If Kyiv is the heart of Ukraine, then Lviv is the soul.
Perhaps cliché, but it’s true.
My driver quoted this to me as he picked me up from the train station in Lviv, the city I’ll live in for the next two months.
I was in Kyiv for the previous two months, and though there was still so much to discover, I got a good feel of the city. In Kyiv, the power and energy seems to come from the big buildings, the bright lights, and the weekly protests. It feels lively. It feels elaborate. It feels modern.
Lviv has energy, but it’s a different kind. It doesn’t necessarily get energy from its grand structures or events, instead its charge comes from the people. The cobblestoned streets, stunning architecture, and compact layout allow the city’s character, which starts with the people, to flourish and stand out.
Any night of the week, you can find people at the city’s central Rynok Square, playing music, dancing, drinking, talking, and walking. Same goes for Kyiv, but you notice it more here because everything is so close together – the city blocks are compact, and bars, cafés, and restaurants are all centrally located.
The popularity of the Ukrainian language ahead of Russian is another major reason Lviv “feels” like the soul and spirit of Ukraine. I never knew how comforting hearing “вісім” and “дякую” rather than “восемь” and “спасибо” could be until walking the streets of Lviv after two months in Kyiv.
Both cities have their own positives and negatives, and different people may prefer one city to the other. While I was sad to leave Kyiv because I liked its contemporary feel, I know Lviv is more my pace. I’ve been here only a short time so far, but I’m already in love. I love how you can escape the hustle of the city centre by walking a block over. I love that the city is compact and you can get to multiple destinations by foot all in one day. And I love that it’s more obvious you’re in Ukraine – there’s an embroidery shop at every corner, people speak mostly Ukrainian, and it has a more old time historical feel.
Also, though I got used to the constant car horns in Kyiv – a honk to say “go”, a honk to say “what are you doing?”, a honk to say, “I’m here” – there’s a welcome car horn silence in Lviv.
While here I look forward to climbing the many stairs of Lviv’s Town Hall tower for a bird’s eye view of the city, checking out the many themed restaurants and pubs, exploring the ruins and grounds of High Castle, shopping the winter markets, and counting the number of lion statues (the city was named after someone named Lev, or Leo, which means lion in Latin).
Come join me as I learn more about what fills Ukraine’s soul.