Friday, August 31, 2007

A Plaintiff Attorney's Dream

With our only full-time English television channel focusing solely on the tenth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana (at least they have moved on from seemingly 24 hour coverage of the 60th anniversary of Indian and Pakistani independence), we felt that it was time to talk about traffic. It is shocking that we have not witnessed an accident yet with traffic as crazy as it is.

Lea mentioned to Jani that there was a large traffic jam of tramvais and that she wondered if this was why the trams never came yesterday. Jani mentioned that as of yesterday, some streets had become one way. One was Kopernik Street, which goes along the side of our apartment. We had not noticed! But that could certainly cause enough traffic congestion to keep the trams from their routes. Walter had also mentioned that some streets had become one way shortly before our arrival. Traffic patterns change frequently in Lviv, apparently.

The traffic here is outrageous. Cars run red lights constantly, horns and screeching brakes can be heard at all hours of the night, and pedestrians cross at their own peril, even in crosswalks. Lines denoting lanes are only decorative - they do not seem to constrain the behavior of drivers. People in Lawrence complain about traffic and build roundabouts and traffic islands to protect pedestrians. Lawrencians have no idea what real traffic is.

Today, Carter and Lea met Jani and Thomas at the Park of Culture to try to find horse chestnuts. This was a great old Soviet park with a grand entrance, a large circle at the top with nothing in it (one could easily imagine Lenin there), and huge, grand staircases (not the best with the stroller). Unfortunately, the horse chestnuts, or buckeyes, or conkers, had not fallen, so the foursome decided to go across the street to another park that had a newer playground. At the exit of the park, there was a huge Soviet war memorial. They heard singing just before crossing the street, and found a large group of men in uniforms marching and singing with a military band. The boys really enjoyed watching the performance, and it was great sound accompaniment for the memorial just across the street. After the park, Lea and Carter returned home, crossing the same streets. One can find crosswalks, but the drivers going about 40 mph do not seem to care at all. It was a long wait for the road to clear enough to run across. And that is something one has to do often here - run for your life across the street.

P.S. The water came back on around 9 p.m. last night. It was off for around 6 hours or so.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Step Back in Time...

...or, perhaps many steps. The lovely weather inspired us to go for a long walk this morning and afternoon, though it turned out to be much longer than we expected. As in New Orleans, one of the main attractions of L'viv is its major cemetery: the Lychakiv Necropolis. A tour through the cemetery provides great insight into the city's history, politics, and culture. Much like the buildings all over town, the grave markers are beautiful, ornate, and in various states of disrepair (see photos below). They also represent the major overlords of the region: a few inscriptions are in German, more in Russian and Ukrainian, and many are in Polish.

We took the tramvai and went on foot about three blocks from the main entrance. Several tour groups from Poland were also milling about (more about this later). After buying tickets and a guidebook to the cemetery's most famous inhabitants, we set off on the nicely paved paths. The first major grave we encountered was Ivan Franko's. You probably recognize his name from the title of L'viv National University. He was a 19th-early 20th century scholar and activist from Western Ukraine. To the right, you can see Erik at the Franko gravesite.

We continued past the final resting places of poets, politicians, and priests to one of the major landmarks of the cemetery: the Polish and Galician military monuments and gravesites. At the end of WWI, with the Austro-Hungarian Empire falling apart, Ukrainians in the West attempted to set up an independent Galician state. This effort was opposed by the Poles who fought the Galician army in a war that lasted from 1918-1919. Galician independence efforts were not recognized until after the collapse of the USSR (the Soviet Union had no reason to remind Ukrainians that some had fought for independence). Questions about how the Polish soldiers should be memorialized increased tensions between Poland and independent Ukraine because many Poles consider L'viv to be Polish territory. When the cemetery was re-dedicated in 2005, the presidents of Poland and Ukraine attended to show that the issue had been resolved. The Polish tourists that we saw at the entrance all made their way to this memorial and took lots of photos. A picture of the Polish memorial is on the right. One passes through the Ukrainian memorial to get to the Polish memorial.

