Weekend in Lviv, Ukraine

I love traveling. A lot! This part of me as not been reflected accordingly on this blog.

I have been fortunate enough to have seen a lot of countries in Europe and just one weekend in September I was able to check off another one. Ukraine. Probably a country I wouldn’t have gone to on my own but I’m happy I did. A weekend in Lviv – thanks to family shenanigans.

Weekend in Lviv

First off Lviv is a lovely little town close to the Polish border with a stunning city center which is not without reason UNESCO world heritage.

Architecture.

My first view of Lviv was like a time travel. The Uber took us through some grey socialistic part of town (unfortunately no real images). I was in awe by its ugliness and somehow familiarity. It reminded me of my hometown in very early ages. And I felt like I wanna jump out and just go photo exploring. Unfortunately no time.

Lviv living quarters

When coming closer to the city center everything changed and it became a mid evil town with old cute buildings.

Lviv has a stunning market place. Right in the middle is the city hall located. A certain Eastern Europe architecture style as I have learned. The old town contains architecture from Renaissance, Baroque, Classicism  and Jugendstil – the reason why it is under UNESCO world heritage.

Lviv market
Lviv City Hall

Also lots of churches, chapels and cathedral. We came by some cloisters with wooden walkways.

We also went to The Lychakiv Cemetery that I quite liked. It was really crowded with graves and at the entrance area they where majestic.

Lviv Lychakiv cemetary
Crafts.

On our first day we came by a cookie shop. But it wasn’t any kind of cookie shop. The icing decorations were amazing. I’ve once read or saw a documentation about how the icing in some country was in inspired by handmade lace and embroidery.

While walking around during our guided sightseeing we ended up at a cloister. While it was nice it wasn’t outstanding. Then we went to their little gift shop and they talked about one of the nuns doing a lot of pysanski I immediately was on alert. Because that is the name for the Sorbian Easter eggs I shared and did. And I knew in Eastern Europe the technique was a bit different. However I could not figure out how the did it. Well I do know now and I was able to purchase the tools. Also a book about the craft. So I am more than happy.

Lviv life

Shopping.

It broke my heart seeing the “babuschkas” sitting on the street selling their meager harvest to people. There was one old lady who sat on her crate all day with a plastic cup of berries and a bag of potatoes and when we walked home at midnight she still sat there – half asleep and sunken. I just felt all the emotions… I didn’t take pictures as it felt too intimate. Unfortunately we couldn’t buy anything since we couldn’t use the products. But if you travel the country go buy from them.

Lviv babushka

There are also regular market places where produce is sold. The people selling there have bigger harvests and also have to pay a few to secure their spot at the market. Most Ukrainians shop their fresh produce on those farmers markets.

Also, I haven’t really seen a supermarket by western standards. There are more little corner shops where you get your things.

Lviv corner shop cookies

Food.

What I didn’t know was that Lviv has a flourishing coffee culture. You could probably spend the entire weekend on a coffee tasting tour. We where at one shop where they served it like when it first came to Europe.

Also the region is known for pelmini. It’s filled noodles basically but the fillings are very tasty. With mushrooms and pumpkin and meats. The best red beet soups ever was also discovered during this weekend in Lviv.

And my cousin found this cute Strudel shop (Rynok pl. 13, Lviv 79008, Ukraine). Everything strudel in there: sweet and savory and soso yummy.

Lviv laundry
Accommodation.

We stayed in the Ibis Style Hotel (no sponsoring ;-). It was only 10 min walking distance from the old town and a perfect spot for us. What I personally liked a lot is that you could grab free drinks (coffee, tea, water) in the lobby. Breakfast was pretty good to and offered a variety of western european food and local hearty choices. Bu be aware: everything is spiced with garlic – even fro breakfast!
As for the price range it can be compared to Western Europe standards. One could probably find cheaper ones.

Weekend in Lviv phone booth

One thing I fell in love with are those cute little yellow busses. I will spare my collection of picture and just share one.

Lviv transportation

I was really surprised by Lviv. It is a beautiful little town and perfect for a weekend trip. It is not too touristy. And i found mainly locals where visiting over the weekend. Of course you do have some international tourist but they seem more like the individual travelers. And I was surprised how cheap everything was if you exclude flights and accommodation.

