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An insider experience of the city center of Lviv, Ukraine (#2).

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An uncanny resemblance to Half Life 2 is what I thought when walking through many parts of Lviv. Of course there are renovated places made to attract tourists, but not all them walk through the city without a compass and any time constraint.

The walks took me to enticing sights, but also through gloomy places that reminded me of Ukraine’s economy and rough history.

The picture above is one of my favorites. We walked past an empty, grassless playground. The ill-maintained structure and graffiti served as a backdrop. In combination with lifeless-looking trees, what we saw was a grim and still. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Valve received some inspiration for the dystopian Half Life 2 setting from Ukraine – or maybe from an Eastern European Soviet satellite from the Cold War era.

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This is the playground scene in Half Life 2, one of the best story lines and cutting edge (physics engine) in gaming history. An uncanny resemblance indeed.

Immersive sights like this makes me “feel” the most, and I felt much of this for two weeks.

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Lviv survived much of the World War II chaos and markets itself as the cultural hub of the country. Churches like these stood tall and proud, some as early as the 16th or 15th century!

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Ukraine is hardly black and white. Much of its culture (cuisine, architecture, and language) are regional. Many different styles of churches could be seen, including Eastern Orthodox and Gothic.

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To be respectful, I only took one photo inside one church, and observed quietly at the other churches we went to.

We must not forget that Ukraine is still at war. The churches I visited had some bulletin boards that displayed photographs of men. Flowers piled up in front of the boards. These are men from Lviv who had gone to the east to fight, ending up as wartime casualties.

Many folks that I met knew friends, or had personally fought on the east. Some went for only a few weeks, while others stayed for several months. It’s an absolutely foreign concept to me – going off to fight domestically, undergoing civil war from a multi-century regional conflict.

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We visited Pharmacy Museum. [+] signs were readily available around every corner, and pharmacies are pronounced “apoteka.” In Ukrainian, it is spelled as аптека. The spelling is incredibly interesting, as you can pronounce the “pi” letter as is, and it sounds similar to the word “apothecary.”

The pharmacy was nothing like Walgreens or Watsons. I thought of the atoll scene in Waterworld (1995) where Costner is trying to buy a tomato plant at the shop. On the back end, we could see where the medicine was prepared, packaged, and stored.

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Another interesting place we went to around Market Square was Lviv Historical Museum. I’m not an art museum person, but the different architecture and building layout stuck with me.

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The museum is one of the oldest in Ukraine with more than 300,000 collections. Unfortunately, we walked through here fairly quickly, and I think we saw less than 100, if each cabinet were to be counted as one.

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I mentioned in the last post the abundance of statues scattered throughout the city. This one is of Ivan Fyodorov, one of the fathers of Eastern Slavonic printing. What better way to pay respects a man by erecting a statue of him and selling used books around him?

The ins and outs of Lviv have been seen. The next post will cover the city of Ivano-Frankivst, where I spent the next six days.

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