Out of Slovakia, out of the Euro zone (wiki) again. It's Polish Zloty, yeah, yeah, Europe and EU does not mean Euro, may mean Euro, also does not necessarily mean Schengen (wiki). There is no border post from Austria into Hungary, into Slovakia, none from Slovakia into Poland (because these are all Schengen countries), there is a border post crossing from Poland into Ukraine, because the latter isn't part of the EU (members on wiki). There are border posts between Romania and Serbia because Serbia isn't part of EU, Bulgaria and Greece, both EU but Greece is Schengen, Bulgaria isn't. Arrgh. Complicated for non Europeans and Europeans.
5th of Aug and I dig up the few Polish words I know, Dziękujemy and Dzień dobry, my sparse knowledge of Polish food. There is so much more that I don't know about Poland.
Rzeszow is eating Bigos and Pierogi, drinking Zywiec and Wyborowa, polska wódka. Przemysl on the San river already means leaving the country. I know one day I have to go on an extended polska journey to do appeasement to my old "Polish connection".
L'viv or Lemberg as it was once known.
That evening we descend on L’viv amid torrential rains, dark clouds towering over an even darker unlit city. On a broad downward sloping boulevard we enter the threatening black town centre, the narrow-gauged tram slides downhill as slow as it can, avoid slipping, derailing in this weather, busses and cars try go round the big potholes and puddles, prudently make it over the rails, there are huge steps between the troughs and the tramway, cobblestones have not been put back in place for decades. People on way from work in the rain, soaked wet, shelter is not for everyone, busses and trams come late, nothing works it seems. It all reminds me a bit of East Berlin after the fall of the wall. A good omen as we will find out.
L'viv is like Vienna, the Ottomans tried here in vein to capture the city (1672, Vienna was 1529 and 1683). Today L’viv (wiki) is regarded as one of the main cultural centers of today's Ukraine (wiki): Diversity in ethnic and religious heritage, imperial architecture, Austrian/Hungarian then Polish, most has survived the Soviets and WW2, theaters, palaces, grand squares and boulevards, cobblestones, now clean and peaceful, on UNESCO world heritage list, the best Ukrainian city to live in.
Ukraine means another currency the Hryvnia, another language, another alphabet. Here not even my sparse knowledge of Polish can help. But it is not the renaissance or baroque or classical Italian or Viennese architecture that strikes it is the simple friendliness of Ukrainians when I helplessly stare at a menu, try to buy a burger, or figure out the exchange rate and the price of a beer in real moneys. Although some, especially men still look like they're out of a KGB shooting and drinking club, short neck and red face. There is a drinking and smoking problem.
In L'viv it is worth bearing in mind the ferocious history of occupation, reconquering, Ukraine's role, the pin ball for the greater powers' games, Hitler/Stalin pact, partition, move of Poland’s borders westwards, famines, mass killings and deportations of Jews/Poles/Gypsies/then Germans/Artists/Intellectuals. How do you change the entire population, more then once? During the great wars L’viv’s population was 66% Polish, 24% Jewish. Now is 88% Ukrainian, 9% Russian, 1% Polish, Jews even less.
Ternopil and then south, orthodox churches in Ukraine.
I wish I could stay longer in L'viv, I am impressed with L'viv how it is not caught up in the fast paced consumerism of other places, kept in some idealised state. Hmm, is just me romanticising. - This trip is not about the Ukraine. It seems though I will have to come back one day, it is a vast country.
One night and morning in L'viv, parked central, around noon we continue, next city Ternopil, which is not Chernobyl. Then we head back to the Carpathian Mountains.
There are so many more, beautiful, golden or silver layered Eastern orthodox churches in Ukraine, you may find another one at every corner, behind the next bend or hill. There will be more churches in Romania. Turn the page.