We continued our tour of the cemetery, passing many beautiful graves. One prominent resident of Lychakiv stood out - Dr. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch - the originator of the term masochism.
This connection was quite relevant as the municipal authorities of L'viv seem to have a masochistic tendency today. After a long walk in the cemetery, we made our way back uphill to the tramvai stop and waited... and waited... and waited. Finally, after seeing no trams go either direction, and extremely full mashrutkas passing us, we decided the tram was not coming and we would walk. It was a long walk, mostly downhill. About halfway, we saw a tram going the other way, but it would have to go two stops beyond our original locale, then turn around and come back. We would definitely beat the trams to the center of the city. As we neared the arsenal, we saw quite a backup of trams. There was no apparent explanation for it, but it may have cleared up before we arrived since one had already escaped. We made it home 40 minutes after our decision to walk, and definitely beat the tram even with a short detour to pick up some good dates and dried apricots. When we decided to start cooking dinner, L'viv's masochism continued. Our plans to make a vegetable curry were scuttled by a lack of water. Yes - once again the water is off. Fortunately, we have a few bottles stored to flush the toilet if the outage continues.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Work and Play

Our plans today took us in different directions. Erik worked diligently on his book in the morning (and he has made significant progress since our arrival) and then began preparing for the afternoon roundtable. Anatoliy Romanyuk (a faculty member at Ivan Franko National University) organized the event for members of local political parties and the media. The main theme was standards for free and fair elections and their application in Ukraine. Erik had to prepare about 5 minutes of material since his remarks would be translated. As he worked on this project, Lea and Carter went off to see Jani and Thomas.

Lea, Carter and their friends did the downtown route, showing them Carter's regular pigeon-feeding spot, and of course, stopping to feed the birds. They walked through the art market, looking at the souvenirs and stopped in a gallery and a toy store. They walked to Carter's new favorite playground, way up the hill, to enjoy the merry-go-round (yes, they still have them here). The playground also has other modern Ukrainian playground equipment, much of which you would not find in the US (such as hot metal slides). They returned to the front of the Opera House, where children can rent and drive motorized cars for 3 grivnya for 2 minutes. Thomas enjoys this, but Carter showed us his inability to steer last night on the bike, so he may have to wait a bit to start driving. The boys then blew and chased bubbles in the middle of Prospekt Svobody before locating horse chestnuts (which the Brits call conkers, we learned) and throwing them.

Erik's roundtable event started at 3pm and lasted until about 4:20 in the conference room of He, Anatoliy, and Yuriy Shveda (another IFNU faculty member) said a few words, then the floor was opened to the audience. The first question came from a representative of the Svoboda Party (see our previous post about this party). Actually, he had a long commentary punctuated by a few questions. Erik stepped in to answer one, then realized that this was not really the format for the roundtable. Rather, the audience was given an opportunity to chime in on the topic, with Erik, Anatoliy, and Yuriy making brief concluding remarks. Erik understood some of the conversation - certain speakers were easier to follow than others - and made reasonable comments. Or, he understood little and made complete non-sequiturs. In any case, he enjoyed the event and will probably participate in more as the election approaches.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nut Spas Eve

Around noon, a major religious celebration began at the statue to Mary outside our window. We had been to a park earlier in the day, and noticed large crowds by some of the churches that we passed by. What religious holiday could it be? We were told that it might be Spas. It turns out that part three of the Spas Trilogy is on August 29: Honey/Poppy Seed Spas (August 14), Apple Spas (August 19), and Nut Spas (August 29). At the end of the Spas holidays, you are supposed to be ready for cold weather.

As you will note, however, today is not August 29, and we were told that there are 100 recognized holidays in Ukraine. So, we thought, perhaps it is Nut Spas Eve? Some further research by Lea's dad revealed that it is
Assumption of the Most Holy Mother of God, also called First Purest. Tomorrow should be Nut Spas, so we should get our hats and mittens ready!

Walter invited us to have dinner with his wife Lyuda and grandson Roman this afternoon. Walter guided us on the marshrutka to his apartment. A marshrutka is a small bus or minivan that is privately run along pre-determined routes in town. It supplements municipal services like the tramvai and is relatively low in cost (1 grivnya for a marshrutka compared with 50 kopecks for the tramvai). The marshrutka quickly filled up. We had seats, but all seats and standing spots were occupied by riders, the driver, and his helper. Erik counted 27 people on the marshrutka with at least 8 standing.

The apartment was on the outskirts of town up on a hill. After getting off the marshrutka, we took some fresher air (much less polluted than in the center of town) and gazed down at the old city. We walked to the apartment in a new building situated among many other apartments. Lyuda had prepared a lovely meal of summer borshch, zucchini salad, cabbage, tomato and cucumber salad, potatoes, and cutlets. Everything was delicious; Lea chased down her dinner with some nice wine and Erik had a couple of vodka toasts with Walter. After dinner, Carter entertained us (or we entertained Carter) with guitar playing and singing accompanied by his dancing. We had a dessert of tea, coffee, and delicious apple cake and decided to take a stroll. Carter had a chance to ride a bike for the first time (you can see him on the right with Lyuda). We then took a walk to the nearby park which turned out to be the same park where we met Phil, Jani, and Thomas to feed ducks!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Full Sunday

