Lviv, Ukraine: Part 2

Добрий вечір. (Good Evening)

Hello again. I am half way in to my second week back at UND for my last semester of undergrad. My classes are going fairly well so far. At the end of the last post, Marichka and I had just stopped at the University for a tour and it was about 4:30pm.

After we left the university we went over to Вул Коперника, Copernicus St. to where the Central Post Office is located. The post office is in another large stone building. Inside the building on one of the walls is a map of Ukraine, with the borders of the different Области, governmental regions kind of like the states in the US. Each of the Области, has a different stamp that is used. Each of the stamps have different and intricate designs.

We exited the post office and continued on to the Opera Passage Shopping mall. It was nice to be inside for a while to warm up a bit. We spent a short while in the mall, thankfully I was shown a grocery store that was in the basement, so I was able to stop back in there over the next few days to grab some fruit. We then stopped at two separate markets, the first market we walked by was a group of canvas tents, which was closing as we wandered through. The second market we arrived at was the main Christmas Market, which was located along Просп. Свободи, Svobody Avenue in between the Opera House and the monument to Taras Shevchenko. Shevchenko was born in 1814 and was a poet, painter, and writer whose poetry and writings influenced a Ukrainian revival, at a time when Ukraine was a part of the Russian Empire. His work was influential in a revival of Ukrainian nationalism and a hope for an independent Ukraine. For his work he was exiled and died in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1861. For anyone interested, the following website has a selection of Shevchenko’s poems translated to English:

The Christmas market, was similar to the smaller market next to City Hall, the main difference was the number of stalls. There was also a large pine tree decorated as a New Year’s tree. Because of the difference between the Gregorian calendar, the calendar we use today, and the older Julian calender, the Orthodox religions in Ukraine as well as elsewhere celebrate Christmas two weeks after it is traditionally celebrated by other Chrisitian denominations. Therefore Christmas is celebrated on January 7th.  As we were browsing at the various stalls at the market, we stopped at a particular stall which was selling several different types of sweets. The name escapes me as to what it was called, but the snack I had was a, wafer covered in nougat and cranberries. It was quite tasty. We then went to another market, which reminded me of a grocery store in the United States, except for the fact that the building was filled with vendors at individual stalls selling all sorts of food, from sweets, to meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, eggs. Nearly anything you could think of.

The sights and experiences up to when we left this last market were amazing, but the places Marichka and I visited next were even more amazing. We exited the last market, and began a tour of many of the churches and cathedrals located in the city center. Unfortunately, in each of the churches and cathedrals there were signs prohibiting the taking of photographs, so I was not able to capture the insides of the churches and cathedrals myself. We stopped and entered the Armenian Cathedral, the Church of the Transfiguration, the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Eucharist, the Dominican Church, the Jesuit Cathedral, and finally we went into the Eastern Orthodox Cathedral.

Each of these cathedrals and churches were breathtaking sights to enter and experience. The Armenian Cathedral was the first cathedral that we came to on our trek. We entered through the large wood doors at the main entrance. Passing through the foyer, we entered the chapel itself. The floor was covered in intricately embroidered rugs. But the sight was incredible when I looked ahead and up towards the altar. The walls and columns and the ceiling above the altar were covered and decorated in an amazing series of paintings and icons. The lights were dimmed and the main space around the altar was lit by candle light, there was a prayer service going on at the time when we entered, and I just felt a sense of awe and wonder as my gaze swept over the view in front of me with the priest framed by the paintings on the walls behind him. As we left the cathedral, I was still in awe of the beauty of the cathedral I had just witnessed. It was a feeling and sense that was repeated as we left every single church and cathedral we visited.

If I was amazed and awed by the Armenian Cathedral, which I was, I was just as, if not more amazed by the other churches and cathedrals we visited.

I think I will end this here, and I will continue in the next post.

