Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ukraine - Lviv

That was really a great surprise to receive a card from my favorite city Lviv in the World Languages RR! :) I received it exactly on the day, when I came back from... Lviv, which makes it even more fun! ;)
Shall I copy some information from Wikipedia, as I usually do? I won't do it this time :) I think everyone can read Wikipedia, but I don't want to miss the chance to write something about Lviv and Ukraine myself :) Maybe this info won't be as professional as Wikipedia, but it will be mine :)

Lviv (Львів in Ukrainian) is the largest city of Western Ukraine and one of the biggest (7th, if I remember well) cities in whole Ukraine. It has about 735 000 inhabitants, but there are also many students from other regions and countries studying in Lviv, so actually there are about 1 000 000 people. The city was founded by the king Danylo Halytskiy and was first mentioned in 1256. In 2006, Lviv celebrated the 750th anniversary, that was really great (I was there!) :)

Lviv is very interesting not only because it's old (there are many old - and even much older than Lviv - cities in this part of Europe), but also because it's always been multicultural. It used to belong to Poland for many centuries and many Polish people still feel some sentiment for this city (which is called Lwów in Polish). Fortunately, nowadays there are very few radicals that claim that Ukraine should give Lviv back to Poland. I totally disagree with them and they're not worth writing about them here :) But, even when Lviv belonged to Poland, there were also Ruthenians (That's the old name of Ukrainians), Jews, Armenians and many other nations. Each had their own quarter of city. There's still the Armenian street with Armenian cathedral, which really differs from other Christian (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) churches that you can see in Europe. There's also the Jewish quarter, but, unfortunately, the synagogues were destroyed during the war. You can also easily see the Austrian infuluence on Lviv's architecture, because the city developed very well in the 19th century, when it used to belong to the Austrian empire.

Now nearly 90% of people living in Lviv are Ukrainian, with significant Russian and Polish minorities. Only about 1% declaire to be Polish, but actually most of people can speak or at least understand Polish, because they have some Polish ancestors... Or just because there are really lots of Polish turists in Lviv. They're welcomed much more than Russians :) There are thousands of jokes and humoristic stories about the people from Lviv, who hate Russians and kill anyone, who speaks Russian in their city :) Of course, these are just jokes (as I've written above, there are quite many Russians living in Lviv, they speak Russian and are still alive) ;), but the truth is that Lviv is the centre of Ukrainian patriotism and nationalism. It's absolutely different than the Eastern Ukrainian cities, where people are mostly Russian-speaking. The difference is not only in the language, but also in mentality, traditions, religion, politics... But, actually, I hate stereotypes and I believe Ukraine will unite with all the differences making this country even more beautiful.

Lviv is also called "the city of 100 churches". I don't know, if there are really exactly 100 churches in my favorite city, I haven't tried to count them yet :) But even in the centre, there are many old churches, built in different styles. Now most of them belong to the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic (Uniate) churches, but many of them were built as Roman-Catholic. There are beautiful examples of gothic, renaissance, baroque, classicism and other (I'm not so good at all these styles ;) ) architecture close to each other.

I think the main problem of Lviv is the lack of water. Well, maybe now it's a bit better, but I remember that even 3 years ago water was available only about 5 hours a day :) Why? Because Lviv is located on the main European watershed! What does it mean? Simply, when it's raining in Lviv, some raindrops will fall to rivers, flowing to the Baltic Sea, while others will fall to rivers, flowing to the Black Sea. I even know exactly that the watershed is very close to the St. Elisabeth church and the railway station in Lviv.

But, why do I like Lviv so much? First of all, because it's in Ukraine :) And because that was the first city that I visited, when I went to Ukraine for the first time in my life in 2005. I can say that I fell in love with Lviv from the first sight :) I can't compare it to any other city. The narrow streets, hills with breathtaking views, hundreds of cafe's, thousands of cats, fascinating history... and very nice people :) That's why I want to study there. At least, I want to try :)

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