A well seasoned approach to travel and food

Goodbye Kyiv, Hello Lviv

July 30, 2019

I cursed my alarm when it went off at 4:00 a.m.  Then I cursed myself.  Why had I opted for an early morning train to Lviv?  Was I out of my mind?  While that has yet to be decided, I believe I chose the 6:00 a.m. train so that I could have an extra half-day of sightseeing in Lviv.

I packed last night, so all I had to do was get ready, close up my bags and I was down in the reception room at 4:45 to catch my taxi.  I said goodbye to the staff on duty and to the hostel itself – I was really impressed with Dream Hostel and would recommend it highly. The streetlights were still on when I got out to the street to wait for my driver.

I probably could have slept another 15 minutes, as the ride to the train station was pretty quick.  The driver helped me with my backpacks and away he went.  The Kyiv train station isn’t anything to write home about.  It is pretty plain as stations go, with only a large chandelier to “classy” up the place.

When I walked in, I saw a large board with destinations, times, tracks, etc. on the right wall and a similar board on the left wall.  The thing was, they had different train numbers and destinations – oh, and off course, everything was in Ukrainian (luckily numbers are the same).  Which board was I supposed to look at to find my track?  I found my train number on my boarding ticket and looked for it on the right wall – nothing.  I walked across the large waiting room to the left wall and found my train number, but no track was assigned.

As I stood there willing the board to assign a track number, the waiting area became more and more congested.  Still no track number.  As the minutes ticked by and my departure time was getting closer and closer, I began to mentally calculate how long I should wait until I started to work myself in a panic.  Just as I was about to have an internal meltdown, a smaller board to my right clattered as information changed (I actually like that sound), and my train number popped up – assigned to track No. 1.

I followed a large crowd out onto the platform to await the train’s arrival.  I wasn’t sure which end to stand for my car (No. 5) as I wasn’t sure from which direction the train would come.  Soon enough, it rambled down the rails and stopped in a manner that No. 5 was mere feet away from where I stood.  The conductor scanned my boarding pass and I was on the train.

I opted for 1st class because it was just a few dollars more and the description of the seats had sounded more comfortable.  I quickly located Seat 24 (window), stored my backpacks up above and settled in with my laptop, water, and a few snacks.  The seats were comfortable, the legroom was sufficient, there was a footrest, which meant my legs didn’t dangle, and I had enough room on my tray table to work comfortably on my laptop.  I was set for the 5 ¼ hour journey.  My seatmate ran onto the train just prior to departure, immediately reclined his seat and fell asleep.

For the first 2-3 hours, almost everyone in the car slept – except for me.  I was the only one awake as the sun came over the horizon

and for the rainstorm that swept in quickly thereafter.

I edited photographs and wrote my journals to the soft sounds of snoring, primarily from my seatmate.

As if a bell had been rung, it seemed the whole car awoke at once.  It was coffee and bathroom break time.  The car was a bevy of activity as people rushed to and fro.

It turns out that I was glad to have purchased snacks at the grocery store for the trip because when the food cart came around, it was only for pre-orders.  Since I couldn’t read Ukrainian, I didn’t realize there was an option on the reservation online form when I booked – so no food for me.

When I wasn’t editing, writing, or watching scenery whiz by, I watched the television monitor that played a mish-mosh of crafting, make-up, hair styling, and travel tips, without sound, on repeat.  I now know more than I ever wanted to know about how to apply several layers of lipstick to get that perfect smile, how to braid my hair (if it was long enough), and silk screening on the cheap using a soda bottle.

Right about the arrival time that was printed on my train ticket, the train pulled into a station.  I looked for a sign on the platform to indicate the name of the station or town, but there wasn’t one.  A bunch of people got up, collected their things, and began exiting.  But I had a feeling that this wasn’t my station.  After asking three people, the last of whom spoke some English I determined that the main station was next.  This definitely wasn’t my stop.

As we pulled into the next station, I donned my backpacks (the big one on my back; the small one on my front) and got off the train.  There weren’t any signs to say which way to go.  I figured that train platforms are usually up from the main waiting area, so I took the stairs down, went through a tunnel and into the main station, which was a little better than Kyiv’s.

I planned to call for an Uber, but as I walked outside, I was met with a massive construction site and a mass of people pushing their way into and out of the station.  It didn’t look like an Uber driver would want to get mixed up in the traffic moving slowly and chaotically in the few streets that were open around the station.

I walked about a half-mile down the street in the direction of a tall church spire, thinking that it would be easier to get a car if I got out of the construction area.  The first Uber driver canceled on me, but the second was nice enough to get out of his car to fetch me when he didn’t find me at the designated meeting point.

A short while later, he left me off at the head of the street where the apartment I rented for my time in Lviv was located.  I was hours early from the usual check-in time, but Kostia, the manager, responded promptly to my text that he would be along shortly to let me in.

So, this trip was the first time that I stayed in hostels – they were pretty good.  This trip is also my first time using Booking.com to rent apartments (I’ve also rented a few through Airbnb).  Del Rey Apartments was one I rented through Booking.com.  I thought I had fully paid in advance, but after checking my receipts and reservation, it seems I only paid Booking.com’s fee in advance, and I owed the rent upon check-in.  I checked to make sure I had enough Ukrainian money – thank goodness I’d gone to the cash machine in Kyiv before returning to the hostel last night.

Kostia walked me up to the third floor – the stairs were well worn with age. 

On the third floor, we walked through a door onto a balcony in the inner courtyard, turned left and walked to one of two doors at the end.   The apartment is bright with high ceilings.  There is a little foyer with a coat rack, a living room with a TV, a small kitchen and dining area, a large bedroom with a king-size bed and an air conditioner, and a bathroom with a shower and washing machine. 

Off the bedroom, there is a balcony built for two with awesome views toward the old town, the ruins of the Golden Rose Synagogue, and the Arsenal.  A lot of space for one person, but I think I can handle it.

Hello Lviv, let’s get to know each other.