Now let me know, would you travel to Lviv? What place had you totally surprised?

Happy traveling,

Tobia

 

 

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Anniversary Trip To Helsinki – Travel Log

Today I have been married for three years. We are not doing anything fancy today but go for dinner Friday night. Last year we’ve celebrated our anniversary with a trip to Helsinki.

When we went to our honeymoon we had a lay-over in Helsinki and agreed to come back after seeing the city from the plane. So we did. It was fun.

Most people are probably scared to fly north during winter but than we love winter. Why don’t I tell you a bit more.

Helsinki City

Ok, first I have to be honest. We had tough weather. It was around freezing and it was so humid. Something between fog, sleek and snow-slush-rain… Being outside was sometimes tough so we didn’t wander that far out of the downtown area and had quite a few coffee stops. BUT what we liked what we saw.

We walked and wandered around a lot. It’s our way of discovering a city and we easily get the lay of the land. More than once we ended up at the South Harbor and were mesmerized with the frozen Baltic Sea. I’ve just never seen anything like it. We came back almost every day…

Trip to Helsinki winter skyline

Close by is the Old Market hall – Vanha kauppahalli. A cozy warm roofed market. We had the feeling that locals and tourist were at balance among the visitors. Lots of people had lunch. Unfortunately we weren’t hungry. Still it was interesting seeing local food and warm up.

Helsinki Trip Old Market Hall Vanha kauppahalli

Also around the corner you can find Uspenskin cathedral. A russian orthodox church.

trip to Helsinki Harbor with Uspenskin katedraali

Unfortunately the building is not open for public but we walked around there and the neighborhood and found it was quite different. The heavy fog might have had something to do with it…

Trip to Helsinki houses

Sunday afternoon we were frozen so we went to the design museum. We really liked it a lot. If you are interested in interior design this is for you. If you are into design history go there too. We learned a lot about how strategic the Finnish people planned their design supremacy. Also there are so many objects we knew by sight but had no idea they were made in Finland.

Trip to Helsinki design museum

Just across the street from the museum is the Johanneksenkirkku – a church (ok, I do have a thing for sacred architecture…). I believe it is one of the nicest I have seen in all my travels. While there is pompous decor it is not dark, stuffy and gold but rather light and withdrawn. You can hardly find any pictures from the inside, I think it’s so worth seeing.

Trip to Helsinki st. Johns church

Suomolinna

On our last day before heading to the airport we went to Suomolinna. An island with a huge sea fortress or better an island fortress. Going by boat through the ice floes was maybe my best experience. It is much louder than I expected and you feel every impact. We journeyed through the skerry landscape and I discovered quite a few cute remote houses. I could easily spent a few weeks there…

Helsinki Trip ice floes on the Baltic Sea

The island was somewhat deserted as we went there off season. However it was still nice to walk around and get a feel of what it must have been living there in rough weather. Being at Suomolinna was the only time I really felt cold during our trip to Finland. The wind is crazy, it was snowing a bit and we were outside walking for a long time. We didn’t go to the museum as we didn’t have much time and rather walked to the far end of the island to have a look at the open waters. The history of the sea fortress is quite interesting and it is under UNESCO World Heritage. You could easily spent a whole day there specially in summer with picnics and nice views.

Helsinki Trip Suomenlinna

Food

During our honeymoon we had a tough time with the food. It was just so very different and than we were even further north and not in a city. Being in Helsinki the food scene was much better. While I started to like it and ate my way through fish and crabs and karjalanpirakka Mr. ♥ had a tougher time. Assuming it’s due to the conditions and location of Finland – they just don’t have veggies and if there are they are really horrible… Just be aware. It all looks old and frozen and tasteless – even in the supermarkets. Maybe that is just a momentarily picture in February but that is what we got after two trips to Finland. On another note, Helsinki has a broad selection of craft beer. I had quite a few and I liked them all. So if you like that Helsinki might be for you.

