We arrived in L’viv, Ukraine during the early part of a Sunday evening at the tail end of an annual jazz music festival after climbing hill after green hill, leapfrogging with other cyclists out for a ride on a nice almost-summer weekend.
The road to L’viv has been the hottest one yet and so full of potholes that we are frequently traveling faster than any other motor vehicle, their drivers slowing and swerving across both sides and off the road to preserve the working condition of their axels. We begin to joke that Ukraine elects not to fix the roads in order to easily (and cheaply) control traffic speeds. We share it happily with small Soviet-era cars, vans, tractors, huge trucks, other bicycles and many horse drawn carts, stopping to make breakfast along the way.
Upon arriving, we desperately seek free wifi, contact our proposed hosts and formulate a plan. We have no idea how long we will stay or what we will do. We ride into the center so we may wander until our decided point of rendezvous with our future host.
I write this now, sitting in the kitchen of a Soviet style flat, window open to let in both fresh air and the noise of the cobblestoned street below, on the eve of our departure from nearly a week our two impossibly sweet hosts. I drink a cup of lukewarm tea, leaves floating around the bottom of my mug and I write in the space of time I have until Josh returns from negotiating the barber shops of Lviv to find himself a fresh haircut.
Our time here has been spent on foot, a method of travel the two of us tend to forget from the saddle, visiting a few museums and highlights of the area, but mostly wandering around eyeing the dated architecture and listening to the music that seems to ooze from every corner of the city. We have been dining and drinking like kings, and visiting the largest most seemingly chaotic bazaars either of us have ever seen in search for a few specific items.
We have visited churches, ridden the small buses packed so tightly with ukrainians in the stifling hot air, humid from human sweat, navigated incredibly foreign menus, eaten borscht and vareneky from one pot in a tiny kitchen, attended a piano concerto, walked the old streets at dusk when everything is blue and the street lights have not yet come on. We have shared stories, customs, and norms; american and ukrainian; a bedroom and bathroom. We have failed to fall asleep before midnight for the duration of our stay for the sake of conversation or song. Now we must get back on our bicycles and to the Carpathians we willl go!