Дуже дякую  (Thank you)

На добраніч (Good Night)

Near the Opera House
Near the Opera House

Another market New Year's Tree Taras Shevchenko Monument Taras Shevchenko Part of the Taras Shevchenko Monument Lviv Opera House Ukrainian Flag at  the Opera House Armenian Cathedral


Lviv, Ukraine: Part 1

Добрий вечір. (Good Evening)

Well it has been a while since my last post. I’ve had a crazy last few weeks, but now I found some time to get this typed up. I am back at the University of North Dakota, but I wanted to get a post up about my week traveling to Warsaw, Poland and Lviv, Ukraine. This post will cover the first few  hours of my first day in Lviv, Ukraine.

In the last post I had arrived in Lviv, Ukraine at 6:30am. I got a taxi and got to Rynok Square, the main central square where the city hall is located. When I went to check in at the hostel that I had booked, I was told they were full and did not have any room, and so I had to go two buildings down to find another hostel with space open. I was able to find a spot, and I dropped my bag off, and left the hostel to go find something to eat for breakfast. Lviv is the central city of western Ukraine. It took a while to get used to seeing snow, since it doesn’t usually snow in Ireland.  I walked past the City Hall and continued along , and I found a cafe where I could find something to eat. I do not speak Ukrainian, and only know a few words, so ordering food that morning was a bit of a struggle. Thankfully there were English translations , which helped. I had a pastry filled with maple syrup, it was good. At the southwest corner of Rynok Square, across the street from where I found breakfast, is the Latin Cathedral. The cathedral was built during the 14th century. The cathedral was an amazing sight both during the day and at night. By now it was around 1:30pm, and I wandered around the marketplace which was set up along the western side of the City Hall. There were stalls selling, food, embroidered fabrics, trinkets and other souvenir gifts.

At 3 that afternoon, I met up with Marichka, a good friend of mine who is from Lviv. We began by walking from Rynok Square, down Сербська вул, Serb’ska St. to a chocolate shop. Outside the shop there was a stand where they were selling the chocolate. Inside the shop was seemingly every kind of chocolate that you could think of. There was a Christmas tree made from the chocolate. Through 2 windows you could see the workers making the chocolate. Lviv is known for its chocolate. We amazingly held off on the chocolate form the moment. We continued on from the shop along, Serb’ska St. to the Bernadine Church and the St. Andrews Church. These two churches were grand buildings that seemed to dominate the surrounding architecture. We turned west and continued past a monument to King Danylo. King Danylo was the founder of the city and named it after his son Lev, which means lion. We left the monument and to be honest I did not know where we were going, I was lost and was just following Marichka’s lead. After a few minutes of walking we ended up in front of a building which I was told was the library for Ivano Franko University, the university there in Lviv. Marichka told me that normally they don’t like to let foreigners in to the library, but after a short conversation with the librarian at the desk, which I did not understand, we were able to enter. Entering the building we went up a flight of stairs and entered a small room where the card catalog is located, which is used for locating books in the library. On the other side of this small room, were double-doors which led to a grand reading room. The room was two-stories high, and the walls were covered in bookshelves. In the center of the room were several reading desks and tables. As grand as this was, I looked up, and taking up the majority of the central area of the ceiling was a large skylight, and surrounding the skylight was intricate plaster work, as well as beautiful paintings which framed the skylight. I was amazed for a moment that, students could actually study there. As we were leaving the library, Marichka mentioned that that building was only for books, and that there was a separate building for journals and other articles.

We left the library and continued on to the university itself. The main building is located along Універсітетська вул, University St. Across the street to the west from the building is Ivan Fanko’s Park. Ivan Franko was a poet and writer who lived from 1856-1916. He was jailed three times for his writings and is seen as an important figure in the movement for Ukrainian independence. At the edge of the park, is a monument to Ivan Franko. The university building itself is immense. Upon entering the building, we were stopped and after Marichka spoke briefly with a guard we were able to enter and get a look around. After going through the main entrance you go up a series of stone steps to the first landing, to the left and right are long corridors which seem to stretch on for quite a ways. After this landing we go up another flight, and come to another landing with more long hallways branching off. Also at this landing is a room known as the Mirror room. Inside the room the walls are covered in tall mirrors, which make the room appear much larger than it actually is. The ceiling above the stairs is vaulted creating a great open space, which makes you seem small. After a short stop in the university, we left to continue our journey around the city, at this point it was about 4:30pm.

