LOVER’S GUIDE TO LVIV

  • LOVER’S  GUIDE TO LVIV
  • Cozy St. Valentine’s Day guaranteed at Lokal
  • Following in the romantic footsteps of one  of history’s great lovers at Lviv’s Cazanova Club
  • Pure theatrical romance amid the columns and  archways of Lviv’s inspirational Bandinelli Palace
  • Hot and suggestive St. Valentine’s  Day on offer at Chocolate Party Bar
Issue 10, February 2009.

Lviv is Ukraine’s most romantic city, full of little courtyards and atmospheric palaces where couples can fall in love as they take in the ancient and breath-taking architecture. Over the centuries Lviv has been the major crossroads between Central Europe and the Eurasian plains spreading out to the east, making it a place where young lovers from all over the world would meet and fall for each other. Polish nobles, Italian merchant princes, Ukrainian poets and Habsburg deviants have all left their mark on the city’s romantic city, while today’s Lviv remains alive with the myths and legends that surround many of the city’s most celebrated lovers. To celebrate this year’s St.Valentine’s Day holiday on February 14, we’ve explored Lviv to uncover the most romantic places in town and retrace the steps of some of Lviv’s most famous amorous citizens. Have a wonderful romantic holiday!

Lvi is a city of legends, many of them romantic. The city’s cobbled streets ooze romance and are littered with centuries of love stories and legends. One popular local folk legend states that the two stone lions who flank the stairs to the city’s old Arsenal building will wake up and come to life when the most beautiful girl in the world walks up their stairs past them. It hasn’t happened yet, but judging by the famous beauty of Lviv’s ladies, it is surely only a matter of time. However, any lover’s guide to Lviv must necessarily begin with a look at the life and times of Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, the nineteenth century Austrian writer and journalist who gained renown for his erotic and disturbing stories of Galician life. A notorious socialite and sexual deviant who loved to be ritually humiliated and abused by his wealthy and aristocratic lovers, this adventurous writer’s body of challenging literary sexuality gave rise to the concept of masochism, which is derived from his surname. Von Sacher-Masoch was born on 27 January, 1836 in Lviv to a Roman Catholic family headed by an Austrian police chief and his wife Charlotte von Masoch. A sickly child, he was only saved by being wet-nursed to health by a robust Ukrainian peasant woman, something which later psychologists would go on to suggest had made a big impression of the mindset of the young Masoch, leaving him fascinated by the interaction of the city’s different ethnic groups and the primeval power of raw Slavic womanhood. Others have suggested that his experiences as a teenager, when he was caught up in the revolutions of 1848 and manned the barricades alongside a number of older and powerful Amazon-line female, figures, also drove him towards a desire to sexually submit himself to domineering ladies.
Fur fetish of the original masochist
The young and as-yet unknown sensualist Leopold then studied law, history and mathematics at Graz University before returning to his home city to begin work as an apprentice professor. His early non-fiction literary works dealt mostly with Austrian history and suggested little of the erotic tidal wave that lay deep within the tortured soul of the Habsburg genius, but his forays into the world of Lviv folklore soon began to offer a hint of the troubled waters that lay beneath the calm and polite surface. Within a few years Masoch’s literary career had taken precedence over his academic efforts, and he turned to exploring the various ethnic minorities who together made up the population of cosmopolitan Lviv. His masterpiece, however, was the novel “Venus in Furs”, which told the story of a young man who becomes the sexual slave of a sumptuous and wealthy middle-aged aristocratic lady. Full of scenarios that shocked the Victorian world in their graphic detail. the book is thought to be a largely autobiographic account of Masoch’s own sexually-charged relations with a number of older ladies, and has since become widely acknowledged as the definitive literary work dealing with the subject of Masochism. Like many modern-day Lviv lovers, Masoch was apparently obsessed with fur and would typically comment of any beautiful woman he saw: ‘I would love to see her in furs,” while also stating about unattractive ladies: “I simply could not imagine her in fur.” This fetishism was perhaps part of his fascination with social class, status and ethnicity, all of which found expression in his eternal search for ritual humiliation at the hands of domineering aristocratic ladies. 

