Lviv – Krakow – Prague – Vienna {part 1}

Prolegomena 

It was some time since I’ve had this desire to tell, or at least try to, the stories connected with the places I’ve visited this year. In this autumn lots of friends and pupils left to study abroad. I am about to leave the country for some time, too, and somehow got inspired to write down some thoughts, impressions and experiences. The title of this post was influenced by the song London-Paris-Berlin of the Bulgarian alternative group Ostava. Other songs, which have also affected my writing were The National’s ‘England’ and Björk’s ‘Wanderlust’.

All pictures posted below are mine and are free to use for non-commercial purpose with a reference of their origin included.

I start this story with a long and detailed pre-story, because, well, I adore broader contexts, pre-stories, post-stories etc. (thank you, Tolkien, for existing). It explains how everything happened.  After that I move to each one of the cities.

The Background

Since I started reading more about the topic of my dissertation, I’ve encountered the huge gaps of nowadays literature on the subject in my country. It lead me to the immediate conclusion that I have to find a way to go for some time in a place with richer libraries. The first idea, which actually  had been appearing since the very beginning of my Ph.D. studies, was for Vienna, but I’ll come back to this later. Then as two or three months have passed and I’d already reached to the idea that I must go to Poland in the coming spring in order to finish on time my second MA thesis [and make it a part of the broader research in the dissertation], I came about an announcement of a competition for several short-time scientific visits. I felt completely down when I saw that the deadline had passed the very previous day (which was Friday, I found the announcement on Saturday night). Next Saturday I told other guys from Church about that on our pray-gathering and we prayed over it. Then, one Tuesday evening, at the end of the same month, I came over the same announcement but with extended dead-line for applying (’till Friday the same week!). You can imagine how excited I became and how frightened at the same time that so many things (some of them very important features not depending on me but on other people ) had to be done in such a short time. With the immediate support of my scientific supervisor and God’s benevolence I managed to collect all the recommendations and letters I needed plus succeeded in writing the proposals and plannings on the project. (Frankly said, I couldn’t believe in the beginning that I would manage to get them all so fast, especially those who were to be sent from the receiving university I was applying for). But I sent everything on time and just had to wait for the results.

And I waited for two months and a half. During this time, really out of nowhere, without any purpose or other intention, I went for a drink with other colleagues from my Slavic studies after a colloquium on Modern Bulgarian Literature. Those were people from the Ukrainian profile and our talk reached to a topic concerning their forthcoming travel to Lviv. I got excited again and I’ll tell you why – ever since my first classes of Ukrainian as a second Slavic language (actually third, because all profiles study some Russian as well), I wished to go to Lviv and practice the little Ukrainian I’d learned. Due to lack of time and because of my work as a teacher back then I didn’t manage to go on such a trip with the groups the previous two years, although the permission of the professors. I shared this regret with the guys from the Ukrainian group and before I could explain them that I might not be able to go this year again because of the possible trip to Poland, they rang to one of their lecturers to ask whether there were free places for the trip. And there was one, since one other guy had resigned. So I had to made my mind in about several days whether I would take part in the trip which was about to take place in April. I had planned the trip to Krakow, if it was to happen, in March, so it was a kind of decision like choosing one of the two options. The answer appeared in one of the pray-gatherings with the guys from church, when one of them (L.) said ‘God, if it is Your will, make it that he may go for both of the specializations!’. These words hit me like a hammer and I already knew what was about to happen. So I told the group for Lviv that I was taking part, too, and bought the plane tickets to Kyiv (or Kiev).

After about ten days I received a positive answer for the trip to Krakow which literally made me incapable of speaking for half an hour. This was happening for a first time in my life and was the strangest feeling of shock I’d ever experienced because I’d almost stopped waiting for any answer after such a delay. How was I to fulfill those two trips in such a short time with almost no gap between both of them? A bit later the answer came – I postponed the trip to Krakow for May and thus two weeks of pause appeared between the two visits – enough for getting prepared and spending Easter with my family, as usual.

At the same time I had sent the documents for a scholarship in Vienna. It was one of the few times I was so convicted that this had to be done, with immense peace inside despite the obstacles I was meeting. God made a way, because it turned out that the certificate for my MA degree had a mistake in it, so it had to be done anew which would make it impossible for me to keep the dead line. I wrote a bit more about that period here [in pt].

Lviv

We flew to Kyiv, stayed a couple of hours there – just enough to visit the Maydan, make some photos, have a lunch with traditional meals in Pouzata Hata, visited a pub and then took a 10-hour night train to Lviv. I was amazed by how comfortable and calm the trip was, not to speak about the low price of the tickets. The train was full, the wagon was common, i.e. there were no doors or compartments, and still, it was calm, not noisy at all, even cosy in its own specific way. What impressed me was the calmness in a place filled with so many people. A very interesting kind of closeness could be felt in the air. A kind of humanity I had never encountered before.

