Friday, July 5, 2013

L'viv For the Weekend :: Day 1

Thursday evening, I realized I should start to think about what to do with the weekend. My plans to go to the  mountains (I was told there was a gathering of "hippies" I would enjoy) fell through and I needed to do something.

Friday afternoon came and I packed my small purse with all I needed - camera, Kindle, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and comb. At 1:02 PM I left Nehemiah with the idea of going to L'viv that day. Maybe I'll be able to find a train to catch.

I ambled on, asked a question, hopped on a bus, and ended up at Uzhgorod's train station. There, there were four lines to choose from. I picked one at random (the last one) and started to plan out how I would buy my ticket.

"Moschne billietah na L'viv?"
When they asked for when, I would shake my head and say, "Nie zaftra," and then point down and try and imply that I wanted to go today.

As I got closer and closer to the front of the line, I wasn't too sure how it would work out. I asked the young man in front of me if he spoke English. "Nie." A girl behind me sort of did... and as we started to sort things out (I mainly wanted to know what line to stand in), in walked Dascha! Dascha the German-speaking wonder girl. A short conversation and wait in line later and I had my tickets to L'Viv and back.

During the break, she also hooked me up with a mobile phone. I payed a bit extra at the shop to get a phone with slots for two sim-cards. Why? Uzhgorod is served by two phone companies and calls within each service is free. So, if I go out and pay a bit more at the beginning (maybe $8 extra?) I pretty much never have to pay anything again. I'll blog more on that later.

Cell phone, bottle of water, and small bag packed, it was time to get on the train. I waited by the train. And waited. It seemed odd that they hadn't lowered the steps yet... until it was 7 minutes till departure. Then I saw some folks making a beeline for the front of the train and running around to the other side. I followed their lead and made it onto my train within minutes of departure. Phew.

As for the train ride? I thought train rides in Switzerland couldn't be beat... wrong. Ukraine baffled me to bits as the sun set and we went through the hills (I think they call them mountains... not sure). There were farmers stacking up hay into mounds and small villages and, sigh, I fell in love with this country all over again. Ukraine. My heart. Fine, take it.

My company on the train was, at first, this gal. We never spoke a word and she closed the window. Gah! She closed it! The Ukrainians have a great-all-mighty-fear of wind. According to many-a-Ukrainian I've spoken to, "Wind makes you sick." So, on blisterig 86 F days (which, for a Washingtonian, is sweltering) they proceed to close the window on moving forms of transportation, turning them into a moving form of green house. I took a sweaty nap and scribbled in my agenda.

After five months of traveling and changing beds every two nights on average, I had lately settled in Uzhgorod. This was my first time to leave town in over a month. I started to mentally prepare for all sorts of triggers that would (and did) occur. I know "travel bug" sounds peculiar - but it's the best way to describe it. It's something that I have to work hard to fight against. I have to say, "No. Margaret. Stay, girl, Stay. Down." That's why Alaska was perfect, because I couldn't just up and leave anywhere at any time. I was pretty well stuck (and happy at the same time, oh so content).

A men arrived, joined us, and proceeded to give me a short monologue of his day before I was able to sputter out that I wasn't exactly fluent in Ukrainian. "Deutsch?" he asked. I was able to speak back fluently only, turns out, he was less than fluent. Less than beginner. But we made do with what we had.

Finally we arrived in L'viv where a babushka who had been eyeing me across the aisle way finally made her move to make sure I was alright. And.. I know she meant well. At first it was sweet and helpful, but, eventually, it got to get old. I had directions to the hostel (from the hostel) and she kept telling me that I woul take the long tram and it was toooo long. I told her it was ok. We babbled back and forth. She followed me onto my tram and kept talking and laughing in a seat behind me. Meanwhile, I was stressed because, since she was always there,  I hadn't had the chance to orienteer myself.

After 5 minutes of this, I got off the tram at a random stop. She yelled at me to get back on. I told her I was fine. I was ok.

Ok if you think being in the middle of a city at night without a map or a clue where you are is ok.

I started to walk, tried to ask a man for a clue. He ignored me (I even used my Ukrainian!).
The next lady, though, was rad (see! things go right, they always do). She spoke fluent English and helped me catch a cab. Why catch a cab? Because it's only some 30 hrv which is less than $4. I'll spend $4 at night to get myself to a hostel safely.

Kosmonaut Hostel was where I would be spending my weekend. For last minute travel decisions, I prefer not to do Couchsurfing - especially in a country where I can earn the amount of money a hostel costs in around 1-2 hours of busking next to a fountain in city center.

Kosmonaut Hostel was charming -- 'cept the sketch entrance which, luckily, Moscow had already introduced me to. It was behind door number 4 and completely unmarked. I made my way up the unlit stairs. So dark. Finally, I saw a paper sign for the hostel. On the top floor I knocked and a young man let me in. I was instructed to take off my shoes and given a pair of slippers in exchange. Of this I approved.

I would have the dorm room to myself - something I also celebrated because it meant my lack of pyjamas wasn't a problem at all.

It was at this point that I realized, "Oh yeah... my body needs food." I slipped my shoes back on, trotted down the steps, and walked out into L'Viv on my food mission.

Gotta find food.

Within two blocks I heard the articulation I know oh so well after over a decade's experience -- American English. It rang out clear from a circle of folks near the entrance of a bar.

I hadn't just "heard" English on the streets since... since... since New York City back in April.

I walked over. Listened. And joined the conversation. The man telling the story was Mike of Colorado. Mike's purpose in L'Viv? He owned and was running Tex-Mex BBQ (Текс-Мекс Барбекю). I've been told it's delicious. There was also Sarah (I think?) of Portland, Maine. There was also a beautiful selection of locals and folks from Lebanon, Greece, Italy... I was in good company.

One man welcomed me inside, telling me I could have as much as I would like to drink for free.

Do these things happen?

I thanked him but told him it wouldn't be wise for me to drink as I had nothing in my stomach.

"There's food in there too. Eat all you like."

Free food. Free alcohol.

Free Scotch.

I ate food. I drank within moderation, but stayed well away from being tipsy.

Turns out the man co-owned the bar and it was his birthday. I was grateful.

Before it got too late, I wandered back to the hostel....
Oh L'Viv.


  1. Heh, I really enjoy following your adventures. Would love to go visit Ukraine one day but for now happy to keep up with what you're doing there. Cheers!

  2. Tex-Mex in Ukraine? Wow! I loved it when I would randomly have an entire dorm to myself in the hostels when I was traveling. :)

  3. You are such an adventurer. I love that you have no trouble at all going to new places and just figuring it all out. I wish I was a bit more like that.


Your words make me grin.

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