The Poltva: Lviv’s Underground River

By Chris Wilkinson The old city center of Lviv seems to have it all. Medieval  and Baroque architectural wonders, a magnificent Neo-Renaissance opera house, cobblestone streets, fashionable coffee houses and eye popping, colorful buildings. This ensemble was deemed worthy of UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The cliché that you have […]

Keeping Track of Austrian Military Recruits: Conscription Numbers in Lviv

Under the Austrian Empire (Galicia was established in 1772), buildings were given conscription numbers, which served as addresses until 1871. (See also examples of conscription numbers in other parts of the Austrian Empire: Vienna, Klosterneuburg, and Przemyśl.) “House numbers, also called house conscription numbers, had their origins with the Austrian imperial […]

Benchmarks in Lviv: How Elevation Was Marked in the Past

A benchmark is a geographic point whose elevation has been measured and recorded to a high level of accuracy. The height of a benchmark is calculated relative to the heights of nearby benchmarks in a network extending from a fundamental benchmark (a point which records a height to extreme accuracy). Benchmarks are […]

Bomb Shelter Steel Covers in Vienna

In Vienna one can still find the covers to WWII civilian bomb shelters. Originally I thought these metal grates were either storm drains or vaults lights with missing glass, but I discovered that in fact they were covers for ventilation shafts and emergency exits. Across the territory of Nazi Germany […]

German-Era Bomb Shelter Signs in Lviv

During the Nazi-occupation of Lviv from 1941 to 1944, the Germans established bomb shelters in basements around the city. To this day we can still see some of the signage, namely, the letters “NA” and an arrow pointing to the shelter. According to one source, “NA” (short for “Notausgang”) marked […]

Guard Stones of Lviv: Protecting the City’s Corners

Guard stones are exterior architectural elements made of metal, stone, or concrete located at the corners of entryways, carriage driveways, or gateways to protect walls from carriage wheel damage. Once an important element of the horse-drawn transportation infrastructure, guard stones have become largely obsolete as cars do not pose the […]

The Forgotten Boot Scrapers of Lviv

Many years ago I started noticing strange-looking metal objects near certain doors in Lviv. I didn’t give them much thought until I saw one in Przemyśl, Poland, and my friend told me what it was: a boot scraper. Little did I know that this was the start of a new […]

Stiles in the Carpathians

Stiles, or perelazy in Ukrainian, are structures that provide people with a way to easily pass over a fence while at the same time preventing farm animals from passing through. Stiles are found in the countryside around the world and come in all kinds of forms. In the Carpathians, they […]

Lviv’s Curious German-Language Watermark

In one of Lviv’s courtyards I stumbled across a curious sign pointing to a water level. My first thought was that it is a benchmark—a point of known elevation marked for the purpose of surveying. However, unlike the other prewar benchmarks that I have seen in Lviv—small metal plaques with […]

Carriage Curbs in Lviv

In many of Lviv’s old buildings there is a porte-cochère, a passageway through a building designed to let carriages pass from the street to an interior courtyard. Along the sides of the porte-cochère is an elevated platform, which functioned as a sort of sidewalk for people to be able to […]