Oh Ukraine, what an adventure. It started off with a night bus from Krakow, Poland to Lviv, Ukraine. The bus was to arrive at 11:15pm, but at 11:10 it still didn’t even have a stall dedicated to it at the outdoor bus station. A little worried we had missed something (our tickets were in Polish), we asked a young guy if he knew anything. Turns out, he was from Ukraine and had traveled that route quite a few times. He said “oh don’t worry, this bus is always a couple hours late. The worst case will be 2am.” Luckily (specially since we were standing outside in the freezing rain), it came by about 12:45. We, and 1000 others (it felt like), crammed onto the tiny bus. It had no bathrooms and very little leg room (even for a shorty like me!) and the smell of garlic and sausages was …prominent (at least to my sniffer, Dane can’t smell anything). We were evidently the only tourists on the bus. I had heard horror stories about getting pick-pocketed, and carrying my big camera I was kind of in cautionary defense mode. So we rode along in the middle of the night and I hung onto my purse/camera bag for dear life, hardly sleeping a wink. A few hours in, we were at the border. We sat for 3-4 hours just waiiting and waiiting and waiitng some more. Finally, we got our Polish exit and Ukraine entry stamps, and were on our way. Only another few hours to go. When we arrived to Lviv, we dumped our stuff off at our hotel and went to find some food. And coffee. These were good ones from Cafe Centaur. Hallelujah, I finally made a winning choice from the menu! Poached eggs benedict on croissant. Dane had some traditional Ukrainian “pancakes”. Quite a bit smaller than he anticipated! He had to order more later. These were stuffed with some sort of ricotta cheese blend. Pretty yummy. We strolled through the streets of Lviv. This particular courtyard caught my eye, with it’s colorful string lights, graffiti, rough-looking buildings…Quite a striking combo…Speaking of striking…what a striking young lad. Finally, it was mid-afternoon and we could actually check-in to our room. We were in dire need of a nap from the lack of sleep on the night bus. We found this hotel online (Guest House Inn) and I would highly recommend. It was quaintly but tastefully decorated with very well-done paintings throughout the entire place. It was all renovated but tried to maintain qualities of Ukrainian style. And best of all, it was cheap! It is nice traveling in countries where you get a lot of bang for your buck.
We flopped on the bed and said goodnight to the world for a couple hours. Rested up, we walked back to central Lviv to the famous Opera house. We booked tickets earlier in the day to attend The Merry Widow. We’ve done ballets, plays, and orchestras… but the Opera was a first for both of us. What a beautiful building. And on the inside, even more-so! We were a little nip-and-tuck getting there so I was only able to sneak a few photos before the cameras had to be put away. To be honest, I thought an Opera was kind of a one-woman show where she just Fa-La-Las in Latin for an hour or so. But this was an actual play with lots of talking, more like a musical, and then there was Operatic singing in between. It was certainly cool (amazing costumes and setting), but it was performed in Ukrainian so we couldn’t understand a thing. After about 1 hour the first act of three was done, and our tummies were grumbling something fierce. So we said “hey, we’ve seen it. realistically we’re not really catching any of the jokes, let’s go get some supps!” and peaced out a bit early! We found a charming restaurant in Rynok square… Dane monkeying around again. Me not so sure if Dane knows how to get the exposure right in the low light :) The Borscht arrived! Best Borscht we had… mmm mmm. Dane had a rack of lamb…And I had pork ribs. Both were delicious since we hadn’t eaten since morning, but if I was being picky… not the most flavorful.Oh boy, next morning, we went back to the bus station! I didn’t want to be flashing my camera round so Dane caught a few snaps of our ride.And our coffee from the vending machine :S Dane tried to learn the Ukrainian alphabet a bit, but 2 days was just not quite enough time!!
Once in Lutsk, our lively tour guide took us through local supermarkets and other places. One thing strikingly different in Ukraine is their insane selection of sausage!After good visits, we checked into our fancy-schmancy hotel. Oozing with style… haha. The next day we toured and visited people all the day long.I loved the decor in this little Ukrainian perogie chain! We visited the Lutsk Castle with these friendly folks. And they showed us the town’s crazy sculptor – who locks himself in this house and just creates and creates and creates. Back at the hotel being real stupid. Our weekend was full of meeting new people who are particularly special. I’ve decided to be a bit discreet and not post photos of them all as I don’t know them all well enough to know how they’d feel about it. But it was full, eye-opening, heart-warming and made me realize how good we have it.
Sunday night we took the bus back to Lutsk and checked into a hostel for the night. Then we took a suuper early train back to Budapest. It took 13 hours. But we had this little cabin all to ourselves. Much better than the bus.
Our view out the muddy train window…Then at the border, they had to switch our train wheels! In countries that had Soviet-rule, the tracks are a different size. So whenever a train crosses the border in and out of Ukraine, it has to switch out the wheels. The process took 3 or so hours. And you can’t get off the train. And there is no food or water served. So we know for next time: bring food, lots of water, and books.
Finally we arrived HOME – to Budapest.