Today I met my tour guide Alex Dunai, we walked around Lviv, then drove 230 miles through what was once the provinces of Galicia and Podolia. I'll discuss some of what I saw below.
But first a couple of things:
In my first email, I forgot to mention what convinced us the airbnb was beyond redemption: the kitchen sink fell out of the counter. It was held in place by epoxy, which somehow started to melt. We called the owner, he had someone fix it the next day, but then it started to leak. Funny in retrospect, but not at the time.
Also, Dennis asked what the people of Lviv were like, and could I send pictures. The pics are attached. As for the people, I didn't talk to that many people; the hotel staff were all very young, pleasant and spoke English. I asked Alex about the abundance of young people, he said that many young people come to Lviv for University, jobs, and the glow of Western Europe.
So anyway, I met up with Alex this morning in the lobby of Hotel Leopolis. He introduced me to our driver, Vasily, and his gleam red van, then we walked about the neighborhood.
The neighborhood was the historic old town, with tourists from all over, but especially from Eastern Ukraine and Poland. I've attached some pictures.
The town has several different names: the Ukrainians call it Lviv, the Poles call it Lwow, the Russians called it Lvov, and the Austrians called it Lemberg.
As we walked, I asked Alex about himself. Alex is about my age, was born in Lviv, and accidentally fell into a career of archival research and leading genealogy tours, specializing in Ukrainian Jewish History. His wife trained as a cardiologist, but now works as an archival researcher as well. He has a son in his late twenties who works in software and is a drummer for a heavy metal band and a 19 year old daughter studying psychology and politics at the University.
His father was born in Poland. After the war, when the Soviets took over, the forced Polish ethnic Ukrainians to move to Ukraine and Ukrainian ethnic Poles to Poland, so Alex's dad moved to Lviv.
In the Soviet era, Lviv was an industrial town with a big bus factory and a big fork lift factory, Alex's dad worked as an engineer for the bus company.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, the factories didn't do so well against competition. Now the big industries are education, tourism, trade and tech.
After the walk, we hit the road and drove for several hours. We stopped at a truck stop type cafeteria for lunch, and continued on until we got to Miedzyboz, where the Baal Shem Tov lived and where Chasidism was born.
Unfortunately, it started to rain, then hail, so I didn't get to take any pictures. A number of Chasidim were wandering about, Alex said they have come back and have started building up the area. One Chasid asked me if I keep Shabbas; when I said no, he said "God bless you."
After leaving Miedzyboz, the weather cleared up; maybe the ghost of the Baal Shem Tov didn't like us being there.
We drove on to Vinnytsa, and are spending the night here. Tomorrow we will go on to Kryve Ozero, where we will spend the night, and look for the lost colony of Gelbinov. Then Balta on Monday.
Hope all is well -- Dave