Masoch’s place in the history of sexual exploration has long since been assured. The Habsburg empire was renowned for its progressive and often ground-breaking attitudes towards sexuality, with writers and thinkers led by Freud looking at sexual tensions for explanations of human behaviour, but few can have had the impact of Masoch, whose personal experiences of lust and longing in nineteenth century Lviv have given birth to an entirely new understanding of how base sexual urges can be gratified through ritual submission and humiliation. Visitors looking for a taste of Masoch’s Lviv can now head to Masoch restaurant (7, Serbska Street), where they will find an unusual statue to the man himself outside the venue alongside an erotic interior that would not look out of place among the red light districts of Amsterdam or Hamburg and which is unique in the former Soviet Union.
Play Romeo and Juliet at the Palace!
The whole of central Lviv could justifiably be described as breathtakingly romantic, but perhaps the most classically romantic spot in the whole of the old town remains the Bandinelli Palace, which is commonly known as the Italian Courtyard (pictured, left). This monument to renaissance Lviv’s cosmopolitan culture is a classical example of late 16th century Italian architecture and was built for the wealthy Florentine merchant prince Roberto Bandinelli in 1593. For over four hundred years this palace has been a place of great romance for Lvivites, and today it is the ideal place to enjoy a picturesque date amid surroundings that scream of Shakespeare’s immortal Genoese love story Romeo and Juliet.

There are a great many romantic legends tied to the Bandinelli Palace and those who have lived there over the centuries. Perhaps the most celebrated tale revolves around an eighteenth century noblewoman who lived next door to the palace on Rynok Square. This young lady, whose name was Anya, was renowned for her stunning natural beauty, which was said to be such that men would cross Europe just to gaze upon her shadow, while her figure was said to be so exquisite that no sculptor dared to try and recreate it for fear of causing offence to God himself. Needless to say, the lovely Anya was regarded as the most attractive potential wife in the city and she attracted armies of suitors, one of whom was the Italian merchant Obaldini, who lived next door at the Bandinelli Palace. His greatest rival for Anya’ affections was a wealthy married Polish merchant named Elonek, who despite have two children of his own was so besotted by Anya that he seems to have lost all grip on reality and cast himself at the mercy of her perfectly formed feet. These two rivals eventually clashed at a Lviv banquet, when both attempted to invite Anya to dance simultaneously. Anya chose the younger and single Italian, which sent the Pole into a rage, leading him to strike Obaldini, who responded with a knife to the stomach. Elonek was mortally wounded and ended up dying in the arms of the woman he worshipped, while Mr. Obaldini was arrested for murder and fully expected to receive a death sentence. However, the case was considered a crime of passion by the ladies who dictated the sentiment among Lviv high society at the time, and enormous pressure was brought on the authorities to show lenience on the Italian. This sentimental support was further bolstered by the reaction to his death of Elonek’s own family, which acknowledged that the Pole had been initially in the wrong for striking Obladini and conceded that he was a violent character prone to outbursts of physical aggression. Eventually the authorities acknowledged the strength of popular opinion by releasing the incarcerated Obaldini, who then married his beloved Anya. The international couple lived happily ever after in a house on Ruska Street, but nobody ever forgot how they so nearly came to tragedy because of the power of Anya’s radiant beauty. No doubt many modern Lviv citizens will be able to sympathize with Anya’s parents and will also recognise the character of Elonek, a wealthy older man who thought nothing of staking a claim for a young beauty despite the fact that he was already married! Some things never change, it seems.
Lviv’s legendary seductress and her downfall
Not all of Lviv’s love stories have happy endings, nor are they all exclusively taken from the realm of the earthly, with many supernatural romances dotted throughout the city’s folklore. The most famous of these tales involves a temptress of the kind that has long been synonymous with Lovely Lviv ladies. The story begins in 1910 when a wealth Lviv attorney fell in love with the 30 year old Sara Braga, a beauty who resided in the mysterious Pionia Villa. Once the couple had moved into the villa together one of the attorney’s friends began to notice some disturbing changes. This friend, who was a psychiatrist by profession, decided to investigate. Eventually, the attorney confesses that he has become pathologically dependent on the sexual favours of Sara beyond the point of free will.
