Ever since I first visited Lviv, Ukraine last year, I've been wanting to book a return trip. And I finally got my chance. In fact, I get to visit even more of Ukraine this time around, including Odessa and Kyiv.
But first, Lviv.
Lviv's main square (called Rynok in Ukrainian) is littered with restaurants and bars. Many of them are mostly owned by the same company, Fest Lviv, that calls their establishments "emotional restaurants".
Fest's themed restaurants were the highlight of my Lviv experience. I was fortunate enough to visit most of them during my stay. And once again, I was not disappointed.
Our first meal was at a restaurant that doubles as a museum. Gas Lamp holds one of the biggest collections of gas lamps in Europe. It serves drinks like lab experiments, from test tube shots to weird looking coffees.
The "kissing smoke coffee" was by far my favorite coffee during the entire trip. No other coffee came close.
Next up, we celebrated Joanna's birthday at The Most Expensive Galician Restaurant, a place that's hard to find, but that's part of its charm. We walked up a seemingly random apartment building, knocked on apartment #8, and was greeted by a burly dude who looked like he was being disturbed in his home, but then who took us behind the curtains to a beautiful restaurant, garden, and even bathroom.
The prices were astronomical in order to keep up with the name of the restaurant. Not to fret, though. They add an extra 0 to the price of each item on the menu, and then proceed to give diners a 90% discount at the end of the meal.
Try the goose breast. You'll be glad you did.
This executioner-themed restaurant had all sorts of torture devices that would fit right into Game of Thrones. There was a human cage right in the middle of the action to boot. Go early before the dinner crowd, or else you'll have to wait a while, but it's worth your time either way.
Be prepared when you ask for your bill. You might get a loud surprise.
Another restaurant dedicated to serving juicy meat. No wonder I felt like I was in heaven. The specialty here was non other than pork ribs. I cracked up when I saw the waitress draw silverware on my table. It was all about getting your fingers dirty here. The medieval theme included a display of century-old swords and a wait staff that all carry axes to prepare meals for diners.
Just like Meat and Justice, come here early or be prepared to wait in a long line.
Besides all the gluttony, we also took the opportunity to take a short stroll out of the main square and visit Lviv Skansen. Dubbed as an open air museum, it was more like a giant park with a ton of history and a beautiful old school church. Many village homes from back in the day were reconstructed here to show visitors a glimpse of Ukraine past. It even had a small zoo with chickens, donkeys, and goats. Go figure.
The Skansen was apparently popular for weddings as well, as we saw a couple of ceremonies take place. We ended up staying a few relaxing hours here, just chilling and hanging out. It was well worth the $1.56 admission fee.
Since we were visiting Lviv for a couple of weeks this time around instead of a couple of days, we couldn't just eat and drink until our tummies bursted every single day. Believe me, I tried. And it did not make my abs look pretty.
So on top of hitting the gym, I got on the BJJ mat as well. It felt really good to get a good sweat going after a big night out. ZR Team Lviv invited me to join them as a guest. They were warm and welcoming, and it was an awesome experience. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu really does feel like a worldwide community, no matter where you're from or what language you speak. It was awesome.
My first trip to Lviv was eye-opening. My second trip to Lviv was a lot less of a culture shock. I knew what to expect this time around (including old ladies selling whatever they can get their hands on and asking for change on the street), and I was more prepared for it. I felt like I was able to relax a bit more and enjoy the experience at a slower pace rather than running around like mad trying to see and do everything before time ran out.
Being so far away from the States, Ukraine doesn't get a ton of American visitors, but I think people who only visit Western Europe are missing out. Not only is Ukraine, and Lviv specifically, much more affordable than pretty much all other European countries (if there are more affordable places to visit, I haven't been to them), it is very safe. Being able to walk around alone in the middle of the night is a luxury back home, but it's normal life here, which is crazy just thinking about it.
Next up is an 11-hour train ride to Odessa. I can't wait to see what's in store for me there.
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