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Ukrainian hotel chain Premier and New Time are conducting a social project "Personal experience". The idea of the project is to show Ukraine with its tourist realities and possibilities through the eyes of a guest who discovers the country. We announced an international competition and invited a foreigner who, after traveling around Ukraine will share his tourist impressions. The hero of the project became the American Richard Benton.
For the first time in Lviv, Richard, a doctor of science from Minneapolis, turned out to be in 2006. He taught Hebrew at the Ukrainian Catholic University for a month (UCU). Thirteen years later, Richard came to Lviv again to see how the city had changed during that time.
The road to Lviv
I first came to Ukraine in the 90s as a foreign student. Therefore,when In 2006, my friend, a professor at the Ukrainian Catholic Foundation in Wisconsin, proposed me to teach in Lviv, I immediately agreed. I came with my wife and two daughters.I understood then that Lviv is a familial town, in Kiev it would probably be harder to live with my family.
My journey to Lviv began with the train. This is the first indicator of changes. When I first came to Ukraine in the 90s there were coupe and economy class trains. It seems to me that the economy class trains could exist only in the Soviet Union, I have not seen this anywhere else. It looked worryingly because you didn't know whether or not your things will be stolen while you sleep. But modern Ukrainian Intercity is comfort, time and money saving. I remember once people took food with them.Now, if you're hungry you can get something tasty on the train. I bought a salad. At first I thought it would be a beetroot salad, because salads in January in the trains did not existed , especially with greens.
The appearance of the city
Lviv railway station has not changed since 2006. It’s just as convenient as before, but there are a lot of cars and advertising banners. Thirteen years ago, wherever you looked, there were metal stalls and ice cream trays. Now there are shops instead of the stalls and in place of trays with ice cream now there is coffee, it is everywherе in Lviv.
There are also a lot of public spaces. A center was built near UCU, where students can learn and relax. In 1993 we didn’t have such places to drink coffee and to talk for a long time. Therefore, we went on a visit. Our discos were a loud working tape recorder in the dorm room.
Changes in infrastructure are noticeable in transport. Lviv trams I remembered old, with metal seats. Now, for example, the eighth tram looks modern: soft seats, music and passengers can buy tickets from the phone.
I made my route in Lviv by myself and consulted with the staff of the Premier Hotel Dnister. I was told about the new center of the UCU, I also wanted to see the Armenian Church, stroll through the city center, and even go to the Stryi Park. When i travel It is important for me to see not only tourist places, but also those that have special significance for me.
Once in Lviv we lived next to the Stryisky park, imagine how nice see that in the place where my children were photographed thirteen years ago, now other kids do the same photo. Nothing changed.
I also wanted to see people I worked with or taught at UCU in 2006. We wrote a post in social networks and found my former students.
Lviv attractions no less than in European cities. There is something to see, and the prices are much lower. For 500 hryvnia, you can sit together in good institution. In Europe or in America it is almost impossible to do this.
In general, the city is very comfortable for tourists and I like the climate. Maybe it just because i'm from Minnesota - one of the coldest states in America. Ukrainians love warm. When I went to Ukraine for the first time it was very hot in the coupe. Summer - the window is locked. At midnight I had to stand between the cars wearing only pants to at least breathe some cool.
Beer instead of coffee
If we talk about the choice of restaurants and food in Lviv, it is huge. There is everything even for the most capricious gourmet. For me, any food is tasty in good company. In Lviv I found this company. I was talking in a cafe with a stranger about politics, the Bible and culture for a long time. After returning to the hotel, I met with the Italians.
They praised the Lviv restaurants. When an American says that the food is tasty, this is one thing, but when the Italians say this- it is a completely different matter. By the way, it was from the terrace of the Premier Hotel Dnister that I saw the best view of the city from a bird’s eye view One situation made me laugh. I heard that Lviv has the largest number of coffee houses per capita. Walking around the center, I decided to ask passers-by where there is delicious coffee. Some guy replied: “I don’t know where the coffee is, but I know very well where the beer is” and offered to go there together. I joked that it was only one o'clock in the afternoon and still too early for beer.
I decided to conduct an experiment - first I spoke with people in Ukrainian. Asked what kind of beer the waiter can advise. He replied that everything is good. I tried to ask more about some varieties, but I did not see enthusiasm on his part, so I took the first one from the list. In another institution I already spoke in English.The waiter also switched to English, which he mastered well, took me to a bar, poured several small glasses and said: "try, like it? If not, then here is another."
That is, the attitude was different. Interestingly, when I spoke Ukrainian, people thought I was from Canada.
Lviv is a very open city. For example, walking along the center, we accidentally met the mayor of the city, Andrey Sadov. He passed by. We approached, talked nicely. He said he was glad to welcome us in Lviv. This is rarely seen.
At the same time, Kiev is more multinational, also in the capital, art more goes to the masses. For example, Khreshchatyk is a large Soviet Union boulevard, which is not very interesting in itself, but people make it interesting with their creativity. Lviv is an ancient city, there is no need to add anything. By the way, I noticed that the Soviet Union was very fond of boulevards.
In Kharkov they say: "our square is the largest in Europe". But nowhere in Europe I have not heard anyone say: "Our area is second in scale after Kharkov." They say that Lviv is the cultural capital, for me it is the spiritual capital. There are UCU, temples and monasteries. During the liturgy the church is filled with people. I was in Athens during the crisis - the mood there is depressed.
Then we went to the Saloniki - people are open, everything is easy. I asked the taxi driver: "Why are these cities so different?" - and he replied: "We are just here near holy Mount Athos, for us the main is belief in God." I see it in Lviv.
Ukraine changed me
Life in Ukraine completely changed me from the inside. When I returned to America, I was so depressed, because people there are not able to simply make contact with strangers and to be so hospitable. Here, especially in the 90s, you could meet someone on the street and immediately go with this person on a visit. Then everyone had the same things, there was nothing to steal.
When I first went to Ukraine, I did not know either Kiev or the language, so that's why at the station I was supposed to be met. But I was not met. Fortunately, on the train, I met a teacher of English, she saw that I was confused and invited me to her home and offered to stay as long as necessary. We called the guy who was supposed to meet me.The woman picked up the phone and screamed at him for a long time. And after a few hours he came for me. I do not know what I would do without her kindness. In America, everyone is on his own, and the Ukrainians, especially in the 90s, were very open to each other. Now this can be found less and less.
* Premier hotel chain - is a national hotel operator with 15 years of experience. Today the chain consists of 19 hotels in 14 Ukrainian tourist destinations. The vector of development of the company, as an ambassador of Ukrainian tourism, is focused on the management of hotel facilities, hotel consulting, capital construction, franchising and education in the field of hospitality. In 2019, the network will expand due to the opening of an apart-hotel in Bukovel, Premier Resort Hotel Bukovel and a completely reconstructed hotel Yunost Premier Resort Hotel Odesa in Odessa. All hotels of the network are united by a single standards of quality of facilities and services. www.phnr.com
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