Having arrived in Lviv, we took a taxi to the dormitory (always manage the price of the ride before the taxi departs). The dormitory was a bit of shock, but, oh well, we relatively only slept there, anyway. Me and the other guy from the group were firstly put in a room with a guy from South America, in a ‘sector’ having a common WC and bath, where lived mainly people from the same region. We spoke some Spanish which automatically warmed the situation somehow. The same evening, though, we were transferred to a room in a ‘Chinese sector’, where a guy from Egypt lived. He was extremely welcoming person letting us use his kitchen supplies and basically everything. These Chinese people loved to listen to Lady Gaga and Chinese Pop in the late afternoons and liked not to be disturbed by noise after 11 pm >D1604733_10151968741311237_5954631256323088988_n

Now about the city. The more the time flies, the warmer my impressions and memories of Lviv grow. The city has a very interesting atmosphere, strongly differing from the one in the capital. It has a touch of a past-gone royalty, poured with small-town-climate flavours, artistic scents and nuances of nostalgia, situated in a urban environment strongly reminding those of Central Europe. It took me some time to get orientated in the center if the city, which is actually the old town. There is no river or something similar which can help you, so having a map is a must. What hit me from the very beginning was that the wonderful buildings and façades seem to not have been restored or taken care of for a long period of time. It shocked me to understand that the dust on the street had the same colour as the walls of the buildings! This, although, did have its charms. As did the view of falling apart buildings in the centre, which could be seen only from the high floors of the other buildings around.

1480744_10151968736181237_1080147639448699592_nI want to focus on several specific places which completely conquered me. The first one is the roof-café in Dim Legend (Legends’ House). We went there after a long, warm and full with good emotions day, just on time to catch the sun-set. The experience of somehow warm atmosphere caused by the talks we were having was completed by some songs of James Blake played from the phone. It’s exactly about such moments that trips are worthy and I’m sure one can recharge best through such experiences. I read somewhere those days that traveling helps you perceive and re-meditate your current life from another point of view by the change of the surrounding reality you pass through. I agree. Having a good company with you can only contribute to it.

The other place found me even more unexpectedly. Later I understood that it was actually part of a bigger trade mark (I even found them in Krakow the next month!). So, that particular day it was a bit 10255426_10151958581661237_687134677751340839_nrainy and cold. I was quite down and blue because it seemed to me that the time was passing very quickly and I couldn’t do the work in the library I had decided to take this trip for. So, on my way from the dorm to the centre I just thought ‘God, I want a warm and comfortable place [because my legs were already hurting] with lights, internet and hot chocolate!’ (Lviv’s pubs and cafés are quite dark and underground, you must know, and I prefer more lighted place, where you would be able at least to read; another problem is the wi-fi, you can’t find one even in the state library, which could be some kind of an obstacle). So after the regular lunch we had, I just left to walk around the city and stumbled upon a local branch of the Lvivska Maysternya Shokoladu (something like Lviv’s Chocolate Factory). It had become already cold and rainy so when I entered the main sale the only thing I asked was ‘do you have a liquid chocolate?’, the girl opened two huge pots with the boiling magical beverage, I ordered a cup and went to find a place to sit. In the next room, there were kinds of those wonderful bean bag chairs comfortably put aside one of the corners around a low table. There were plug-ins for notebooks, there was enough light, excellent wi-fi, it was warm and extremely cosy. Not only did I some important searches and orders in the electronic catalog of the library, but I also got my mood drastically risen! I just felt taken care of so deeply. {I joked later that I could write 5 dissertations in that place, hehe.}

Visiting a lot of Lviv’s museums was very interesting, though tiring at some point. What grabbed me more were the furniture from the so called Northern Renaissance, i.e. XVI-XVII centuries. You could imagine how I fell in love with those splendid tables {click click}, wardrobes {click click}, chairs {click} and old writing facilities {click click click click click click}! I strongly recommend the Treasure Museum and the smaller Pharmacy Museum.

1486907_10151968735276237_9110911248329259492_nA very special place, and the last I am going to write about, is the Lichakiv Cemetery. Yes, I take it into account that it sounds strange that a place like a graveyard could rise anything but blue feelings. But I fell for that place very much. It’s actually the second graveyard park in Europe turned into a museum afteThe Père Lachaise cemetery. We visited the graveyard park on Sunday morning. It was a gloomy and rainy day and actually, at least for me, it was a wonderful time to have a walk there and observe the monuments. What was striking was that although the high condensation of architecture forms, it didn’t feel suffocating or overdosed. I could only imagine how the alleys would appear in a, let’s say, summer night! As far as I remember, this happened on my first week in Lviv and that was the first place in the city that I decided really worth visiting again if I happen to go in this part of the world again.
And since this post is getting too long, I shall leave the other cities for another one 🙂 … 

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