Intrigued by this confession, the psychiatrist decided to check who this phenomenal lady was. To his amazement, medical records indicated that during her last known check-up in 1875, she had been 45 years old! In other words, this irresistible nymphet was actually an old lady of eighty. Shortly after this discovery, the psychiatrist’s attorney friend died, and so the psychiatrist decided he must see Sara Braga for himself and get to the bottom of the matter. He visited his friend’s funeral, where to his astonishment he learned that the beautiful Sara had been married six times but all of her husbands had died soon after their weddings. The psychiatrist managed to flirt with Sara and secure an invitation to dine at the villa. Full of excitement, he set off, and it was not long before the sumptuously decorated Sara began her seduction. Summoning all his willpower, the psychiatrist resisted her advances, until Sara became despondent. As she gradually realised that she could not seduce the psychiatrist, she began to age visibly. The psychiatrist, feeling no pity, continued to resist and began reading the biblical story of Sarah, who lost seven husbands because of her dealings with the demon Asmodeus until he was confident that the spell had been broken and Sara lay dead, a wrinkled little old lady. Legend has it that even today Lviv is haunted by a few such Saras, who will appear as beautiful temptresses to seduce men to their doom until someone can break the spell they cast on young men’s hearts.
True dedication from beyond the grave
One of Lviv’s coziest restaurants is Kupol, which is located on a little hill at 37 Chajkovskogo Street. The building which today houses this themed turn-of-the-century Habsburg venue used to belong to the family of Vanda Monnet, and young Lviv lady who blossomed while still a teenager and gave her heart to a much older grown man when she was only 14 years old. Despite widespread condemnation of the affair, Vanda’s love stood the test of time and has come to be acknowledged as a classic Lviv love story. The young Vanda first bet the dashing and gallant Arthur Grottget at an imperial ball held in Lviv in the mid-nineteenth century. Grottget was a Polish painter and interior designer aged 27 at the time of their meeting, or in other words almost exactly twice the age of the young and blossoming young Vanda, who should not really have been flirting at imperial balls at her age at all.
Nevertheless, following their first passionate meeting the two struck up a heartfelt literary correspondence as Grottget travelled across Europe, basing himself from the Habsburg cities of Vienna and Krakow. But as Vanda approached the age when she could respectably marry her lover, tragedy struck when Grottget died suddenly while in Paris on business. The distraught young Vanda was left devastated, but she refused to let the affair end there and saved up as much money as possible in order to travel to Paris and bring her lover’s body back to Lviv for burial. Despite the difficulties she faced in convincing people that she was not just a silly little adolescent girl dreaming of fantastic romances of the kind you read of in cheap novels, she eventually succeeded and Grottget’s sad but beautiful tombstone in Lviv’s Lycharkiv Cemetery is still on show as evidence of Vanda’s love. As for the heartbroken girl herself, nobody knows if she ever found love again, but her passion for a Polish man twice her age has left its mark on Lviv society and continues to inspire local lovers.
Lviv lovers of the Napoleonic era
Among Lviv’s most celebrated lovers is Count Aleksander Fredro, the comedy playwright, writer of fables and poet who was born on in 1793 in Surochów near Przemyśl in the Carpathian foothills to a wealthy noble family. He lived a long time for his day, 82 years, and for a Polish writer in the 19th century he led an affluent and comfortable life. His youth was certainly eventful. He was taught at home, but not for long because as a 16-year-old lad he joined the Napoleonic army of the Duchy of Warsaw and marched with it for 6 years, right up until the catastrophic retreat from Moscow in 1812. After receiving numerous top military honours he finally left the army in 1815 and settled in Bieńkowa Wisznia, his father's estate close to Lviv. While in Lviv he met Countess Zofia Skarbek, née Jabłonowska, who was to become the love of his life. When she was 15, Zofia Jabłonowska had been married off to Count Skarbek, one of the wealthiest men in all Halychyna. However, she left him after a few years of unhappy marriage, but she was forced to wait over 10 years before she could finally marry Aleksander. The reason for this long delay has never been satisfactorily explained, as her first husband Count Skarbek himself raised no objections over the proposed new marriage, while arranging a church divorce in those days for socially influential people was solely a question of money. Resistance is thought to have come primarily from the Jabłonowski family itself, probably motivated by propriety. However, after the couple were wed in 1828, the marriage was a very happy one, demonstrating that true love can conquer all, even when people have already been victims to marriages of convenience or historical upheavals.
