The Lviv Coffee Grind Continues

Today my friend Liliya brought me to the Shtuka Art Cafe in the old Jewish Quarter of the city.  The first thing that caught my eye was the words written on the walls. Although I don’t read Ukranian, Polish or Hebrew it was obvious that the building had lived another life before Shtuka.

IMG_20170903_110237Stepping through the door is like stepping back in history. There are so many things to see you really don’t know where to look first. It was extremely fortunate that the owner, Eugene was on site, and gave Liliya and I a walk back through history.

The cafe was established in 1909 by a Polish man from Krakow who had an interest and background in art. This was that place where prominent artists were invited to have exhibitions of their work and sell their paintings.  They sometimes traded their work for meals.

In 2009 The interior of the cafe was updated and since then Eugene has had more than 110 exhibits of art, photography, drawings, music and readings in the cafe.  Once a month people with an interest in the history of the district of Galicia, which is where L’viv is located, meet to discuss or listen to lectures about this history.

As my breakfast arrives Eugene begins to point out historical items in the cafe and describe their rebirth/renovation.  “Look at the ceiling”.  He said it took 5 students from the art college 6 months with special erasers to remove the grime covering the original paintings on the ceiling.IMG_20170903_115436Obviously, when your eyes are looking up, you notice the original light fixtures and glass shades … All rescued from other buildings or discovered in antique shops.

IMG_20170903_113923All of the framed photographs, have the original  printed name of the photo studio on the photo.

IMG_20170903_110547Have you ever seen an original stereopticon?  Like conjoined twins,  these photos are seen through a special viewer that was dubbed “the magic lantern”.  You can look on the web and find photos of stereopticons, but Eugene has an original framed with the photos.

IMG_20170903_114807In addition to the photos, Eugene also found in the basement of the building, a Hebrew school poster which he has framed and hung just inside the door.

IMG_20170903_114600More than a decade ago, and my first visit to Florence, Italy my travelling companion said to me “do you need to touch everything”? and I replied with a smile, “yes’ I do”!  I am a tactile person and love to touch all kinds of materials so I HAD to run my hands over the recovered tiles, that Eugene had saved, from buildings that were being either demolished or renovated.

Meet Eugene and Liliya and the current photography exhibition.

IMG_20170903_115447Then there is the memorabilia like the candy boxes and very small glasses for alcohol beverage consumption.  Here is the story  …  in 1882 the first confectionery plant “Branka” was founded in L’viv,  two decades later the “Gazet” factory appeared and together they manufactured 5 tons of sweets per year. Yes the number is correct!  In Soviet times the two confectioners formed the basis for the large “Svitoch” factory established in 1962. They operated under special conditions where typically, experiments in chocolate recipes would be restricted and thought of as going beyond the standardised Soviet manufacturing framework  which was not allowed here … but.  the employees found this stimulating. The product was so good, it resulted in chocolatiers from all over the Soviet Union coming to study and adopting these practices. These chocolates and candies were rated as the best gourmet sweets in Ukraine.  The Soviet government was won over by chocolates!

These special products were exported and Ukraine was the chocolate capital of the USSR.  Today, the international food giant Nestle is the owner but it does not stand out so much anymore from all of the competitors in the market.

So why am I telling you the story of these chocolates?  It is because Eugene has rescued original containers from these historic chocolate factories.

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IMG_20170903_114248Up to this point at this little cafe we have history, art, poetry, photography, ceramic tiles, ceiling paintings, lighting and now to the story of the rescued piano.

One day Eugene came across a residence that was being updated and he saw a man trying very hard to push a piano out into the street.  Fortunately, the piano was stronger than the man and he could not complete the task on that day. Eugene found the owner of the piano and negotiated the sale of same. He then had the piano restored on the inside (the guts). The outside at the piano is beautiful and the only thing he had to do was clean it and put a little oil and what appears to be rosewood. The piano is actually used for musical evenings in the cafe.

IMG_20170903_115031And, last, but far from least … the coffee and pastries are splendid.