We rushed out the door this morning to make it to 9:30 mass at the Roman Catholic church nearby, and have not slowed down until this moment. We entered the ornate Polish/Ukrainian church and found a pew. The pews were ancient, unstable, and incredibly uncomfortable. The church was comfortably full and Carter stayed in his stroller in the aisle. At first, Erik could not figure out if the mass was in Polish or in Ukrainian. But, he finally decided that the priest was Polish but the mass was in Ukrainian. His oral comprehension of Ukrainian is not that strong, but Erik picked out some emphasis that was more typical of Polish (familiar words that the priest stressed on the second to last syllable, but should not have been in Ukrainian). In any case, we had limited comprehension of the substance, but the to and structure was more familiar than last week, other than a couple of curious events. When offertory time came, two older men dressed in robes came around with baskets. As some of you know, they make change from the offertory baskets here. This took a considerable amount of time. The men stopped during consecration and knelt, then kept going. When communion time came, people lined up on their knees down the center aisle and the priests came to them for communion.

After mass, we decided to go to the outdoor museum of architecture - an open-air museum featuring Ukrainian peasant structures from several centuries. Essentially, it is the Greenfield Village of L'viv. Phil and Jani told us that there would be a festival of folk music and other activities at the park today. We collected some snacks, and headed for the tramvai.
It stopped about 15 minutes downhill from the entrance to the park. When we got to the ticket booth, Erik was told that because of the festival, prices were much higher if visitors were not wearing Ukrainian national garb. Since we are not Ukrainian, and don't own any national clothing, we shelled out the 100 grivnya (around $20) for entry for the three of us. We walked around the beautiful wooded grounds, stopping in to see several structures. Unfortunately, they were not open yet (some were opened later). We stopped for a picnic lunch, visited with the farm animals, then continued to explore. To the left, you can see Carter in front of a 19th century farmstead. To the right, you can see Carter and Erik in front of an 18th century church. Both had been transported to the museum in the Soviet era. The church was labeled as a "monument of architecture" and still had the old Soviet plaque. But, the word "Soviet" had been scratched off. The concert was scheduled to start around 3 p.m. We found a nice grassy spot on a slight incline to view the festivities. The first performance was a group of three women with incredible voices singing traditional Ukrainian mountain tunes. The music was lovely, but a bit placid and hypnotic for us. While they were playing, a man walked in and the crowd started to applaud. He walked up to someone directly behind us and we were suddenly surrounded by people taking pictures, and by a member of the news media. Erik stood up to take a picture of the interview right behind us (see the photo below) while Lea consoled a napping Carter who was startled by the huge crowd of fans surrounding him. It turned out that the mystery man was the headliner for the evening concert, which we knew we would not stay for.

The three singing women were followed by a fabulous Hutsul band that played a brand of furious and fast folk music that we - and the assembled crowd - could not get enough of. At the beginning of the show, most concert-goers sat quietly in their spots. By the end of this band's set, the masses had formed a Ukrainian mosh pit/square dance and demanded an encore which the band gladly offered. Erik even found one of the accordion players backstage after the set and told him how much he liked the music. The next act was a solid Lithuanian polka band that included an Eastern European version of Public Enemy's S1W, as three members of the band simply stood on stage with a Lithuanian flag and placard with a map of the world labeled "Lituania." We encountered lots of interesting characters and activities - too many to relate in detail. So, we will let the pictures below tell the rest of the story.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Independence Day 2

The Independence Day celebration continues throughout the weekend. Early this morning, while on a trip to the market, we found a schedule of events. It noted the events we attended, as well as several others scheduled for the weekend. We took note of all of the events so that we could drop in on a few. Our morning jaunt was both task-oriented and exploratory. We had to pick up a few household items like clothespins, learn the mass times at the Roman Catholic church nearby, and check out a park we had seen from afar the other day. The park was particularly nice, with modern equipment, safety measures (rubber mats instead of sand), and a good variety of toddler-friendly toys. After playing on the slide/play structure, spinning on the merry-go-round, and swinging, Carter saw a flock of pigeons on a dilapidated basketball court. Instead of feeding them, he wanted to chase them. He had a blast running around after the birds who (barely) kept one step ahead of him. We had lunch at the Armenian restaurant that took over the Chicken Place. The food was fine - we had beans with walnuts, imam bayaldi, lavash (that Carter insisted was tortillas), pilaf, and lamb kebab - but it was no Chicken Place. The restaurant is near Market Square which was still decorated for the holiday. All of the statues of Greek/Roman gods were decked out in Ukrainian national garb - you can see Ukrainian-inspired Neptune on the left.