Helsinki Trip Finnish Food

Accomodation

We found a nice and affordable hotel within the city – Hotel Indigo Boulevard. The hotel is located in Helsinki’s Design District. Al lot of small little shops are in the surrounding neighborhood. We liked the hotel as it was clean, modern and had a separated bathroom – something hard to find nowadays.

Trip to Helsinki Hotel Indigo

Transport

We took a flight from Berlin with airberlin and were surprised it’s only about 2 hours. From the Helsinki airport we took a bus to the central station where we switched to the tram that took us directly to the hotel. We found public transport very easy and comfortable to use.

It was a nice trip to Helsinki we had last year. I would go there again. Maybe in summer. We heard and read the summers in Helsinki are legendary with lots of outside activities and festivals … and the sun never goes down…

Have you been to Helsinki? Would you take a trip to Helsinki? What would you check out?

Happy traveling,

Tobia

Honeymoon at the Arctic Circle with huskies and reindeers {winter wedding special}

Welcome back! Today I take you along our honeymoon. I know I am nice. So get some hot beverage, put on some socks because we are going to the Arctic Circle!honeymoon at arctic circle

When we were planning our wedding we realized a week prior to the big day we didn’t have any idea what to do after. Usually people go on a honeymoon. We always wanted to do lodge hopping in Canada for our honeymoon but that was just out of the picture financially. So we figured a few days somewhere to relax. But we couldn’t decided and time past…
Good thing a text came in telling us to save ten days after our wedding. So end of looking and off to a surprise.

And a surprise it was. Due to the lack of snow at our winter wedding my parents figured: send them where the snow is.

downtown levi

Yes we were sent to the most nordic town in Finland with huskies, reindeers, ice hotels and winter wonderland. But let’s go one day at a time.

Arriving in our hotel, discovering our room with a build-in sauna, a funny metal box – later figuring out it’s a heated closet to dry your stuff, reindeers grasing in front of our window. We were in honeymoon heaven. We took a short walk to get a lay of the land and fed the reindeers at the hotel.

walk around levi finlandThen we had dinner and went to bed because next morning was already scheduled.

Breakfast was strange. I let a picture speak because I really can’t describe:

finnish breakfast

After we got in our skiing gear and went to do our introduction to snow shoeing and snowmobiling. Later that day we just wandered the town and enjoyed the snow and came across a reindeer – in the middle of town! We also hit the tourist info and booked us a reindeer sledge ride and a husky sledge driving class.

Our day with the huskies

First thing to know: I am scared of dogs! Mr. ♥ loves huskies and wants one. So going on a husky farm took a lot of willpower but I am glad I did. We went to Huskysafari Levi. First we got a little introduction to sledge riding – like never step of the sledge, Huskies will run no matter what, to go slower you push the break, they eat snow to cool of, Huskies can actually die from over-heating…
Once we knew all this we got the dogs ready and my were they ready. Got a few pics:

jumping huskies

First it was my turn to stir the sledge and even though it was nice to try I was totally worn out (I was still really sick and the antibiotics took a toll on me too). So I was glad when we switched and I was able to enjoy the country side being chauffeured through by hubby. Again dusk was setting in early so pictures are a bit dark but that’s just the way it is up there.

landscape husky ride

When being back in the camp we had hot cranberry juice, coffee and traditional sausage.

husky

Our day with the reindeers

Our day at Wolverine Fell Wilderness and Nature started by getting a taxi and then being quite anxious if we will ever arrive. Seriously there was no way to drive on, all was white, the driver wasn’t quite sure where to go. Than we passed a ensemble of three cottages and a women (trying) to push a stroller through the snow. Soon after we arrived at the gate and so did the lady. She was our tour guide Petra and brought her 3 month old with her. Her husband was busy feeding reindeers and preparing the sledge. And we were the only ones. It was a wonderful quite and very informative afternoon we spend with them. As she kept mentioning reindeers are semi wild animals. You can not train them like horses. They “work” for you because you provide food. They are herd animals and it might happen that they decide to go another way – and all animals will follow. We went for a 1 mile sledge ride which took quite a while. The surroundings were amazing. Snowy trees, snow sunken fences and a reindeers butt.

reindeer butt

We stopped at a little cabin at Levi lake were we had hot cranberry juice and coffee.

panorama levi lakeWe heard stories about crossing the frozen lake and breaking through. We looked at animal pictures and listened to hunters stories. And throughout the time we felt like visiting friends, listening about their every day life struggles and joys.

our sledge reindeer

And one of their reindeers (the white one) was actually a star in a Christmas movie – unfortunately I forgot which one. So if you are ever in Kitillä you need to take a ride with them.

