Day 18: Lviv – The Taste of Ukraine

by Zack on August 23, 2010

Everything was going as planned until the Vodka came. And then it all went horribly horribly wrong.

I think it was Castro* who said Peace Corp Volunteers are the corrupters of souls. Or maybe it was someone I met while visiting a Peace Corp friend in Honduras a few years ago. Either way, if you are looking for a way to experience an off-the-beaten path city in the expat-as-local way, there is no better source than these post-collegiate Americans abroad.

And so it was for Mike and I last night***, as we slowly chipped away at our tumblers full of Ukrainian Vodka that passed as a “shot” for the locals. And we paid for it this morning* … But that’s a tale for tomorrow.

Today we earned our nightcap with a busy day shooting around the Ukrainian city of Lviv (Luh-Veev!). Once the capital of Galicia (then called Lemberg, later Lwow by the Polish) Lviv had a strong and influential Jewish population.

But like Krakow before it, much of the Synagogues, cemeteries and cultural centers of Jewish life were washed away by Nazi occupation.

Jewish life in Lviv today has recovered, but only modestly. We visited a local Jewish Community Center (unscheduled, mind you) and were treated to a tour of their one-room museum/tribute to Jewish life in the city. We also interviewed the organization’s Rabbi, who gave some useful commentary on contemporary Jewish life in the city.

Afterwards we took a tour of Jewish sites around the city; the remaining walls of the Golden Rose Synagogue that the Nazis burned down in 1942; the memorial to the 130,000 plus Jews killed in the Ghetto; the old market.

Lviv is a beautiful city, by appearances attempting to modernize and catch up after 75 years of hindered progress. Construction marks the major roads, most building facades are draped with scaffolds.

And we experience much of it today. Earning ourselves a hangover we justly deserve.

* it wasn’t

**Friday, August 21. I realize the dates may be confused by our batch posting in Lutsk.

***and never has my age shown more. There were days when I could guzzle down scotch by the high ball. Now, have a glass of quality Vodka, drank slowly, puts me out of commission for most of the morning.

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