After resting up for a while in the apartment and having dinner, we decided to head back out to celebrate. We picked up a Yushchenko balloon for Carter, which you can see him attempting to feed Lea above, and decided to get a spot for the concert. The schedule said that there would be a concert featuring Ruslana from 7-8 p.m. on Market Square. She is a pop singer, Eurovision song contest winner, and former member of the national Ukrainian parliament whose music is in the Britney Spears mold (in the pre-meltdown stage), but with strong Ukrainian themes. While we find the formulaic, sugary dance music of Ruslana intolerable, how could we pass it up?

Around 8:20 p.m., the show started with apparently the first opening act, an orchestra. We expected to hear, perhaps, the national anthem or the works of a classical composer. Instead, we were treated to the old Ukrainian standard: "Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark." As the concert continued, Carter was inspired to get out of his stroller and dance. You can see his patented moves to the left and the right. After the second act, a group of tenors began singing various tunes. Eventually, we decided to give up and head back. Carter was insistent on feeding the birds, but the pigeons had disappeared for the day. He (and they) will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Today is Ukraine's Independence Day holiday. Erik returned on the overnight train from L'viv and arrived before 7 a.m. permeated by the odors that one can only acquire on a long-haul East European train. His cabin-mates were rather pleasant (a young couple and a young man with whom he chatted at length about L'viv, the U.S., mobile phones, computers, and sports). Sergey even offered to accompany him and Carter to a soccer match with his three-year old son (Erik met Sergey's whole family on the platform in L'viv). Erik may take him up on this offer.

Lea made plans with Phil, Jani, and Thomas for a picnic in a local park. We packed lunch and toys, and went for a tram ride. The park was small, but had a nice playground and small lake with ducks. Above, you can see Jani, Thomas, Carter, and Lea offering bread. The ducks are far more discriminating than the pigeons, and did not eat too much.

After a lovely morning and early afternoon, with a few bumps and bruises typical of playground fun, we returned to the center. Carter was already asleep in his stroller and Lea and Erik were hot, thirsty, and exhausted. But, as we walked toward the center of town, we saw a large group gathering. Several clerics, a youth choir, and throngs of Ukrainians decked out in traditional clothing had gathered for a prayer service. As we paused to participate, Lea struck up a conversation with a young American who had just arrived to do work with Habitat for Humanity. She encountered alot of bad luck - missing luggage, a botched hotel reservation - but her spirits were high. We gave her some advice about what to do in L'viv before heading off to her building site in Romania, and also gave her our phone numbers in case she needed something (she had a place to stay and seemed to be doing fine, despite the inconveniences). She has a good perspective - doing volunteer work in Romania has to give you the right attitude about these things.

The Independence Day celebration was subdued, especially in comparison to what was being prepared in Kyiv. Erik saw massive stages being erected on the main square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) and Ukrainian flags flying everywhere. A parade, concert, and speeches by notable politicians (including President Yushchenko) were planned. L'viv has not publicized its plans. In fact, Sergey from the train told Erik that in L'viv the people celebrate religious holidays and tend to downplay government ones; it is the opposite in Kyiv. Given the prominence of Apple Spas last week, the observation may be right.

In the evening, we decided to go out for a stroll to see if any celebrations were underway. The central part of the city was packed with revelers, dressed in anything from t-shirts and shorts to evening gowns to traditional Ukrainian costumes. As we walked around town, we came upon several groups of people spontaneously breaking into patriotic song. We encountered a couple of large amateur choirs by the Taras Shevchenko monument, and another in Market Square. We are not too familiar with Ukrainian national songs, but Erik recognized one: a very old birthday song (from the Tsarist era). When he studied the Russian language in Vermont twenty years ago, students and teachers sung this tune in the cafeteria to mark birthdays. At the time, he asked about the song and was told it was very old - not surprising given that many of the Russian School's organizers were emigres from the early part of the 20th century. Of course, the version on the streets of L'viv was in Ukrainian, but it was the same song. Although we came upon a stage in Market Square, we began to realize that there was no real plan to the wanderings of the locals. They were just out for the night, looking for different ways to celebrate. We did not see or hear evidence of fireworks, though we could have missed them. It began to rain for a short period - we took that as a sign to call it a night.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Meanwhile back in Lviv

While Erik is sitting in interviews all day in Kyiv, Lea and Carter have stayed behind in Lviv. They have located seemingly the only other English-speaking toddler in the city. Yesterday, Lea and Carter went on an adventure with Thomas, 3, and his mother, Jani. They recommended taking the tramvai out to meet them, but Lea was unsure of this, recalling the Moscow buses and imagining hauling the stroller on and off a moving tram, as it is a walk to and from the tramvai. Well, it turned out to be quite easy, with no old ladies pushing you on or off, and no prepaid tickets to hunt down. Jani and Thomas came into the center of town to help Lea and Carter with this test. They helped lift the stroller onto the tramvai, and a woman came around and collected the 50 kopecks, equivalent of $.10, for the ride. They then walked from the tramvai to a beautiful park, Stryjski Park, where there was a swan with her nearly-grown babies and other urban wildlife for Carter to feed (pigeons, rats, stray cats). This website,, tells you a little bit about the park, and Ivan Franko Park, the park Lea and Carter also went to today and frequently visit. Carter and Thomas fed the birds, played ball, and ate a small picnic while Lea got to speak to someone in English!