There is more to tell, but I am going to split this into several separate posts.

Дуже дякую  (Thank you)

На добраніч (Good Night)

Ivan Franko University Monument to Ivan Franko Monument to King Danylo Monument to King Danylo Bernadine Church Stone Lion in front of City Hall Sign at City Hall Stone Lion at City Hall (2) Statues from roof of the Opera House. City Hall on Rynok Square Ivan Franko Monument (2)

Last few weeks

The last few weeks have been quite busy from a trip to Limerick with the darts club. To finishing a few papers. I have crammed a lot into the last two weeks.
The darts trip was fun we had 6 of us go to compete against the University of Limerick. It was a good time, and we won.
After that it was just a time of finishing a few papers and then going out almost every night to enjoy it.
Thursday morning I left Galway. And after taking a bus to Dublin, a plane to Warsaw, Poland yesterday. Then last night a train from Warsaw to Krakow. Then another train from Krakow. Poland to Lviv, Ukraine that got in at 6:30 this morning. It was quite a trip. Until next time.

Belfast and Northern Ireland: part 2



It is now study week here. A week to finish a few papers in between studying for my two exams. Not too bad, compared to what I’ve had the past few years.


To pick up where the last blog post left off. On Saturday, the 17th of November, I got up at 7am and went down to the dining room to make sure I got a good breakfast in before we would be going on a black cab tour of Belfast. For breakfast I had a fried egg, a croissant, a few pieces of bacon, and a pot of tea. The breakfast tasted wonderful.


After the breakfast, we went outside the hotel to meet the cabs that we’d take for the Black taxi tour around Belfast. We got in the taxi’s and went to our first stop the Shankill Neighborhood in west Belfast.   The Shankill Neighborhood, was a center of paramilitaries during the troubles in Northern Ireland, during the 60s, 70s 80s and 90s. Along the walls of the houses there have been murals painted, each one displaying support for the protestant unionist group in Northern Ireland.   The photo of the mural with the sniper was unnerving to walk past, because no matter where you walked in front of it, the gun barrel seemed to follow you.

After our stop in Shankill, we took the taxis a few miles to the Peace Wall, it is a wall that is 3 miles long and is taller than the Berlin Wall was.  The wall was built to separate a protestant neighborhood on one side, and a catholic neighborhood on the other side. The wall was covered in graffiti and people have signed the wall and left messages. I was able to write my name on the wall. I felt odd, standing at the base of this wall, our guide said that the wall would only be brought down if the people living on either side of the wall felt safe enough to have it removed.

After, we went to the other side of the wall to a memorial to the members from the catholic neighborhood, who had lost their lives during the troubles, one section of the memorial was reserved for IRA members, while the other section was kept for civilians. We were also showed the rubber and plastic bullets that the police used during the troubles to control the violence.

We stopped at another wall that was topped with barbed wire, but which had murals presenting causes of injustice which should be ended.

The Black Cab tour was insightful and just a little bit unsettling, I would defiantly recommend the tour to anyone if you ever get a chance to visit Belfast.


After the tour a small group of us, went on a bus tour around Belfast, and we stopped at Stormont, the parliamentary building in Belfast. Thankfully the rain held off.

Later that evening we went out to the Belfast Christmas Market, there were vendors from all around Europe and it was a very festive atmosphere.

After a late night out, we had an early morning to get on the bus for the 4.5 hour ride back to Galway.

I had a blast getting to visit Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Now photos.



Belfast and Northern Ireland Weekend: Part 1


Well, this past weekend was a blast. The Ifsa-Bulter group of students from around Ireland had a weekend arranged for us to travel to Northern Ireland and stay in Belfast and tour the North for the weekend. This post will be about the first two days of the trip.

We left Galway at noon on Thursday the 15th, and our bus ride took us around 4.5 hours to get to Belfast. We had dinner in the hotel and afterwards a group of us decided to head out and explore around town. We walked from our hotel a few blocks to the Belfast City Hall. There was a giant Christmas tree, as well as a Christmas market that was being set up that opened on Saturday. We continued on past City Hall, and we reached the Victoria Square Mall, the mall is huge but it is open to the outside. After our walk we went back to the hotel because we had to be up early the next morning for a bus tour along the coast to a rope bridge, Dunluce Castle and the Giant’s Causeway.

