Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Going West: Traveling to Lviv, Krakow, and Zakopane

After I finished working at EuroCup in Kharkiv, I traveled west to Zakopane (southern Poland) with my boyfriend Stas for the wedding of my friends Ewelina and Stephan. I've known Ewelina and Stepan since my freshman year at Georgia Tech, and they've been together even longer than that. Ewelina's family is Polish and Stephan's family is from Canada with Ukrainian roots, so it was an interesting cross-cultural mix. Plus I was thrilled to be able to see them and other friends whom I haven't seen in years : )

Stas and I took the 18-hour train from Kharkiv to Lviv, arriving mid-day. We immediately went to Lviv's main bus station and checked our bags into the luggage room there, which was translated from Ukrainian into English as the "Left Luggage Office". If I saw something called a "Left Luggage Office" in the United States, I would either assume that was a place to find lost luggage or that there was also a "Right Luggage Office" on the opposite side of the building. Anyways, Lviv is a beautiful city, with tons of beautiful architecture and historical sites. It was my second time there, but this time I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the city had many more English signage and directions (due to being another EuroCup host city).

The Lviv train station is colorfully decorated with EuroCup banners. 
Signs around the city in English and Ukrainian. 
Stas by the King Danylo statue in the center. 
An old trolley car which had been converted into part of a restaurant's patio seating area. 
with Poseidon, who is clearly a Ukraine fan. 
We also checked out Lviv's Fan Zone, just to see how it compared to the Kharkiv Fan Zone. We didn't get the full effect of the Fan Zone since we weren't there during any games (the semifinal games were in Poland at that time), but it was still nice. The Kharkiv Fan Zone was much more concentrated in Freedom Square, sort of like an outdoor concert that focuses on one main stage. The Lviv Fan Zone was more elongated in area and felt more like an outdoor festival with multiple stages. It was also strange how they enclosed the Opera house and Taras Shevchenko statue into the Fan Zone, because those are two well-known landmarks in Lviv.

The stage is just the right size to completely block off the front of the Opera house. 
Stas and the barricaded Shevchenko statue. 
I will give Lviv an extra bonus point for these tourist-friendly city maps though, Kharkiv doesn't have these and they would definitely have been helpful during EuroCup to help foreigners navigate around the city. Even though some of the translations are funny, some English is better than no English.
omg I'm lost... where do I go?? oh wait, I'll just check this map right here. 
Lviv's famous open-air book bazaar. 
with a lion! Lviv is known as city of the lions. 
From Lviv, Stas and I took an overnight bus to Krakow. We crossed the Polish border about two hours after getting on the bus, and it was just like airport customs. Everyone had to show their passports to a customs agent, then put their luggage through an x-ray scanner. We had one poor lady on our bus who was trying to bring 6 suitcases of cosmetic creams and makeup into Poland, and the customs agents denied her after a lot of arguing and she wasn't allowed to get back onto our bus. We arrived into Krakow at 5am, so we walked around the city before most people were awake.

The 3-story mall located next to the Krakow train station. 
some sketchy chalk outline. 
Krakow has tourist maps too! complete with side-by-side translations into English. 

Stas with the old fort near the Floridian gates. 
I forgot the name of this statue, but I took almost the same exact photo here last summer...
 It was actually a nice change of pace to be in empty streets and to be able to take photos without a million other people in them... especially in Krakow's main market square. The square is usually full of people selling souvenirs and Polish bagels during the day, but it was completely empty when we walked through it.

The hall of souvenir kiosks (it was closed when we arrived but its still a beautiful building). 

The huge gothic church in the square... notice how the people look tiny next to the giant entrance doors.  
The bell tower. 
A view of the square from the foot of the bell tower. 
I love this statue... it used to be a full body but after the Nazi occupation of Poland, only the head was left. 
After the main square, we walked to Wawel Castle. This was the place where I truly appreciated that it was only 6am, because all of our photos are free of other tourists (compared to last summer, where none of my photos were of just buildings).

Walking up to the castle. 
Looking up from the walkway. 
Looking over the ramparts at the city streets. 
A monument to Pope John, who was Polish and maybe even from Krakow. 
The grounds of the castle (the tourist information center is in the brown building straight ahead). 

I would never have been able to do this during the day. 
Ruins of old foundations. 
Looking back at the church steeple part of the castle. 
A bronze miniature of the castle, with braille inscriptions. 
The castle overlooks the river. 
The river looks so calm, and I love how they have a bike path. 
One last look at the castle while walking down. 
After Krakow, we took a 2 hour bus to Zakopane where the wedding would take place. Zakopane is close to the border with Slovakia, and its high in the mountains. During the winter, its a popular a ski resort town but it was still stunningly green when we were there in the summer. We stayed a very cabin-like hotel, with a rustic feel from its pine walls, pine furniture and pine stairs. We had a cookout in the evening as everyone arrived at different times.