IMG_20170903_114928PS:. The Shtuka Cafe has been awarded Best Art Cafe in Lviv, 4 consecutive years.

IMG_20170903_115610Well, gotta go.  Liliya and I will be returning to the Shtuka tonight for a guitar evening.

 

IMG_20170903_192657Young, soulful guitarist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When is a cemetery also an official museum?

ANSWER: When it is Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine.

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Created in 1786 this is not just a beautifully landscaped park it is also an open air museum of beautiful sculptures and architecture.

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The earliest gravestones date back to the 17th century although there are few gravestones from that time currently in the cemetery. There was a decision made in the 19th century that they would crush any gravestones that had not been taken care of for more than 25 years; and the crushed stones were used to pave the cemetery alley’s.

You can trace the history of L’viv and Galacia by the names of those buried at the cemetery most of whom are outstanding politicians, scientists, writers, and artists from Polish, Ukrainian, German and Armenian tombstones.

Today you cannot be buried here unless you already have purchased a plot or you are a Ukrainian famous person.

This is “Sleeping Beauty” actress Regina MarkovskaIMG_20170609_092611.jpg

I was very surprised to see a large monument to 3 American servicemen, who helped to fight in the war alongside the Ukrainian military 1919 – 1920.

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Not far from this monument is an enormous military cemetery where Ukrainian and Polish children are brought by their schools to learn their history. “Lest they never forget.” (this photo is about 25% of the area).

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On the top of the hill there is another military cemetery dedicated to Polish soldiers who fought on Ukrainian soil.

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There are more than three hundred thousand graves at this cemetery and many of the tombstones are beautiful works of art.

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And some want their personality, or their ethnicity to show.

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in addition to the monuments you will encounter small chapels.

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NOTE: to my friend Lynn, and others who enjoy browsing cemeteries:

When visiting Lviv you can order a tour on the cemetery website at: http://www.lviv-lychakiv.ukrain.travel

Bring your camera, a bottle of water and comfortable walking shoes. Be prepared for 2-4 hours to walk the entire cemetery.

The Father of Masochism … and other famous L’vivians

It was a sunny day in L’viv, Ukraine and I was strolling along the cobbled streets near the town square when I saw this beautiful and yet slightly quirky statue of a man in formal wear standing in front of a doorway that look like a keyhole.  I stood across the street and tried to determine what this man did or who he was and why he was standing in front of a doorway that looks like a keyhole. My first thought was he must be a magician because the left pocket of his trousers was open like maybe he had some cards or some kind of trick in his pocket. Then I noticed that there was a right hand circling the thigh of his right leg. Whose hand?  Obviously not his why was it there? And then I saw the naked woman on the left-hand side of the lining of his coat and it looked as though she were laying on fur … what’s that about?

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Let me introduce you to Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch, the first person with the clinical diagnosis of Masochism – “the enjoyment of pain; tendency to derive sexual gratification from one’s own pain and humiliation with things such as bondage. Pleasure in being abused or dominated.”

His condition was diagnosed by Austrian psychiatrist Richard Freiherr Von Krafft-Ebing who said, ” I feel justified in calling this sexual abnormality masochism because author Sacher-Masoch frequently made this perversion, which up to the time was quite unknown to the scientific world as such, the substratum of his writings. I followed thereby by the scientific formation of the term Daltonism from Dalton the discoverer of colour blindness.”

If you put your hand into the open pocket you will encounter exactly what you expect!

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Born January 27th 1836, died 9th March 1895. Austrian writer and journalist who gained some fame for romantic stories of Galatian life; who studied law and history and became a professor.  He wrote about folklore and culture of Austrian history and Galicia specifically.

In 1869 he had an idea for a series of short stories entitled “Legacy of Cain” of the 6 planned volumes only 2 were ever written – one of which was “Venus in Furs” based on his wife and his fantasies about being dominated by women. He is credited with introducing sexually charged and erotic works of deviant behaviour and the pleasure of Masochism to the world.

The story goes that he pressured his wife to engage in this activity, but she refused opening the door for his mistress Baroness Fanny Pistor,  who signed a contract making him her slave for six months with the stipulation that she wear furs as often as possible, especially when she was in a cruel mood.