We left Belfast at 8.30 in the morning and we drove along the Antrim Coast Road, towards our first stop of the day a rope bridge from the coast out to a small rocky outcrop just off shore. The rope bridge was originally used by fishermen would built the bridge so that they could access the island in order to set drift nets off the far side of the island to catch Atlantic Salmon. After a 1km hike from the carpark, up and down alongside the cliff, we reached the rope bridge. The bridge was about 3 feet wide and had a 1 foot wide plank surface to walk across. The ropes that made a railing were about 4 feet tall. Walking across the bridge I could feel it bouncing and jostling from the people, myself included who were crossing the bridge at the same time. Once I made it to the other side of the bridge, I found myself on a small outcrop of rock that provided excellent views of both the ocean as well as the cliffs on the mainland and a few other outcrops in the area. The wind was quite strong once we had made it onto the island and the weather had changed from being partly sunny to overcast and light rain. The views looking at the waves were amazing. From the island, the waves didn’t look too big, but watching them hit the shoreline, you could hear and even feel the power behind the crashing waves. After we spent about half an hour out on the island we made the hike back to the carpark to re-board our bus to take us to our next stop. Continuing our drive along the coast road, we could see the large waves that were rolling ashore, and I even saw quite a few people out surfing in the cold. We then reached the town of Ballycastle where we were going to have lunch. For lunch I had rice with a chicken curry, and lasagna, for desert I had apple pie. After lunch we got back on the bus for the ride to Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce Castle was first constructed in around 1500 AD, by the MacQuillans. After being occupied by several different owners the castle fell into disrepair by 1665, when the MacDonnells moved from the castle to a nearby town. The remains of the castle consist of an outer section and an inner section located on a rock outcrop reached from the outer section by a stone arch bridge. The outer section of the castle located on the mainland, had stables and lodgings built for travelers and visitors to the castle. In the inner section was where the manor house and the kitchens, as well as two corner towers where private quarters were located. The manor house was built in 1620. I was able to climb the stair up into one of the towers and see the view from the tower and how the location of the castle on an outcrop provided it with excellent set of natural defenses from any possible attack. The bridge was protected by a gatehouse located on the mainland side of the bridge. We spent about an hour touring the remains of the castle and then we were back on the bus heading to our last stop of the tour, the Giant’s Causeway.

The Giant’s Causeway is a natural geologic formation that is steeped in Irish Mythology. An Irish myth about how the causeway was formed, was that the giant Finn McCool built the causeway so that he could travel back and forth to Scotland to visit another giant who lived in Scotland, but that after seeing how big the other giant was, Finn McCool broke the causeway apart in order to prevent the other giant from coming over to Ireland. Geologically the causeway is the remains of lava flows that cooled and shrank into the distinctive hexagonal basalt columns. We had to hike along a path from the visitor’s center to reach the causeway. My first impression of the causeway was that it looked like someone had had a giant cookie cutter of interlocking hexagon shapes and had pressed it into the rock creating the distinctive shape of the rocks. I was able to climb around the causeway and get a lot of neat photos. The rain had continued from earlier in the day and so the stones were quite slick to walk on and I had to be careful to watch my step so that I didn’t slip and fall from the tall columns of rock. I also got a great view of the waves crashing against the shore and was able to watch them crash against the causeway and shoreline. Getting to see the Giant’s causeway was an amazing experience.

We returned to the visitor’s center and I got a cup of Irish breakfast tea to warm up. The tea definitely helped to warm me up from the relative cold. We all got back on the buses for the trip back to Belfast and our hotel. Once we got back to Belfast we were on our own for the rest of the evening. A group of five of us went out to search for a place to eat, as well as to experience Belfast.

Now for the photos!

Next time I will cover the rest of the weekend trip to Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Galway and a trip to Dublin

Hello again,


The last two weeks have been quite busy for me between classes and societies, it has been fun.

