mixing it up
Even if Lviv were not hosting a frisbee tournament, we still would have found our way there sooner rather later. Sometimes dubbed the “Little Paris of Ukraine” and at other times called the “Florence of the East,” Lviv is a cultural center that is well worth more than one visit. In fact, there is so much to see and do that we had a hard time balancing D’s desire to play ultimate with our itch to explore the city.
Despite playing college ultimate in New England, D feared that the Ukranian Mixed Championship would be the coldest tournament he’s ever played. We took a marshrutka to the field and found it still covered in frost a few minutes before 10am, when games were scheduled to begin. Eastern Europe endured an uncharacteristically early cold spell this year. A few days into October, and we could already see our own breath billowing in front of our faces as the teams warmed up.
There were only six teams, which were to play five round robin games over the course of two days before being ranked and having one playoff game each to determine final seeding. Playing his second tournament with the Madcaps in about a month, D had a much better feel for his teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. Down 8-10 in the first game, the Madcaps made a determined goal-line stance and clawed out an 11-10 victory. The second game was a forgettable 8-12 loss, but the next game the Madcaps dominated. Playing against the eventual tournament winners, the team jumped out to a 7-2 lead and survived a late-game push from the opposing squad to win comfortably 12-9.
The sun was out and the temperature warmed up enough to play in shorts, but the ground remained frozen stiff. D landed awkwardly after a layout attempt in the third game, and though he finished out the game, he was in a bit of pain and did not want to risk further injury. He felt bad about leaving the field, but the injury provided a convenient breaking point so that we could explore Lviv before flying back to Kiev. We later learned that the Madcaps dropped their remaining two group games, and with a 2-3 record ended up playing for 5th place, narrowly winning their final match 11-10 to ensure they did not finish last.
D’s misgivings about walking away from the tournament vanished almost as soon as we set foot in the historic center, which contains most of Lviv’s highlights within a small, walkable grid of old cobblestone streets. There were more interesting churches and funky little museums than we could have possibly visited. Our favorite was the Boim Chapel, which belonged to a wealthy Hungarian merchant who had interspersed intricate carvings of his family members among the more traditional figures of saints and martyrs adorning the chapel’s interior.
Lviv’s popularity has exploded in recent years, especially after Ukraine co-hosted last year’s Euro Cup. But even the crowds of tourists, who were led around the city by the busload by pushy tour guides, did not detract from Lviv’s charm. Many of the buildings in the historic center evoke the memories of a bygone era when Lviv was the cosmopolitan city that bridged Eastern and Western Europe. When the city’s central plaza was built, the monarchs had decreed a strict building code that limited each family to three windows facing the central square. Anyone who took up more room had to pay a hefty tax to the crown; centuries later, the intricately-decorated facades of several larger buildings remain as testament to the wealth of Lviv’s old ruling families.
After wandering the city streets on Saturday, we spent Sunday exploring Lviv’s other landmarks. Our guide book exhorted us not to leave Lviv without strolling through the old cemetery, which was replete with elaborate monuments and proved an interesting visit even though we did not recognize the names of most of the famous people buried there. We also climbed to the top of castle hill, which offered excellent views of the entire city.
We had hoped to see some of Lviv’s old Jewish sights, but they were so scattered and destroyed during the Nazi occupation that they are only worth seeing with a knowledgeable tour guide who would be able to explain the historic significance of each remnant, and we could not find one on short notice.
We crammed as much sightseeing as we could into our truncated weekend and left Lviv determined to come back again.