Today, it is hot in Lviv. Fall has not arrived, as implied by the link, and it is unseasonably hot here. Accuweather (renamed inaccuweather by us for obvious reasons) reports that it will hit 93 here today, which sounds cool to those of you in Lawrence, but consider that we do not have air conditioning or fans. This morning, we went to the playground at the park near the university, where Carter swung, played, and of course, stopped to feed the pigeons. Walking along Prospect Svobody today, we saw many blue and yellow flags which we expect are early signs of tomorrow's independence day celebrations.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Report from Kyiv

As we noted in a previous entry, Erik was invited to Kyiv to interview potential Fulbright scholars. He received a big box from the Fulbright office full of files when we arrived in L'viv and he read them all before the trip Monday night. Alot of impressive people in all disciplines were vying for spots.

The train ride was bumpier than usual, so he did not get much sleep. He shared a four-person room with a young married couple and an older man (a business-type). Everyone was quiet and absorbed in his or her own thing. In the four-person rooms, there are two bunks and two lower berths. In the past, riders had to pay extra for their bedding (sheets, pillows, etc.). It was always a strange exchange - of course noone rejected the bedding (and really could not), but the price was tacked on in cash on the train and not included in the ticket price. This has changed and everyone received bedding without having to pay extra (a worn, thin mattress and clean linens in a plastic bag). It took awhile for everyone to get arranged; lights went out around midnight. Unfortunately, Erik's berth-mates wanted to leave the door open. This made it difficult for him to sleep, and he only nodded off for a couple of hours. He did, however, finish an Alan Furst novel (a great traveling companion for an East European train). In the morning, he ordered the 20-cent cup of tea, served in a glass cup with an ornate metal base (this is one of the great train traditions and comforts from the old USSR).

He was met at the train station, cleaned up, then went to interviews. The day was long, but included one incredibly humorous moment. Each candidate was brought in individually, then the panel introduced themselves one-by-one. After that, each candidate was asked an opening softball question about his or her plans. Erik quizzed one young man about the election literature - the candidate's area of research. Erik asked the interviewee to talk about research that has inspired him. The candidate began to answer that a professor from the University of Kansas had come to his town and given a lecture, and he read that professor's book. He must have been really nervous during the introductions, because he was talking about Erik, but did not realize that Erik was sitting at the table. He started to praise Erik's book, but indicated that there were some problems and controversial aspects. Only then did he realize that he was actually talking to Erik! His shock combined with the panel's amusement made for a memorable interview.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Chicken Place is Dead...

...long live the new chicken place! Another Paul Johnson find was the "Chicken Place," or the L'viv Chicken restaurant. Not surprisingly, it primarily served chicken: expertly prepared, succulent, and drop-off-the-bone tender. We have been searching for it with no success. The address associated with the Chicken Place - 3 Katedralna Square - is now occupied by an Armenian restaurant. Unless it is hidden away in a corner somewhere, it seems to be gone. [Note - after this was posted, Alex Tsiovkh confirmed the Chicken Place's untimely demise.]

Adrian Erlinger, a graduate of the REES program, recommended the Old L'viv restaurant to us before we arrived. After a pre-dinner stroll to (of course) feed birds and to try to find the puppet theater, we stumbled upon the Old L'viv and decided to have a bite. The menu was simple: various salads and pickled vegetables, chicken soup, grilled chicken, and beverages. We ordered what we thought was a modest amount of food and had a feast delivered to our table. We plowed through delicious pickled tomatoes (an Eastern European treat that everyone should sample. Pickled tomatoes explode in your mouth and have a tangy flavor and soft texture), fried potatoes with dill and parsley, some dense white bread, and half a chicken. We watched the chicken turn in the rotisserie, and impatiently awaited our meal's arrival. The chicken was lightly coated with a sauce that permeated the parchment-thin, crunchy, crackly skin. We also had an extra bowl of the sauce for dipping (which seemed to be made of paprika, tomatoes, and vinegar - a savory but not hot sauce). The meat was extremely tender and soft, dripping with juices. All this with two large beers and a generous tip totaled less than $9. Sorry we don't have pictures (although our vegetarian friends are probably pleased and also probably stopped reading a while ago). Old L'viv also sells whole chickens for takeout. It was funny to see this, as it seems very American to pick up rotisserie chicken on the way home from work.

