WESTERN MOUNTANIOUS UKRAINE
The west is a special case in Ukraine. It likes to think itself as being more quintessentially Ukrainian versus the country at large; yet, at the same time, it somehow considers itself more European. Thanks to its varied history, it manages quite well to be both. Having kept the nationalist fires burning through centuries of Polish, Lithuanian, and Austrian rule, people here speak Ukrainian (rather than Russian) and generally show even more pride in Ukrainian traditions than their fellow countrymen. Interestingly, it also encompasses what is no doubt Ukraine’s most European of cities: the artistic, cultured Lviv.
The region’s largest city, the old Galician capital of Lviv has long been one of Ukraine’s great hopes for tourism, and it seems to be assuming that role beautifully. It boasts architecture both rich and historic and a coffee-house culture both chic and inspiring. Happily, it can still display a shabby authenticity. A gateway to the equally beguiling Carpathian Mountains, Lviv is also surrounded by destinations offering a bit of the unusual. The golden domes of the Pochayiv Monastery might stand as a far-west outpost of Ukraine’s Slavic Orthodoxy, but the historic quarter of split-personality Lutsk, the old-fashioned appeal of Truskavets’ spa, and the resonance of Drohobych’s literature all reveal the contrary pull of mainstream Europe. Ukrainian Carpathians present travelers with splendid landscapes with their own deep and amazing history. From Churches to monasteries and functioning cathedrals to the ruins of ancient buildings, it seems as if one can feel the Spirit everywhere. The city induces a mood both calm and cheerful; helping the traveler forget the stress and hustle that too often infects the modern soul. Is there any wonder why Lviv has fast become a popular destination for European travelers willing to stretch their boundaries?