He found family life boring and eventually divorced his wife and married his assistant.

Sidenote: He was the great-uncle of British singer Marianne Faithful, on her mother’s side.

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The literary flea market is just past the red trolley at a small square.

#2. Ivan Federov, produced the first printed book in Ukraine.

Bullied out of Moscow in the time of Ivan the Terrible by the religious leaders because they were threatened by his potential power to print books that would take away their livelihood as scribes; and, be a danger to their monopoly on religious doctrine issues.  He moved to the peace loving city of L’viv, and created the first publishing house, and published the first book in 1574 called “Deeds and Epistles of the Holy Apostles”.  There was an original printing run of 1200 copies and today close to 100 copies have been preserved in libraries throughout Europe and in private collections.

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Every day Ivan stands proudly over his flock of booksellers at the daily literary flea market near the market square. I, myself have purchased a few English language novels here.  It is one of my favourite places because of the wide variety, age and subject matter and people you see here.

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Support free speech no matter where you are!

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Just a quick 2 minute stroll from the literary flea market you will find the statue of L’viv resident Nikifor Drovniak.

#3. Nikifor Drovniak, illiterate “naïve” artist

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This man was born in 1895, in a small Polish Village to very poor parents and was orphaned in WW1.   He inherited a hearing and speech impediment from his mother. Because of these environmental conditions he was culturally and emotionally isolated, could not communicate with people and therefore was treated as a misfit in society.

The one thing that he did continuously throughout his life was to create through watercolor and graphic art.  It is reported that he felt that God had given him a mission through the use of color and design.  He would draw on anything he could find … small pieces of paper, cardboard, chocolate wrappers, or the opposite side of used paper, using the cheapest paint available. None of his works were any larger than a standard piece of paper.

He was focused on and devoted to the Greek Catholic church as demonstrated by the subject of the drawings.  Churches, chapels, religious leaders and saints; along with landscapes and railroad subjects.  He also created many self portraits.

No-one really knows how many drawings he had done, but the estimate is in excess of 30,000.  In 1932 a L’viv based artist took the drawings and paintings to  the Leon Marseilles gallery in Paris, France and it was there that Nikifor became a legitimately recognised “naïve” artist. Many of his works are in private collections. There are a few in the National Museum in L’viv but most of his canvases are in the small Polish town of Krynica at his museum.

Although he was a recognised artist he struggled in poverty his entire life, often trading his works for food.  People along the way did help him, but his early life experiences kept him distant from society.

You can learn more about this remarkable man through a 2006 movie called My Nikifor.  Go to: Culture.pl/en/work/my-nikifor-krause

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerosene (keroselain- wax oil)

If you are anything like me you have never spent more than one hour thinking, speaking or reading about kerosene.  But that changed when in L’viv, Ukraine I discovered the Kerosene Museum.

IMG_20170820_115051According to history kerosene became a “thing” in the 9th century in Persia, discovered by a chemist named Razi and written about in his “Book of Secrets”

Kerosene is used worldwide under different names.  If you were in Chile,  Eastern Africa, South Africa or the United Kingdom you might be buying paraffin. If you were in asia you might be buying lamp oil, and in the United States it was called coal oil; but, is also known as white naptha.

A little divergence here. I remember my Grandmothers using Fels-Naptha soap in the old wringer washing machine.  Fels Naptha soap is a sodium salt from Tuerpene, processing hydrocarbons and it is now produced by Purex Corporation. They say that if you grate 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha and add it to your wash it will eliminate residual stains. I don’t know if I want to stand around and grate half a bar of soap but if you do, you can purchase Fels-Naptha bar soap from Amazon, Walmart or Ace Hardware – happy soaping!

IMG_20170820_115058So what is kerosene?  Actually, it’s a clear liquid produced by distilling petroleum.  It’s used as fuel in jet engines, rocket fuel; or, if you’re camping it’s used for cooking and lighting fuel.  In Asia it’s used in motorcycle engines and outboard motors.

