Lviv is a place to return to. I’ve stopped counting the many times I’ve been there, and only the many stamps on my passport from the Rava Ruska border pass can say. There is something special about this city. It’s difficult to explain the “genius loci” of Lviv, which attracts you to come back time and again, and I do so every time, just to walk around in the city centre, have an amazing coffee (not to mention the desserts!) in one of its numerous cafes and enjoy the atmosphere of the place. And no matter how many times I go back to Lviv, every time I find something new and special there.
One of the reasons to my return this time, on a frosty January weekend, was the unique temporary exposition in the National Art Gallery of Lviv. A collection of Italian Sephardi Ketubbot (Jewish marriage contracts), the oldest one from 1694 and the most recent signed in 1848, all of them beautifully decorated with different patterns, from images of flowers and leaves, to animals like birds and lions. And while they are a site for their artistic value, they also contain some valuable informations and serve as a source to the lives and economical history of the Italian Jewish communities at the 17th-19th centuries. For example, it is amazing to see how detailed some agreements between brides and grooms were, before they got married! Especially detailed were the responsibilities that the groom commits to take over his future wife, as it was more like a one way contact. More detailed information about the content of the Ketubot, as well as general information about the whole collection, may be found in the beautiful catalogue published in English and Ukrainian by the Gallery. I definitely recommend you to carry one.
Another interesting fact is that this amazing collection was discovered by chance in 2010, as they were rolled together with soviet posters and for years no one knew anything about them. The research, made by the National Art Gallery of Lviv, proves that these contracts were a part of a rich collection owned by Marek Reichenstein, a great prewar physician, haematologist and art historian, a respected member of the Jewish community in Lviv and eventually one of the most esteemed collectors of Judaica there. Let’s hope for more discoveries like that in the future!
Of course, I didn’t focus only on the gallery during my short visit. Lviv is beautiful in the winter and there is a lot to enjoy there. In Poland we have already forgotten about Christmas and New Year’s Eve time, but Ukrainians keep celebrating them till the mid of January, as Orthodox and Greek Catholics celebrate it according to Julian calendar (two weeks after Catholics). And so, over the Main Market and along Prospekt Svobody, there were still many nicely decorated and illuminated booths, where you can buy christmas decorations, handmade souvenirs, jewelry, traditional local food and hot wine, perfectly warming you at this time of the year. After enjoying the local cuisine, you could also burn a few of these extra calories in the open air ice rink right on the Main Market Square.
After wandering around Lviv’s streets, I didn’t forget to pay a visit to the Old Jewish Quarter, especially since I’ve heard there were some changes to the remains of the Golden Rose Synagogue. Indeed, the metal wall which stood on Starojevreiska Street and was hiding the view since for as long as I can remember, as well as a wooden platform from the near restaurant, were demolished so now you can see the whole square and the remains of the synagogue. To see how it looks like, you can go to the gallery above, and if you are curious about the way the organizers want it to look like in future, and learn more about The Space of Synagogues project go to:
To sum up - I had a wonderful weekend! If you are considering Lviv as a place to spend a few days don’t think twice and go, you won’t regret it. And if you need our assistance and you are looking for some inspiration for different trails, especially focusing on Jewish Lviv, go to ROOTKA offers: