Good news, Lviv is alive and well! I was worried I might not see the city for what it was because the first time I tried visiting everything was closed down and the streets empty. Luckily the Swine Flu panic that had crippled the place for the first half of November all but disappeared while I was away visiting Odessa and Kiev. Good thing because I would not have wanted to miss Lviv in all its glory!

Lviv is a beautiful flower waiting to bloom in western Ukraine. It is the most and least Ukrainian city, if that makes sense. Ukrainian is the main language here and a strong sense of Ukrainian nationalism is all around. On the other hand, Lviv (aka L’viv, Lvov, Lwów, and Lemburg) is the most European of Ukraine’s cities. It has been a part of the Galician, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empire at one time or another, each of which left their own mark on the city’s architecture and culture.

I’m going to play the fortune telling gypsy and say that Lviv will most definitely be an Eastern European star within a few years. Here are a few reasons why:

UNESCO Love

Lviv is one of the architecturally richest cities of Ukraine; the city’s historical center, along with High Castle Hill and St. George’s Cathedral were registered on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List in 1998. The city’s architecture is an unsurpassed combination of Italian and German art with East-European tradition. Rhinok Square, pictured below, is at the heart of it all.

Thriving Café Culture

Lviv’s café scene is famous and has been for centuries. Café culture boomed here under the Habsburgs, with many of today’s most esteemed bars and restaurants tracing their roots back to this formative age. You could easily spend an entire week here just exploring all the underground and wacky themed кава (Ukrainian for coffee) peddlers.

Euro Football Championship is Coming to Town

The desire to join the European Union is perhaps strongest in the western part of the country, but unfortunately membership is not in its cards any time soon. Ukraine is in a tough spot; not only is it an extremely poor country, but they are still somewhat stuck in Russia’s shadow. Perhaps one glimmer of hope is the fact that they were chosen to host the Euro 2012 Football Championship. This will be a huge step forward (or west, rather) for Lviv and Ukraine. A lot of attention will be placed on the city, and no doubt there will be some major improvements made before all the Europeans start flooding in.

Lviv is like a beautiful girl who doesn’t realize the kind of beauty she possesses on the inside, as well as on the outside. There is so much potential for this charming little spot, it just needs a little boost in its infrastructure, some more confidence, and people willing to give it a chance.