Erik leaves for Kyiv tonight. He was asked to participate in Fulbright interviews for Ukrainian students and faculty applying to visit the US. He returns on Friday.

P.S. Lea made applesauce on Apple Spas.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists

Every Sunday, for 15 or more years, an amateur choir has met at the statue of Taras Shevchenko in the middle of L'viv to sing Ukrainian national songs. Erik heard them perform on a previous visit to L'viv. We planned to listen to the choir today. This Sunday, however, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists (CUN) held a rally on the square. The CUN is a controversial organization, and traces its lineage to Stepan Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (a group founded in the early twentieth century to advocate for Ukrainian statehood through revolution). The rally included a photo display of Ukrainian partisans who fought against Poland and the Soviet Union, and tents for the CUN and Svoboda, a political party contesting the upcoming elections. Svoboda's platform includes: a plan to call for reparations from Russia for the famine of the 1930s, elevation of OUN partisans to the status of heroes, and several measures to ensure that Ukrainian remains the language of official discourse. The party is a minor player in politics; about 200-300 people (mostly elderly) were on the square and fewer showed strong interest in the speeches. This rally was the first of many to be held in the center of town before the September 30 elections.

P.S. We had a busy day, so there are two posts - don't miss the one below!

Mass Confusion

We attended mass today, in one of the many lovely churches of L'viv. The city's dominant religious community is the Byzantine (Greek) Rite Catholic Church. Many Catholic rites exist and they are distinguished by their geographic distribution and various liturgical idiosyncrasies. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a detailed entry about these rites, but in a nutshell, the particular Catholic rite popular in L'viv is similar in its practices to the Orthodox Church, but is in communion with Rome and subordinate to the pope. This rite was banned under the Soviets, with many followers moving to the Orthodox Church.

We decided to attend the Dominican Cathedral, a massive church a few blocks from the apartment. Actually, there are many churches a few blocks from the apartment; while L'viv may lack in certain amenities, it does not lack in churches. The Dominican Cathedral is notable in part because it was converted into a Museum of Atheism in the Soviet period (and now has a Museum of Religion).

Today is Spas (or Apple Spas), an important Orthodox holiday also celebrated in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. It is the feast of Transfiguration and a harvest festival. Many people brought baskets of fruit or sprigs of dried flowers and fruit to church, and they were blessed after mass. Apples adorned most of the baskets, but they were also filled with other fruits such as grapes and plums as well as dried flowers. According to what we have learned, devout Ukrainians supposedly did not eat fruit until this holiday. If you want to know more about Apple Spas, you may read more details here (scroll down the page to the Spas entry).

Mass had a few familiar elements, but was quite different from mass at our home parish in Lawrence. We arrived about fifteen minutes early and the church was already abuzz with activity. Senior citizens and women with small children filled the approximately 180 seats available to churchgoers. Everyone else was expected to stand. Ten minutes before mass began, the church bells sounded out the call to mass; by the beginning of mass, the church was packed with at least 500 people. Mass began with the young priest and assistants entering from the side, as a cantor chanted prayers. The first fifteen minutes or so were filled with chants led by the cantor and responses by the faithful. During this time, the priest blessed the altar, icons, and parishioners with incense, rarely facing the assembled masses. People regularly bowed their heads and made the sign of the cross - in Orthodox fashion rather than like Roman Catholics (i.e., right to left rather than left to right). The priest faced the people during his homily. Erik understood bits and pieces, indicating that it was a fairly standard call to be Christ-like in behavior. After the homily, there were more chants and incense, followed by the preparation of communion. Before communion, there was the sign of peace, one of few familiar parts of the mass. When communion was distributed, only a handful of churchgoers went up to receive the bread and wine (perhaps 10% went to get communion). Erik got in line and as he approached the priest, he noted that the manner of distribution was unusual. Rather than receiving the host by hand, the priest used a spoon to drop a piece of wine-soaked bread into the recipient's open mouth (with the best technique including a slightly tilted and craned neck). Many parishioners kissed an icon on the way to communion. Erik received communion and tried to return to give Lea a turn. But, church was so packed it took him awhile to navigate a path to Lea and Carter. By that time, communion had ended. Lea spent much time looking at the statues of saints with pained looks on their faces and wondered if they too were standing on a marble floor for over an hour in high heels at a mass with only two words they could understand (amen, alleluia). After devouring most of his diaper bag food stash, Carter fell asleep in his stroller, which we put next to us halfway back in the church, directly behind those who were seated. When we left the church after mass, the space in front of it was packed with people, many with children dressed up, all holding up their baskets of fresh fruit or sprigs of dried flowers to be blessed. Some prayers were chanted and the priest sprayed holy water on the crowd.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rainy Day

It was a rainy day on the streets of L'viv and we had just a few chances to get outside to "go feed birds," among other tasks, in between the raindrops. So, we spent most of the day inside. Carter worked on his new - and very challenging - dinosaur puzzle. Erik spent alot of time on his manuscript. Lea worked on cooking projects.

