got involved was when a 'bag lady' came in through the audience and interacted with the puppets and with the audience. Low star rating, I'm afraid, but so much for myself, a performer of children's theatre, to learn from this experience. It was a long hour sat feeling a bit embarrassed for the performers...........
The Museum Prison of Lontskoho Street has been left untouched since the last
prisoners were freed in 1991. The infamous institution was used in turn by the Poles, Nazis and Soviets. You have access to the dark, ground floor corridor, with tiny solitary cells and larger communal cells served with a single bathroom / toilet, a mug shot photography room and an administrator's office. There's a haunting projection of dead prisoners being tidied on to piles. Typhoid outbreaks, through lice and poor sanitation, were common, prisoners being given a bath every eight months, with steam disinfection of clothes.
The Art Museum had a fine selection of European art: Polish, German, Russian and Dutch art in particular with 19C pictures in the main. The large Russian forest and mountain landscapes always do it for me......
The gallery building is charming, the floors creak and the carpeted stairs are slippery on exit after the polish builds up on your shoes.
The Post Office was found, in the end, by chance. It's a huge building.... and you can work out where to buy a stamp within it, after trying a few doors. Lviv boasts an early postal history based upon an Italian Poste model and paid for by a
Podil Sugar King, Lev Brodsky, an industrialist who made his fortune from sugar (it's probably his descendants who own all the chocolate shops here?).
In the evening we ate at 'The Cult', a live music bar under the Philharmonic. There was a six piece band playing Guns and Roses, and Zeppelin..... strong lead singer and twin guitar leads. It all seemed a bit too much like a tribute band trying to get every detail to sound like the LP...... they were at their best with Santana-style blues that may have been their own arrangement.
Day 3 Lviv
Today it's a sunny Sunday and we've a small agenda.....
The Armenian Church has a charming courtyard on Virmenska Street which is being repaved..... round the corner is the main entrance. There's a ceiling of woven chocolatey Celtic motifs picked out in silver and beyond a painted tower and dome with turquoise and multi colours.
And on the Rynok Square at no 4 is one of numerous Lviv town museums. This one is devoted to the history of the city, migration from it, its different invaders, its identity
from the 1800s to the present day.
There's lots more creaky stairs and parquet in this old building which leads to an Italianate courtyard at the rear. The first rooms are particularly drab, the display and the scowling old school museum staff. But as you ascend, and gain more knowledge and understanding the displays become more together and the history more intense. There's been so much migration from Ukraine because of high taxes in the Austro Hungarian 1800s and as the result of people fleeing the changing aggressors: Poland, Germany and Russia from then on.
The last rooms cover the Orange protests and current Russian interference with eastern Ukraine and seeks collaboration and support from other countries and from individuals.
Meanwhile UK is trying to isolate itself from Europe and its shared and complicated history with the continent. We've been fast to forget the our complex entwinement with Germany, Russia and all those we sought to free in WWII.
We painted in the open air in the afternoon and got broiled....it's difficult to find subject matter for a painting that doesn't put the painter in full sun.
We ate on the street terrace
at Art Café Kvartyra 35 on Virmenska St in the evening. We ordered a gin and tonic which is not on menus here. Gin is, and tonic is, but it's not listed alongside Mojito, Bloody Mary, and Tom Collins as an autonomous entity. The waitress was a delight and brought two huge tonics, two slimjim glasses and two short glasses each filled with a measure of gin. We asked for ice, but stopped short of asking for lime or lemon. We realised how tied up we are with our own conventions.
The current drinking choice of lots of people at the bar was Kvas (a honey beery 'homemade' drink) with a shot glass of vodka alongside..... topped up at regular intervals with a carafe of house vodka. The next most popular drink seemed to be Sangria served in individual glass jugs with cork lids. We'll continue to try as many of these local choices as we can.... such a challenge.
I did try Lviv Dunkel beer, a dark brown porter, and White Lion, a weiss bier also from the Lviv brewery.
The big convention for waiting staff here in Lviv is to whisk away a
serviette, plate, glass, or cutlery as soon as they've been used. One by one, with regular visits to the table. The record for the slowest tidy up of an empty glass was 27 seconds ( in the little experiment I conducted).
After salmon and crepes / 'pork from the oven', we headed inside the Art Café for some live jazz. The 'Old Friends Band' line up is piano, bass guitar' drums, tenor sax and trumpet. They were, indeed, in their late fifties through to seventies as their name might indicate..... but in the other sense of 'old friend' they did seem to get along pretty well as mates.
It was a joy....... They played a free version on '80's Jazz rock ..... something like 'The Crusaders'. Their formula is to start with a tight groove and a head tune played in unison by tenor and trumpet, then move through solos with lots of light and shade. It was the drum and bass rhythm section that gave the funky edge to things, with piano interjecting with cross rhythms and fills. I think it was all their own writing, I didn't recognise any of the material.
Home and to bed for a 6.30am alarm.... we'll be on the last leg of our trip to Georgia.
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