Recent history of kerosene starts in 1846, in Canada with geologist Abraham Gesner, in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island where he developed a new process for making kerosene. Gesner wanted to patent his new process in Canada but ran up against governmental regulations and petroleum industry roadblocks, so in 1854 he moved to New York state and patented “Kerosene”.

In 1846 another chemist from Scotland by the name of James Young also found a process for making kerosene.  He took out a patent in both Scotland and the United States prior to the 1854 patent of Gesner.

In 1851 Samuel Martin Kier known as the “Grandfather of the American Oil Industry” came along with carbon oil.

And now we come to L’viv and Ignacy Lukasiewicz a Polish pharmacist living in L’viv, and his Hungarian partner Jan Zeh who worked to improve upon Gesner’s process, using the petroleum from a local seep.

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…. I don’t know which guy is hanging out of the window in the second floor, your guess is as good as mine 🙂

The local people did not really take them seriously until the night of July 31st 1853 when there was an emergency in the local hospital; and none of the lamps were bright enough to allow the surgery to proceed. The surgeon, knowing about their experiment with bright lantern light urged someone to go and get the lanterns from the pharmacist.

They were amazed at how bright the light was.  After the brilliant success (pun) in the surgery the pharmacist quit his job at the pharmacy, travelled to Vienna and registered a patent on his product.  In 1854 he moved to Poland with his patented product, and subsequently set up a refinery in 1859.

A side benefit to the discovery of kerosene is that in prior times whale oil had been the typical product for lamps.  When kerosene became widely used, whale hunting decreased. In 1858 there were 199 whaling ships, in 1860 there were 167, in 1866 105, and in 1874 only 39.

Buy Kerosene – Save a whale!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Yard of Lost Toys, Lviv

When you were a child did you ever lose a toy?  It just disappeared. Did you accuse your brother or sister? Did you continue to search for it? Maybe the toy decided to find a new home on its own like a cat or dog that wanders off and ends up at someone else’s house. Perhaps that’s why Vacily Petrovich​ felt compelled to save two toys he found abandoned near his home in Lviv, Ukraine hoping the child would return and claim them.

Today there are hundreds of toys in this urban courtyard a short distance from The Church of Our Lady of the Snow and Rynok Square where you can buy farm fresh fruits and vegetables every day except Sunday.

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The courtyard was a bit tricky to find because although the address was on Kniazia Lva 3, the entrance was on the backside on a different street.  But the search ended with an​ interesting find.  A treasure hunt of sorts.

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The Yard of Lost Toys

The story goes that Vasily found two abandoned toys and in hopes that the child or children would come looking for them, he placed the safely on a shelf, under a narrow roof in the courtyard.  Unfortunately for the children and the toys, they were never to be together again.

But, something else happened.  Other toys began to mysteriously show up in Vasily’s courtyard.  Some were placed there by Vasily’s neighbours – but, who is to know if all of them were placed or perhaps other just decided to leave home because the children outgrew them, or sadly, they might have been mistreated.  Who knows?

But today you will find hundreds of toys – stuffed animals, tin trucks, dolls, wind up toys, tricycles, pails and shovels and rakes to use at the beach or in the  sandbox.

Take a photo on the swing set or decaying teeter-totter.  Or, if you find the lost toy from your childhood; or one that you would like to take home, you are encouraged to give it a loving forever home.

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So, when you visit Lviv remember to leave room in the suitcase for your new found treasure 😋

 

UKRAINE

“UKRAINE” for many people this word conjures up mental images of danger, strife, poverty, refugees and destruction. Even for me, until 6 days ago when the Eurobus I was traveling on arrived in the city of Lviv, Ukraine.

Why I went to Lviv is not the important part of the story; but what I saw and learned is. When I arrived I was in a bit of a uncomfortable situation, and suddenly a woman spoke to me in English asking if I needed help.  Liliya and her daughter-in-law, Oxana stepped in and became my rescuers.

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Liliya

Liliya quickly took me under her wing and  became my tour guide, history teacher and friend.

Ukraine is a mosiac of nationalities, cultures, religions and architecture. A lengthy history of power and wealth at a natural crossroad of trade routes from europe, the middle east, Baltic region and asia.  It was the center of commercial, religious and administrative activity.  Great buildings were constructed, libraries created, art and science flourished, and the city was famous for the rich culture. And then as with most of our affluent civilisations corruption, greed and eventually war over territory and wealth became the norm.

The Ukraine many of us know is the one that was in our school history books.  But let me show you the Ukraine I saw.  Granted, it was only one city; but it drastically changed my idea of what Ukraine is.  Lviv is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 18 churches reside here: Catholic, Greek Catholic, Jewish, Armanian, Christian and Orthodox.  Perhaps Boim Family Chapel has the most interesting history and unique building.  (it’s story coming later). Read about this UNESCO chapel on Wikipedia or the UNESCO Site

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Lviv also has some fun and interesting things to see.

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The Yard of the Lost Toys.  Another story, another time
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“The Father of Masochism”  Stay tuned for this and other stories of famous people from Lviv.
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The cemetery that became a one-of-a-kind museum.  Another story, another time.

I’m not finished with Lviv!  Looking forward to another visit in September.

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An art contest at a cafe
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A woman promoting a tattoo studio.

El Escorial, Spain

My trip to El Escorial, about an hour north of Madrid started from the city of Valdemoro where I was staying with my “Spanish family” (mom Susanna; dad, Jose and girls with whom I had been practicing English conversation for the last few weeks).

One day I went to the sports complex with Susanna.  While she was working out, I went next door to the VIPS restaurant and was enjoying my coffee and bocadillo (sandwich) when a nice looking man approached and asked, in English, if I would consent to joining him and his friends who were mature students studying English.  Of course!  Who am I to pass up an opportunity to meet locals.

Then I received an invitation to join their English class as a native English speaker.  And, so, the next Tuesday I met with Ada, Rosa and Jose Maria in Fernando’s class.  And, for the next 3 classes as well.

One day I said I wanted to go to Segovià and that comment ended with Ada and Rosa making plans to go with me.  They both asked if I was also going to visit nearby El Escorial, a place I knew nothing about.

We made plans for the following week.  In the meantime Susannas’ mother, Pilar came to visit and we invited her to come as well.  We all boarded the 9 o’clock train and made the  hour and a half trip to the mountains and the town of El Escorial.

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Our first stop in El Escorial was for coffee or chocolate and churros.  We took this photo (that’s Rosa) because in the US it would be illegal to advertise something you don’t have!  Yep, they didn’t have churros 😥.

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Me, Rosa, Pilar and Ada in black stripes.

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We walked up the street towards the monastery, stopping to look around in the visitor center and other shops.

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Ada and Rosa checking out the clothes!
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Walkway to the monastery entrance.

A most impressive sight, the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, also known as The Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the historical residence of the past kings of Spain. Built for King Philip the Second, it is an austere structure encompassing the following: monastery, church, royal palace, school, seminary, and royal library surrounding 11 main courtyards and 3 service courtyards.  It is the largest​ monastery in Spain.

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This is less than 25% of the complex.

Originally this was the property of the Hieronymite monks from the Order of Saint Jerome.  These were hermit monks living according to the Rule of Saint Augustine in 14th century Spain. These monks devoted themselves to study and exercised great influence over the Spanish kings.

Today it is the monastery of the Order of Saint Augustine and a boarding school.

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This, like the aqueduct of Segovia, was built without mortar or concrete in the 16th century.

There is a massive library where all of the books are edged in gold gilt and kept under lock and key.

The crypt is the final resting place of Spanish royalty.  Elaborate black and gold caskets line the circular wall, each stacked, in order, one shelf after another.  Other family members are in kept in an adjacent large underground area.

Photos are not allowed inside of the rooms so you can go to Wikipedia or the UNESCO website to see what I cannot show you.

Waiting for the next train under the spreading Jacaranda trees.IMG_20170412_183254El Escorial is a lovely little town with a jaw-dropping national treasure. I am glad I got to see it with my own personal guides.