Last night, we went in search of baking powder. We did not know the term in Ukrainian, and Erik tried to explain it to a woman in the market. She thought it was "powder of baking," although that word for powder has many uses, including tooth powder and laundry powder. But it seemed the best guess, and was only $.10, so we thought we would try to make rhubarb cobbler. We found a biscuit recipe on the internet to use as the topping, as we would normally do at home. As Lea began the project, she quickly realized that she had nothing to measure with - everything had to be approximate. She tried to cook it in the convection oven, but could only figure out one temperature setting - H. Although the biscuit topping did not rise, it cooked through and was tasty. For the price you pay for baked goods here, our baking days may be over! Lea also prepared a light, fresh, and tasty salad with onions, tomatoes, parsley (2 bunches for $.20) and fresh sheep's milk cheese that we bought the other day at the local market. Tomorrow, we will make applesauce.

A brief note about L'viv. You can find alot of information about the city on the web, but the UCSB oral history site has an organized, short history. It is also a Unesco World Heritage site.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Cake Place

We have been in L'viv for one week and why did it take so long for us to visit the cake place? Paul Johnson, one of Erik's friends and colleagues at KU, visited L'viv in 2005 and found this cafe with one of the locals. He claimed that it has the best cake anywhere, and we agree. The cafe is actually called Tsukernya and you can envy us after visiting it on the web. All of the desserts are prominently displayed in a glass case - we promise to try every one before we come home to Lawrence! Carter wanted a big cookie and got it. Erik had a delicious piece of Viennese cheescake with raisins and a hint of orange. The cheesecake was not as rich as American cheescake; its texture was more like a dense slice of standard cake. Lea had the Prague tort: chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse, coated with orange marmalade and a thin layer of chocolate sauce.

The visit to the cake place substituted for dinner as we enjoyed a large lunch at Kapriz, a restaurant frequented by the students in KU's summer program in L'viv (for those of you who do not know, KU runs a L'viv-based program in Ukrainian Language and Culture each summer). Erik spent the morning working on his book, as he has done almost every morning since our arrival, and Lea and Carter played in the park across the street from the university. Erik has worked in the office space in the apartment (a loft over the living room) and also in an office at Ivan Franko National University. The university has made him very welcome, providing an excellent space as a base of operations.

Carter has been such a trooper that we decided to get him a modest toy of his choice. Near the apartment is a large children's store with clothes, toys, and various supplies. It is nice to know that diaper re-stocking will be easy if we do not get back to Metro (though not cheap). It was an interesting store with everything from standard baby food, although we did not see the inexplicable "baby tea" found at Metro, to Legos, to $100 children's boots. Carter settled on a really hard dinosaur puzzle (made in Norway and printed in Russian).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

At the Dacha

We have been really overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality of everyone we have met in L'viv. We have been helped at every step of the way - from the airport to the apartment, at the university, and getting around town.
Today was a great example of this hospitality. Walter, who helped us visit the local markets on Sunday, took us to his dacha out in the countryside. The dacha was about a 20-minute drive outside of the L'viv city limits, past large and impressive homes for the new rich to a small country one-lane road leading to cottages. Walter reported that all citizens of Ukraine have the right to some land in the country, but they have to maintain it. Some people choose to forego this property and the incumbent tax burden, but other use it for cultivation (for personal subsistence or to sell in the L'viv markets) or dachas. Walter's dacha was a nice multi-story home near the end of the road.

We arrived around lunchtime, but spent some time opening up the place. Carter roamed the gardens and was particularly enamored of the caterpillars on some of the flowers. He just loved running around on the sidewalks between the terraced gardens, reporting the colors of the flowers. We had a nice lunch of bread and cheese, and then relaxed for the afternoon. Carter continued exploring, Lea chatted with Walter about his impressive garden, and Erik took some time to sit and read. After resting for a few hours, Walter prepared a dinner of delicious sausage, potatoes, and tomato/cucumber salad. We washed it all down with kefir - a cultured milk drink popular in Eastern Europe. It was a wonderful day of relaxation, fresh air and nature made better by the perfect weather.

Upon our return, Walter installed a swing in the doorway to our living room for Carter. Now to figure out how to cook the bags of apples and rhubarb he gave us. And did we mention that our oven does not work (but the microwave has a convection oven function)? Please send recipes.