International love in a time of cholera
In the 16th century as it is today, Lviv was a city where nationalities and religions met and came face to face. This resulted in more inter-ethnic marriages and inter-denominational unions than in almost any other European city, a situation which was not without its complications. Legend has it that in the mid-16th century a wealthy wine merchant who lived close to St. Stanislav’s Church on Gorodotskoho Street planned to marry a local Ukrainian girl of sensational natual beauty called Pelageya. The wealthy Italian was said to be so besotted that he proclaimed himself ready to convert from Catholicism to Orthodox Christianity in order to win the favour of Pelageya and her family. Immediately prior to the wedding, the Italian decided to make a trip to Italy in order to bring back a selection of exquisite delicacies and wines for the wedding reception itself. However, while he was away disaster struck, with cholera sweeping through the city. The slender Pelageya was one of the first victims of the outbreak, and within days of his return the Italian too was dead from cholera. The heart-broken families were faced with a difficult decision, because as the two lovers had not actually been married and remained of different Christian denominations, they could not even be buried together. This was resolved by the decision to bury them separately but with identical tombstones which can still be seen today, bearing broken hearts and the inscription: “Those whom love united, death cannot separate.”
Looking for love? Romantic Lviv restaurants
They say nobody knew romance better than Cazanova, so the first romantic any diner’s Lviv list should be the lavishly decorated Cazanova , located at 7, Stavropygyjska Street on Rynok Square. The staff at Cazanova takes great pride in combining superb flavour and the luxurious dishes which are sure to have hearts fluttering. Prices are also reasonable, making Cazanova a great choice for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner. For reservations please call +38 (032) 2367574. Romance is literally in the air over at Panorama Restaurant, where guests dine while enjoying unrivalled views of the Lviv skyling perched above the National Opera House within Opera Hotel. If stunning views are an integral part of your romantic perspective, then this is the best bet for St. Valentine’s Day. For reservations please call +38 (032) 2259000.
Atmosphere restaurant club, located at 18, Brativ Rohatynstiv Street, is another classically cozy Lviv venue where intimacy is the key. For reservations please call +38 (032) 2550832. for a more classical dining approach which offers echoes of the finest in Victorian era romance guests to the city and local lovers should head to Darwin restaurant (6, Shevska Street), where the spirit of the nineteenth century remains alive and well. Among the highlights here are a great wine list and world-class service that will add to the St. Valentine’s Day impression of any candlelit dinner. For reservations please call +38 (032) 2948205.
If you looking for a special place to take your loved one for a romantic pre-party drink before heading off for a night of dance floor gyrations and sultry socializing, then Lokal (19, Valova Street) could be the place for you. As soon as you walk into the first of the venue’s three rooms, you will be struck by the charm of the bygone Austrian Empire era, which is enhanced by subtle candlelit shadows. For reservations please call +38 (032) 2367080. Those who have yet to find love but who want to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day in sexy style should make a beeline for Chocolate Party Club, the new nightlife haven at 2 Petrushevycha Square which is fast becoming the leading place to see and be seen among Lviv’s next generation of beautiful people. Guests looking for added intimacy can explore the venue’s private rooms, while those looking for love can flirt the night away on the dance floor or make doe-eyes at pretty young things in the bar area. For reservations please call +38 (032) 2255445.