Our day at the glass igloo

Our last two days in Lapland we didn’t spent in our sauna hotel. We went to the glass igloos for one night.

inside glass iglooHonestly I think this was our highlight. Unfortunately due to the warm weather (only -3-6° C instead of -30° C that would have been normal around this time of year) it was very cloudy which turned the landscape in a winter wonderland but also covered up all the aurora borealis we were gonna watch.
But the snowy trees were worth the trip. Just have a look:

snowy trees

Since there wasn’t anything to do up there we went to the traditional finish hut and just hang out by the fire before we headed to our igloo and heated up dinner which you have to bring yourself.

finnish hutWe then spend the night reading and looking out of the window. Being entertained by crazy Asians running around in hello kitty pj’s and big cooking pots…
Next morning we ate breakfast that was in the fridge.

breakfast at glass igloo

Then we headed out for another photo tour in daylight and before the bus picked us up.

snowy landscape at glass iglooWe spend the day wandering the town, taking a cable car up to the mountains and enjoying the view until our trip to the next hotel.

Our day in a ice hotel

Now this was something we really looked forward too but were also a bit scared of. The brochure mentioned “cozy -5 degree”. When we drove to the ice hotel with our taxi we were a bit surprised because everything was dark. After going back and forth and looking into some windows a nice lady opened saying they were waiting for us and saying we would be their only guests tonight. What that really meant took us a while to set in… First she wanted to serve us dinner unfortunately we ate because we figured there is nothing up there. So she took us on a tour through the ice hotel. The hotel is build every year by cutting ice cubes out of the river and shooting snow on a big air dome which is later removed. Art students come in and carve pictures and figures and decorate.

ice hotelThe hotel has a little chapel (were you can also get married), an ice bar (mainly for groups and events) and 15 rooms incl. one suite with a heatable water bed – we didn’t have that room…

ice hotel chapel
We went back to accompanying restaurant and invited our waitress to have a drink with us. So we spend the time getting to know each other, exchanging life stories and cultural differences learning words in each other’s language and enjoying time together until it was time to get to bed.

We were provided with a sleeping bag, fleece inlays and lots of reindeer furs. We bought matching cross country skiing hats to not freeze our brains of and then off we went into the glacier. Before undressing and getting ready for bed we took a photo and video tour of the hotel, looked into every corner and behind every reindeer hide hanging somewhere. It was dead silent, chilly and a weirded atmosphere. Imagine sitting under a glacier or having a tiny cave in an avalanche. It didn’t help much that Rittaa (our waitress/hotel lady) mentioned that the dome steadily sags and that Mr. ♥ vividly described how a murder with lots of blood splatter would look like…

ice hotel sleeping

Anyway once we got into a our sleeping bags and finding somewhat comfort on the ice cube that was our bed it was great. I didn’t freeze at all, it was a bit chilly but it felt great. Breathing was a whole new experience in this crisp air and I felt totally healthy waking up.

Unfortunately waking up also brought our departure day. Getting to the airport was fun. Exactly three flights were managed that day – 2 arrival and one departure.

airport kitilläAnd while we very hanging around the airport we realized one not thing: the Fins are bad ass. The runway was covered in snow and ice… And yes it was fully operating.

kittalä airport with plane

Well so much for our little adventure. So what you think honeymoon in the Caribbean or at the Arctic Circle?!

For all the ones interested in going to Lapland here are a few hard facts

Read more

Kermakakku – Finnish Sour Cream Cake

Today we celebrate!
Mr. ♥ and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary today. Oh what a great day we had a year ago. Curious? Read more here.

And for every celebration you need a cake! A Kermakakku!

Kermakakku - Fisnish Sour Cream Cake

Now you might wonder why I baked a very unspectacular cake?! It’s a Finnish cake. So what, you might wonder…
A year ago we were surprised with a really great and amazing gift: a surprise honeymoon to Finland. To the arctic circle with ice hotel and glass igloo and reindeers and huskies! It was a great trip. And today we start a tiny trip to Finland by having cake.

Kermakakku - Fisnish Sour Cream Cake

Ingredients:

2 eggs
2 cup(s) sugar
470g sour cream or clotted cream (1 pint)
2 3/4 cup(s) flour
1/2 Tsp cardamom
1 Tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbs baking soda
1/2 Tsp salt
2-3 drops almond flavor, alt. 3 Tbs amaretto

Kermakakku - Fisnish Sour Cream Cake

Directions:

1. Cream the eggs, sugar, sour cream, almond, and ground cardamom.

2. Sift together the flour, salt, soda, cinnamon and mix with egg mixture.

3. Butter a tube or Bundt pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

4. Pour batter into pan.

5. Bake at 350° for 1hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

6. Cool before removing from pan.

7. Sprinkle turned out cake with powdered sugar.

Kermakakku - Fisnish Sour Cream Cake

Now make this cake and come back next Saturday and I take you on a trip through Finland’s north.

Happy baking,

Tobia

Wedding Guest: Elisa from Globetrotting in Heels {Winter Wedding Special}

island of sardinia

Today I want you to meet Elisa from Globetrotting in Heels. She is last one of my virtual wedding guests. But I’ve also met Elisa in May last year during The Hive. And just for meeting her it was all worth it. She is truly a person who’s seen the world. Or better – lived all over the world, in so many countries and is still hungry for more. I am so happy she is sharing her most favorite place today. 

If I had to use one word to describe myself, I would probably say vagabond.

I realize that this specific word has a negative connotation, but hear me out: where one may think of a vagrant who leads such an instable existence that he doesn’t have any ties to any specific place, I see a soul who has such a strong wish for freedom and adventure that one beautiful place is just not enough, for so many more are out there calling their name. Where one may see someone who chooses a life of loneliness and isolation with no place to call home, I see someone who wants to make friends everywhere, whose family isn’t limited to blood relations, who has not one but many homes, because home is where your heart is, and I have left a bit of my heart in every place I have visited or where I have lived.

So, vagabond  it is, then. If it was up to me, I would be constantly on the go, always flying, walking, driving, riding somewhere. My life would literally be a constant journey, each destination just a stop on the way to the next one.

And yet of all the beautiful places I can think of, there is one that I cannot imagine not returning to on a regular basis: my home island of Sardinia, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

island of sardinia

When I think of Sardinia, three words come to mind: Wild. Beautiful. Warm.

WILD. This is a land of lush, savage vegetation, sharp cliffs that dive into the emerald-blue sea; a land where often locations can only be reached by boat or by driving on unpaved country roads so bumpy you might wish you had rented a jeep, and often wonder if you took a wrong turn somewhere, until you get to the place and you’re all ah, that’s what all the fuss was about! Totally worth it.

island of sardinia

BEAUTIFUL. This isn’t something that anyone who has ever been to Sardinia will argue with – for how can you argue about the beauty of the white sandy beaches, of water so transparent that you can see people swimming in it even while you are standing at the top of a cliff, of the many colors clashing and marrying in nature, from the yellow of the Spanish Broom flowers to the dark green of the bushes, to the pale beige of the sand, to the blue-green of the water?

island of sardinia

WARM. Sardinia isn’t the land of eternal summer, but from where I am standing, in chilly mountainous Switzerland, it may as well be. Three full months of hot summer, warm spring and fall, and mild winters. And in any season, you can go for a walk on the beach, hear the waves crashing on the shore, smell the sea and breathe that fresh, wonderful, revitalizing sea air. I just love it.

island of sardinia

Is it because it’s home, or is it because it’s awesome? Either way, as favorite places go, it’ll do nicely, won’t it?

island of sardinia

Wow. I am enchanted. I do think I really really need to set foot on this island. It is definitely coming on my want-to-visit list. Thank you Elisa for being my guest. I am really honored.
All pictures are © by Elisa www.globetrottinginheels.com and may not be used without her permission.