P.S. Another rumor about yesterday's water situation. Walter told us that he heard on the radio that it was not part of the regular maintenance, but rather a failure of the water system in our part of town.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Water Woes

"Every year, the municipal workers of L'viv prepare the water system for the winter." We are not sure what that means precisely, except that it was the reason given to us (and many others in town) for the spigots running dry from some time before we woke up until about 6pm today. We are ready for showers, dish washing, and a load of laundry! We are working on this project right now, while the water lasts!
During the day, we visited a store that was something like Big Lots meets Aldi (with an East European twist). Anatoliy Romanyuk took us since it is a membership store and he has an entry card (also, he kindly offered to help us find some supplies). Upon arrival, we found out that the store does not admit any children under six years of age, so Erik and Carter stayed in a cramped playroom with the disinterested young staff and several small kids watching videos and playing with toys. They colored pictures, counted, and organized the toys (Carter's idea). We found most of the items on our list (house supplies like large glasses, a chopping knife, and, of course, diapers) and were even given a free bottle of champagne because our purchase was so large. Some items were evasive and may not be available here; we will simply adjust our habits in their absence (what we would give for a rubber spatula!). The store was incredibly crowded and simply crazy - it took 45 minutes just to stand in line at the checkout!

Of course, after dinner we took a stroll and fed the birds!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Our Arrival

We arrived in L'viv on Friday, August 10 after a relatively smooth, but long trip. We now have DSL set up in our apartment and will be able to provide updates on our travels more regularly. The last few days have been busy, setting up the apartment, getting acquainted with the city, and meeting new and old friends.
Upon arrival in L'viv from Vienna, we climbed down the stairs from the plane (there are no gateways in L'viv) and onto the bus waiting to carry us 50 yards or so to the terminal. The locals quickly rushed off the bus to get in line for passport control. Much to our surprise and delight, we were moved up to first in line because of Carter (everyone with small children was able to "cut" up to the front of the line). Our good friend and colleague, Viktor Krevs from Ivan Franko National University in L'viv, met us at the airport with Serhiy, the university's best driver. All of our baggage arrived intact, and we settled in our apartment.
The apartment is in the best location possible - in the center of downtown - and is quite nice. To the right is the view from our window. The apartment is the L'viv homebase for Alex and Yasia Tsiovkh, faculty members at the University of Kansas (they are originally from L'viv). We have a foyer, large living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. The staff that manages the apartments is incredibly nice and accommodating. They have already made a repair to the washing machine and arranged for quick DSL setup.
Our first task was to seek out provisions. An hour after arriving in L'viv, Erik went to Arsen, a local US-style grocery store chain, and got the basics. On Sunday, Yasia Tsiovkh's brother Walter took us to the two markets closest to our apartment (a 5 minute walk to one, and a 10 minute walk to another) and we bought fresh fruits and vegetables. The prices at Arsen are comparable to the US for many items. But, the market prices are much cheaper.
Erik also needed to do some extra shopping since his glasses broke on the plane. Fortunately, he had his prescription with him and went to a nearby optician. He placed his order on Saturday and the glasses were ready on Monday morning – and they cost $40. Shopping has been an adventure, as Lea has been trying to find all kinds of things, such as hairspray (lacquer here), and hopes to find the rest of the items on the list tomorrow. Some may be impossible, as trying to find cups larger than 8 ounces has resulted in bewildered reactions.
Carter has been amazing: patient, curious, and good-natured about all of the change. He was fantastic on the airplanes, and much more tolerant than his parents. He has been happy we brought some of his favorite toys. He wants to go on stroller rides around town, and walks down the stairs from the apartment loudly reciting his alphabet while we carry the stroller. At least he is reciting it forwards, of late, he has only wanted to do his alphabet backwards. Despite attempts to get him to do normal children's activities, his favorite thing to do in L'viv is to "go feed birds." L'viv has many lovely parks and public squares where birds congregate. His howls of joyous laughter have entertained many of the locals. His stale Dora the Explorer cereal has kept the local birds well-fed, also. On the left is a photo of Lea at a local cafe.
On Monday, Erik met with colleagues at the university to discuss his teaching schedule, locate his office space and so on. He will be co-teaching a class on elections with Yuriy Shveda and a class on democracy with Anatoliy Romanyuk. He knows both of these scholars well, as they visited the University of Kansas in the past and he has seen them on his previous visits to Ukraine. On the right is a photo of Erik and Carter in front of the L'viv Opera House, a 5-minute walk from our home in L'viv.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Traveling to L'viv

Tomorrow we travel to L'viv - via Atlanta and Vienna. We should be back in contact in a few days. Until then, here is an image from my last visit in March 2006. I took this photo during a political rally on the main square in town, across the street from the apartment where we will be staying. With contentious elections coming up in late September, we plan to see more events like this right outside our window!