When people heard I was going to live in Lutsk for two months, they warned me there would be nothing to do. I gladly accepted that as a challenge. I often cheer for the underdog, my home city in Canada a good case in point. Winnipeg has not one but two professional underdog sports teams – the Winnipeg Jets and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
I moved to Lutsk in March, welcomed by -20 C temperatures, but that didn’t stop me from exploring. There aren’t many English internet search results about Lutsk, but a self-guided walking tour came up, and my friends and I followed it.
The tour took us to the home of sculptor Mykola Golovan. It’s extravagant, decorated with hundreds of sculptures, some with stories to tell. Someone told me a local legend that if you whisper a wish into the ear of a lion sculpture, the wish will come true. This odd though spectacular home was a good representative for the tone of the city – quirky, a little rough around the edges, but definitely a sight to see.
Near the city centre is Lubart’s Castle, dating back to the 14th century. It’s interesting to walk through, but the real fun lies in the market next to the castle. You can buy everything you need, and everything you don’t – shoes, clothes, food, souvenirs, live chickens, auto parts… I heard talk about moving the market and putting something more aesthetically pleasing there. As a tourist and part-time local, the market’s location didn’t bother me. It didn’t take away from my castle experience, plus the market is convenient since it’s near downtown.
At markets (another good one is near PortCity mall), at stores, and on the streets, people in Lutsk were extremely kind. I said something similar about Chernivtsi, but the people’s charisma in Lutsk stood out. When saying goodbye, people wished you happiness and good luck, or other times they’d wish for you to have a good mood. Though people do this in other cities, the frequency was noticeably higher in Lutsk.
My Lutsk friends would call me and my friends on days we wouldn’t all see each other, making sure all was okay and asking if we needed help, maybe it was partly because we were guests in their city, but nonetheless, their concern for us was genuine.
Lutsk isn’t on everyone’s Ukraine travel list, but it’s near a major tourist spot, Lviv, so why not check it out? Maybe you’ll catch one of the many concerts. DakhaBrakha and Joryj Kloc played while I was there, and DziDzio performs in June. Plus, the Volyn National Choir and Ensemble often has performances, and they are one of the strongest song and dance ensembles in the country. (And I’m not just saying that because I trained there for two months.)
There are things Lutsk can improve on, like littered streets and derelict buildings, but if we stop disregarding Lutsk as a place to visit, it can continue to evolve into its quirky, happy, and entertaining self.
Paragraph 8: “Chernivtsi”
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