Last Tuesday the 6th of November, I finished classes at 5 and then had a break until 6 when the NUIG Darts club would be meeting. I played three games of darts and I had a blast, thanks to the tips from the more experienced members of the club I have been getting better since the start of the term.

After Darts finished up at 11, I went home and decided to pull an all nighter in order to watch the US election results come in live. Thanks to the time difference they didn’t start coming in until midnight. It turned out to be a disappointing night as many of the candidates I had been hoping would win, ended up not succeeding. Because of the wait for results I ended up watching 24 on netflix for a bit. Thankfully after that I didn’t have class until 11 Wednesday morning so I was still able to have a bit of a nap before class.

That Saturday, myself along with Pat, Shane, P.J., John and Elyse, decided to take a day trip over to Dublin to go tour the Guinness Storehouse. We took the 11:45am bus from Galway to Dublin, and we got to Dublin 3 hours later at around 3 that afternoon. We spent most of the day wandering around the city, taking photos and just exploring. After a circuitous route we made it to the Guinness Storehouse. We went inside and started the tour, the tour started at the bottom of the world’s largest pint glass, and in the floor was a reproduction of the 9000 year lease that Arthur Guinness signed for the storehouse in 1879. The tour took us through the different ingredients used in making Guinness as well as how it is made, it was really neat to learn about the brewing process. After the tour we,went back outside and walked along the River Liffey to find a place to eat, on our way to the bus stop. We ended up in near Temple Bar, a popular nightspot in Dublin, where we found a restaurant that had burgers for a decent price. After dinner we found the bus stop and got on the right bus to take us back to Galway. Thankfully we had a great day weather wise, we only had rain once we got back to Galway, but it was dry while we were in Dublin.

This past Saturday, the 10th. I ended up just wandering around Galway, trying to explore some areas of the city that I haven’t been to yet. I stumbled upon a awesome bookstore, that I would not have either the space in my suitcase or the money to possibly bring back all the interesting books I saw there. I also walked by the Spanish Arch as well as the Galway Cathedral. It wasn’t raining so it was another great day to be out just wandering around, soaking up the culture.

This Thursday, the IFSA-Butler group has a weekend trip to Belfast and Northern Ireland organized, so I’ll be getting to tour around up there. I’ll be sure to have another post up shortly after I get back from that trip.


Until next time.

Sligo Archaeology Society trip part 2: Lunch and the Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Complex.

Well I have some time in between games of darts here with the NUIG Darts club, so I suppose I should get part 2 up.

First off, to my family and friends who are on the east coast, I hope you are all okay, and that you all made it through the storm unhurt.  Now onto the post.

After finishing up at the Ballinafad Castle ruins, we re-boarded our bus for the five minute ride to a pub, where we would be having lunch. The pub was all decked out in decorations for Halloween. When we first arrived we found seats and were brought out sandwiches for the first course of our lunch. After the sandwiches we had a great vegetable soup, I’m pretty sure that nearly every pub I’ve been in has had a good vegetable soup on offer. After the soup and brown bread to accompany it, we had onion rings and cocktail sausages, the odd smorgasbord would serve me well in boosting my energy for the hike that awaited us after we had finished up at the pub. I finished up my lunch with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits(cookies). From the pub we could see down a ways to a nearby lake.

After our filling lunch, we continued on our trip to the Carrowkeel Passage Tomb complex. We had about a half hour ride before we were dropped off at an intersection because the bus couldn’t navigate the corner. We had a 1 kilometer walk along the road until we arrived at the parking lot which marked the beginning of our actual hike to reach the tombs. We had a 1 km hike from the parking lot, but because of the terrain it seemed like it was longer. Being on the hike reminded me of going out to Colorado with my family and going on hikes with my dad and brothers. The main hike was up and down the sides of two ridges until we reached the base of the ridge on which the passage tombs are located. After about 30 minutes we came to the end of the trail and would have to continue our trek up hill through the boggy ground. I managed to keep my footing in the slippery ground on the way up the ridge to the tombs. There are three tombs at the particular location we were at, they are situated in a roughly north-south line on the top of a ridge that runs north to south. Because of our numbers in our group we split into two groups and my group led by our guide Richard, went to the furthest tomb, one of the two which we would be able to enter. We were told that these passage tombs were older than the pyramids.

