Lviv became a popular tourist destination among Ukrainians and foreigners over the last years. What is so special about this city?
The secret of success is simple and complicated at the same time. I think there was a combination of several factors in late 90's. A generational change has taken place, and new leaders have started to feel real and not declarative responsibility for the city. Through this process the city reconciled itself with its difficult history. Pre-war Jewish and Polish communities almost completely disappeared in Lviv. In the 20th century the city practically renewed its ethnic composition, but found the strength to recognize the benefits and problems of the past. The elite of Lviv decided not to try to go back in history or to build a replica of the "new Poland or Austria" but to start building a history-based new Lviv. I think this is the most interesting mix that today's residents and tourists like in the city.
It is worth to talk about Lviv cuisine the way it was before the Soviet regime. I know you have produced a book about it. Tell us, please, a little bit about the Lviv cuisine. What was it that time? And how does it look like now?
The book "Lvivska kukhnia” (Lviv cuisine) was published by Folio publishing house in autumn 2015. Our cuisine is a reflection of the society, which has been living in Lviv. It was a combination of Ukrainian-Polish-Armenian and Jewish traditions before the Second World War. However, there were significant differences from today’s cuisine. It was conventionally divided into three categories: the seigniorial, bourgeois and suburban one where it was combined with rural traditions. The first two traditions were physically liquidated together with its carriers. The third one partially survived during the Soviet Period. Today, when people have tried different cuisines and they feel the real hosts of the city, they search for their own personality also through out the old recipes. We are what we eat, after all.
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Tourists are attracted by the architecture of the Lviv center as well. But outside the center a unique architectural style can be found. You call it bikoko (bad mix of baroque and rococo). What Lviv would you like to see in terms of architecture?
In terms of architecture I want to see more daring, innovative projects in new districts of the city. I want the designers to escape finally from soviet style and its copies, which have appeared in the city during the last twenty years. I would really like to see new unusual architectural school we could be proud of. People should be happy with the buildings they live in. It would be nice to create several "new Lviv cities" each of which would be completely unique and not a typical project.
You are the most desirable guide for tourists in Lviv. What excursions do you like most? Tell us, please, about the unusual tours that you guide in the city. Where and how a foreigner can book your tour?
There are some roots in Lviv I really love. I respect the Ploscha Rynok (Market Square) as a touristic place, but it is too noisy for me now, too glamorous. So if there is a customer who wants to admire with me the old, pre-war villas in Kastelivka area or to get up on the roofs to see the panorama of the city, I run to such a client. I work a lot now preparing the tours in Pidzamche area. I am convinced that it has a good touristic future. And I do love cycling tours in Lviv. Generally, my team loves to do extraordinary things. All this can be found on our website www.kumpel-tour.com.
I'm sure you know a lot of secrets and legends of Lviv. Can you share some?
There are a lot of legends and funny stories actually. But you should come to Lviv to listen to them and even to create your own one. Believe me you can do it in Lviv. Don’t be obsessed with the story of others, but try to become part of the history.
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Imagine that I am your foreign guest and best friend. Where would you go with me in Lviv?
In terms of historical monuments I would show three things to a foreigner in Lviv: the interior of the former city casino (now it is the House of Scientists), "At Lonsky" museum-prison and Lychakiv cemetery. And then I would take him to one of the new "residential districts". And then he could enjoy the wonders of the Market Square area. In this case he will see the city from different angles.
Foreign visitors come to Ukraine with their stereotypes and even fears about our country. What advice would you give to a foreigner who is going to visit Ukraine for the first time?
I would advise to a foreigner, who intends to travel to Ukraine, first of all to take a closer look at the map. Almost nobody pays attention to geographical location of our country. For example, the distance from Lviv to Donetsk and Hamburg is almost identical. And I would recommend Lviv for those who are tired of glamor, and who want to see how a bit different but still true Europeans live here. As for the stereotypes, the people from the ex Soviet Union territory have a lot of them. They can’t get rid of "soviet" mentality. But fortunately they mostly talk about Lviv but never come.
Editor: If you haven’t been in Lviv yet, please include it in your “to do” list and try to get to excursion by Ihor Lylo. In this case you will fall in love with this city and will have a chance to sense Ukrainian culture better.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak