A grand beginning for anyone’s train adventure

We have spent quite a bit of time in the L’viv train station, returning to Svalyava and, this past weekend, visiting Bill’s grandfather Politylo’s hometown, Hrobova. When you’re waiting for a train, you’re not often admiring the architectural environment, but in this case it’s hard to ignore. The building is beautiful.

The Ukrainian word for train station is “vauxhall.”  The story goes that the name of a British destination was brought home by members of a fact-finding mission who confuse the place-name for its function. Thus “vauxhall” became “BOCZAL” and a new word was added to the Ukrainian –and Russian–dictionaries.

Bill and I had been through here before. We slept through the station on our first visit to Ukraine in 1998. We got our first view from the inside when we came to adopt Zachary in 1999. My memories of the t rain station from that experience all come back dark, dirty and dusty. Mostly I remember paying attention the expansive marble floor and dusty corners of the public rooms. (Perhaps I was concentrating on the floor because one of the children we saw at another L’viv orphanage had been abandoned here at the train station as an infant. Perhaps because I was hunched over bags and bags of luggage—donated clothes and medicine.)

The L’viv train station was the first one ever built in what has become Ukraine, and it has been renovated for its 150th anniversary, just in time to welcome my mother and mother-in-law, oops, I mean fans of European football who will soon visit to attend the four European championship games L’viv is hosting during the Euro 2012 tournament.

My first train trip last fall to Kyiv meant using a side entrance through one of the waiting rooms, because the renovation wasn’t completed. But now, a train trip means entering the front doors to a welcoming main hall that is bright and fresh.

A video presentation of the station’s history runs on either side of the electronic schedule board of arrivals and departures.

Waiting rooms flank the main hall, one for all travelers, and the other for people who pay for the privilege. Well, they pay for more than simply the privilege. The paid-for room is heated and features free Wi-fi. Both rooms are filled with seating options and are served by a concession that can provide juice, beer, packaged snacks, and hot and cold food.

Outside the free waiting room, you’ll find the Lost Luggage area. Outside the paid-for waiting room, you’ll find a restaurant.


We tried the restaurant this past weekend and enjoyed everything about it. The food was good and reasonably priced, the ambiance was glorious (don’t you think?), and the service was fantastic. Well, it should have been fantastic, considering ours was one of only two occupied tables over more than two hours. Borscht is always a good choice in a Ukrainian restaurant. We have ordered borscht at almost every restaurant we’ve visited and have always enjoyed it. Bill has developed a taste for solyanka, a meat soup, and found it good here, too. My Greek (gretzky!) salad substituted something else for feta, but the vegetables were fresh and crisp. Adam enjoyed his Caesar salad and Zachary enjoyed his perogies.

That's us over there near the door. The only patrons.

The restaurant also provided the pleasure of nice bathrooms, which are at a premium in European train stations, and all trains, for that matter. So we were nicely relaxed and comfortable as we boarded the train to Krasne on our first leg of Bill’s “roots tour.”

Next stop: Hrobova.

The cleanliness and handsome appearance of the subways to the tracks illustrate the huge improvement over their filthy and eroded condition more than a decade ago. Here, Zachary models under the sign for our train, named the Red Kalyna.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A grand beginning for anyone’s train adventure

  1. paula schmidt

    Such beautiful pictures and wonderful commentary…what an experience! Thanks for sharing.

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