Mountain view of Zakopane from the bus window. 
The folk band that they hired for the cookout. 
Sausage and shashlik (shish kababs)!
Stas with two Polish aunties, Ewelina's cousin and our new French friends Mathilde and Julian. 
The folk band in action!
The next day, we got all dressed up for the church ceremony. I've never been to an Eastern Orthodox wedding before, and therefore had to borrow a scarf from Mathilde to cover my shoulders in church.

Me and Mathilde!
Stas and I : D
Showing off the x-back of my dress :P
Now I'm ready to go to the church. 
We took taxis from the hotel to the church, then rode back in horse-drawn carriages! The ceremony was all in Polish, so I didn't understand anything but everything was beautiful. Even the church itself was beautiful, with its mixture of wood and stone architecture.

Exchanging rings. 
Everyone watching the ceremony (including Georgia Tech's infamous "Red Jesus" haha)
The altar. 
All the guests leaving the church. 
Mr. and Mrs. Prockow!
getting onto the carriages. 

We had 3 carriages for everyone. 
Stas and I in the carriage.
The carriage behind us, holding up traffic. 
Entering the driveway to our hotel. 
They had the reception after the wedding at the hotel that we were all staying at. The reception started at 4pm and was supposed to go on until 7am, with meals every 2 hours. I only made it until midnight, because I was still tired from traveling and all the excitement and dancing wore me out. We played a lot of different games throughout the evening, I wasn't sure if they were traditional wedding games or just traditional Polish party games but they were quite amusing to watch.

In this game, the couple had to smash a glass then see who could clean it up faster. 
The "snack" table of fruits, veggies, meat and cheese.
Ewelina and Stephan dancing their first dance.
Ewelina and Stephan with Ewelina's Polish cousins and family. 
Another game where the guys had to spin around the hammer 10 times, then try to strike a nail into the log with as few hits as possible. 
Dancing on the dance floor. 
A skiing game, where teams of 3 people had to "ski" across the dance floor and back. 
We only stayed 2 nights at the hotel, then headed back to Ukraine through Krakow and Lviv again. This time you'll notice that the streets of Krakow are much more alive with people since were there there during the afternoon. We basically just walked back through market square and bought souvenirs.
Stas with one of the Polish bagels!
the 3-story mall next to the train station was open this time, and it felt just like being in America. 
A teddy bear store!
The square is now full of people.
Same with the streets. 
Adidas's newest soccer cleat. 
and OH MY GOD they had KFC and fried chicken!!! I miss Atlanta so much.
We were much sleepier in Lviv, since the bus from Krakow arrived at 4am. We walked around the city and hiked to the top of the High Castle in Lviv, which had great views of the city from a 360 degree angle. Okay, so it wasn't really a hike - we just walked up the stairs and path that led to the top of the castle.

Oh yeah, definitely back in Ukraine... this is from the train station in Lviv. 
so green. 
halfway up. 
some old ruins of a wall. 
doin the Lenin. 
growing through the bricks. 
the view from the top.
There is a Ukrainian flag at the very top and center. 
Overlooking the city. 
Near the edge of the Fan Zone. 
 Our last stop in Lviv was the infamous Salo Museum, which turned out to be more of a restauant than a museum but was still revoltingly interesting to see. This "museum" is marked as a place of interest on all the tourist maps, so we decided to go check it out. If you don't know what salo is, its basically cold salted pork fat that Ukrainians are famous for snacking on. So I guess if you are a foreigner in Ukraine, it would be interesting to try the salo there haha.

Outside the Salo Museum (spelled "сало" in Russian/Ukrainian)
This is apparently the world's largest salo heart... though I can't imagine there are very many large pumping hearts made out of salo. 
A weird baby salo alien sculpture. 
Some more salo sculptures kept in refrigerated display cases, in case customers order the dishes with the m.
Thanks for reading down all the way to the end of this post! I took a ton of photos but these are just the highlights from our trip. I'll post about Camp HEAL next time!


Obat Kolesterol said...

your posting is very good about going west traveling to lviv krakow

McKenzie said...

I stumbled across your blog and I am so glad I did!! I leave in 5 weeks for staging and will be heading to Ukraine shortly thereafter. Your packing list is a SAVIOR!! :)

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