I found a decent coffee place on Market Square and had a cappuccino and a Lviv Croissant, which is an unlikely Ukrainian chain. I had some time to kill before the first walking tour, so I caught up on emails and texts.

As I headed to the morning tour meeting spot, I noticed two unmistakable LDS missionaries. They were from Idaho and when I asked them about the success of their mission, they frowned and reported that while most of the Ukrainians with whom they spoke professed to believe in God, they were not at all receptive to their message. I said “good luck” and left before they started working on me!

The morning tour was really informative. As I’ve reported in previous posts, it’s amazing that so many old towns, though in various states of shabbiness or restoration, survived the antinomian impulses of the Soviets.

I struck up a conversation with an older New Yorker who had lived in Lviv as a child, but was able to flee in the early fifties. He and his wife and daughter were investigating their Jewish roots and he told me that he recognized several of the old churches and temples from his childhood. The Soviets stored horses in one old synagogue. It was amusing when his wife scolded him for talking during the guide’s presentation.

We all had lunch at an old cafe and shared the usual foreign tourist banter. A younger French couple were particularly amusing.

After lunch I did a little shopping on Market Square and also walked into the opera house to see the restored stage.

The afternoon architecture tour was led by a recent graduate of the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. We were joined by a Dutch couple and a very quiet middle-aged American who claimed to work for the Peace Corps. Our guide was very entertaining and he and I hit it off. Like many of the Eastern Europeans whom I met on this trip, he wasn’t afraid to hide his opinions. He was strongly anti-Russian.

We were impressed with the number and variety of buildings surviving the two world wars and fifty years of Soviet misrule. Some dated to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and many others from the Austrian period beginning in 1772.

During recent restoration, advertisements in Yiddish for a men’s hat shop were revealed (above). They’re finding all sorts of architectural gems under decades of cheap Soviet paint and stucco.

The Ivan Franko National University, formerly the University of Lviv, was founded by royal charter in 1661 and was run by the Jesuits. It was the second oldest university in the Commonwealth after Kraków’s Jagiellonian University. Ivan Franco was a renowned Ukrainian scholar in the 19th century and the university was renamed after him upon the collapse of the USSR. It was a center of the Ukrainian intellectual renaissance under the tolerant Austrian rule.

Since it wasn’t convenient to fly from Lviv to Kraków without backtracking east to Kyiv, I decided to use the driver service that I’d used in Bulgaria-mydaytrip.com

After an excellent breakfast the next morning, I packed up and checked out of the Airbnb and met my young Polish driver, Michał, right on time in his white Audi A3 wagon, the same model as in Sofia. He told me he had never been across the border to Ukraine and was nervous, which surprised me since Lviv looks like a somewhat prosperous Central European city. He was also worried about the border wait, but we were through in less than 20 minutes. He was relieved to be back in Poland and proudly contrasted the modern freeway with the two-lane highway in Poland. He also told me, unbidden, about some obnoxious Americans he had driven around Poland earlier in the week. I laughed and said that I hoped I didn’t fall into that category.

The drive to my Airbnb in Kraków’s Old Town was less that 4 hours and he was an enjoyable companion so I gave him a hefty tip. As a hard-working new father, I was happy to help out since the drive itself was faster and cheaper than going by plane.

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