Thursday, August 4, 2011

Backpacking around Eastern Europe -Part 1: Kyiv, Lviv and Krakow

About a week ago, my old roommate Annie from Georgia Tech flew from Atlanta to Kyiv to meet up with me and travel around Eastern Europe for a few weeks. I met her at the airport in Kyiv, which was a little bit scary because the flight came in about a half hour late and I started worrying that  I had mixed up the date of her arrival or something. But I managed to find her by baggage claim and we started our journey by spending the night in Kyiv and seeing some of the famous churches there. 

Annie in front of the St. Sophia's bell tower. 
Annie in front of St. Michael's. 
St. Andrew's church had some construction. 
We had originally planned our next stop to be Warsaw, Poland but the overnight train ticket to Warsaw from Kyiv was ridiculously expensive (800 griven ~ $100) for our budget so we decided to travel to Lviv instead. Lviv is a beautiful city in western Ukraine, and I was excited to go there since I haven't really traveled west of Kyiv yet. We had to buy kupe tickets (second class sleeper cars with private compartments) for the train to Lviv since they were out of platzcart tickets (third class sleeper cars). When we got on the train, I was very surprised to see how new and clean the compartment was - we had our own mirror, sink, a few coat hooks, and AIR CONDITIONING. I was very impressed with it... we must have been riding one of the new EuroCup 2012 train cars!

HELLO from the top bunk!
Annie in the middle bunk. 
The Lviv train station. 
We walked around Lviv for a day and saw some of the famous sights... and then we ran into a bunch of the Peace Corps Volunteers from the Lviv oblast! They were actually staying in the same hostel that we were... small world! Another interesting thing about Lviv is that they speak predominantly Ukrainian there, whereas they speak predominantly Russian where I live in the east. So I got to practice some of the few basic Ukrainian words that I know (hello, goodbye, thank you, yes, no, and some train traveling vocab) haha. 

The countdown to EuroCup 2012 in Lviv!
Annie and I in front of the old Opera House. 
The small used book market by one of the Shevchenko statues. 
Annie and I by the big Shevchenko statue. 
Annie and the King. 
Me and Ksenyia!! She and I are both from the SF Bay area and this is only the 3rd time that I've seen her in Ukraine since we went to different language training groups and then she went to live in the west and I went to the east. 
From downtown Lviv, we took a small bus to Shegani, where Ukraine borders Poland. We followed a group of very nice Polish backpackers who showed us where we could walk across the border to Poland. This proved to be a very interesting experience, I had never just walked across a country border before. We passed through the exit customs on the Ukraine side without a problem, then found ourselves waiting in a massive group of people to go through the customs on the Polish side. We ended up waiting about 2 hours, but we made it safely across the border before it started raining. After crossing the border, we took a bus to the next town and then hopped on a 6-hour train to Krakow. In Krakow, the train station is connected to a huge 4-story mall and I was thrilled to see giant Walmart-like supermarkets and American fast food places like KFC and Subway!

Our marshrutka bus to the Ukrainian border town. 
Annie eating her doner kebab in the mall food court. 
OMG! I love grocery stores!
We settled into our hostel for the night and then went out walking around Krakow the next day. The weather was a little overcast and rain was drizzling, so some of the pictures had strange lighting. I really liked Krakow, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that everyone spoke English on the streets and in the shops. 

Annie and I by the old main gate into Krakow. 
Statues in the old square. 
In front of the big gothic cathedral... it was so tall that the top of it got a little cut off from this photo. 
A giant piece of a statue in the old town square.
Old town square (with the famous gothic cathedral shown fully).
These Polish bagels were sold on the streets everywhere so we decided that we had to try them!
The church of Saints Peter and Paul. 
The church inside the Wawel Castle. 
Look, one of Krakow's twin cities is San Francisco!!
While we were in Krakow, we walked over across the river to see Schindler's Factory, the inspiration for the movie Schindler's List. Annie and I spent our second day touring Auschwitz and Birkenkau, the former concentration camps located in Krakow. It was really incredible to see all the artifacts preserved from the second world war, and it was sombering to see how awful the living conditions were for all of the people that were kept there. I will post photos from these two places in my next post, along with photos from Prague. We are in the beautiful Hungarian city of Budapest now, and we will travel down to Slovenia next!


Post a Comment