The first time I looked at the passage tomb, it appeared to be just a mound of broken rock. But as we came closer I was able to see the entrance to the passage tomb. The entrance to the passage tomb, was about two and a half feet tall and about the same wide, so to enter I had to crawl on my hands and knees and enter facing out. I also had to keep my head down to avoid hitting my head on the overlying slabs of rock that were holding up the ceiling. After crawling about seven feet I was able to stand because I had entered the main chamber of the passage tomb. The Chamber was about 6 feet wide, so there was just enough room for the 7 of us to all squeeze in at the same time. The chamber had three small recesses on each side of the chamber. The ceiling of the chamber was held up by eight large stones, the ceiling was made up of large slabs of stone stacked one on top of the other, each one angled by small stones wedged in between the stones and each one cantilevered out over the opening of the chamber. To top the vaulted ceiling off, was a capstone, which by its weight would press down on the other ceiling slabs to make them more securely in their places. The vaulted ceiling was about 9 feet. Looking in the chamber towards the passage leading to the entrance gave me a view of a light box, which is a space right above the stones that make up the passage entrance. In this tomb, named Tomb K, the light box was collapsed so I could not see out of it. Our guide Richard, told us that the remains that would be buried in the passage tombs were incinerated, as a form of burial practice, but because they could not get the temperatures high enough they were not incinerated. The remains were then placed in pottery vessels that would then be placed upside down, with the opening facing down inside the tombs. These vessels would be placed into every space in the tomb, they would fill all of the little spaces that lined the walls of the chamber, they would even place the vessels so that they were just on the other side of the stones that made up the walls of the passage leading to the entrance. Once they would have the capstone on top, they would cover the passage tomb in a cairn- mass of small stones- to cover and add to the size of the monument. The ancient Irish who built the passage tombs here did not use tools to quarry or move the massive stone slabs to the sites where the tombs are. To quarry them they would build fires along lines of cracks in the stone, and after the fire had burned for a while they would quench the fire, causing the rock to split, they would then rebuild the fire inside the widened crack and repeat the process until the slab of rock would release from the quarry wall. They did not have any cranes or machinery so they had to move the slabs of rock into place entirely by hand.

After we had finished in the Tomb K, our group went down the ridge about 200 yards to get to Tomb H, the other tomb that I could enter. Like the first tomb, I had to crawl backwards on my hands-and knees to gain access to the tomb. The entrance passage was only about 2 feet long on this tomb. Also the light box was cleared so I could see out from in the chamber. Our guide was saying that there is some interesting viewing that happens on the spring solstice when the sun aligns with the light box. This chamber was much the same as the chamber in the first passage tomb.

I will be honest that as I first entered the chamber on the first passage tomb I did have a feeling of excitement that I was exploring something that was older than the pyramids. It was quite an experience standing up into the chamber of the tomb that was lit only by a torch( flashlight), it was quite spooky, yet exciting with my wondering of what could be just out of view in the pitch darkness of the tombs. Also while outside the tomb it was chilly, inside it was bone dry and quite comfortable temperature wise. Strangely although they stay bone dry, the many sheep who populate the surrounding area, do not enter the tombs when it is raining.

After leaving the second passage tomb, we made our way down the ridge mindful to watch our step in traversing the bog, to avoid any sprained ankles or worse. Thankfully I made it back to the tail without incident. After a pleasant hike back to the bus, during which I had an enjoyable conversation with two other members of our group about various topics concerning Archaeology and Ireland in general, we arrived back at the bus for our trip back to Galway. Our bus left Carrowkeel at about 5pm, and we arrived in Galway at around 8:30pm. Thus finally after a long but amazing and enjoyable day, I got home at around 9pm, I then had some food and ended up going over to another apartment to relax and hang out with some friends.

Now to the Photos! Yay!

I’ll update the photo captions when I get a chance, time for my to have a round of darts again.

Until next time.