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Ukraine - Lviv, April 2019

Lviv, Ukraine, 13. 4. 2019



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Lviv, Ukraine, April 13, 2019

It took me 80 minutes by car to get from my hometown Nitra to the Milan Rastislav Štefánik Airport in Bratislava. From the airport it’s only a short 55 minute flight to Lviv. A picturesque city located in the western part of Ukraine near the border with Poland.


Dima – a lviv1member of the Lviv Pipe Club – was waiting for me at the airport. This pipe club is in charge of organizing the World Cup 2019, this year’s top competition in slow pipe smoking. I had 3 main reasons why I decided to visit Lviv personally.

First, Pipe Club Lviv asked me if they can use my timekeeping software during this competition and we wanted to make sure that everything works smoothly.

Moreover, I also wanted to provide support by sharing the experience I gained during organizing the European Championships in Slovakia back in 2016.

Finally yet most importantly, I was very curious to find out how does the city of Lviv looks and feels, especially in the light of the problems that Ukraina is facing on its far eastern border.


I have found something completely different from what I was expecting.

Coffee

First, Dima took me to the hotel. As it was only noon and my room was not ready yet, we decided to have a coffee in a nearby cafeteria. Here I experienced the first “unexpected”. I am a lover of small and strong coffees and to be honest I was not expecting to enjoy much coffee in Ukraine. How was I surprised to find that virtually all the coffees I ever had in this city (and there were many) met the highest quality criteria you can expect from a good ristretto. Lviv is a city of good coffee, which is not only served, but also roasted at almost every corner. It almost felt like coffee had a position of a special, small religion, followed by all of Lviv’s population.

Beer

After a short break, we had our first working meeting with Igor, another member of Lviv’s pipe club. We spent the afternoon going through the basic workflow of the software.


Several hours later I got to meet other members of the Pipe Club Lviv in one of many beautiful inns with beer not being only sold, but also brewed. Beer, like coffee, is brewed with love and care in virtually every decent pub. The sheer amount as well as diversity of flavors is overwhelming. Local people are well aware of this and that’s why they first offered me a wooden tray with five small samples to taste from.

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You have to be careful when choosing – many beers are excellent yet many may taste completely different from what you are used to.

Our evening meeting went really well. I was informed about the World Cup preparations and in return, I talked about our practical experience. Despite the fact that none of my hosts was extremely proficient in English, they decided that there was no need to provide an interpreter as we all belong to the wide family of Slavs with me being from Slovakia and my newly found friends from Ukraine, understanding the basics of each other’s language. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical in the beginning, but it turned out they were right. After the second beer, the interpreter was no longer needed...

Chocolate

Besides coffee and beer, people of Lviv serve and prepare chocolate in many shops throughout the city. The sweet fragrance spreads from countless small cafes and pastry shops and it is nearly impossible to resist it. Lviv is also a city of chocolate.

Culture

Churches, temples and synagogues are practically everywhere. Whether it’s a short walk through the city center or a thorough visit to the old and beautiful buildings, lovers of historical monuments will definitely find what they like.

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Cuisine

During my travels, I was fortunate enough to visit many cities around the world. Nevertheless, in none of them did I find so many cozy restaurants. The most beautiful of them were located in inconspicuous places where I got only thanks to my local guides. Tourists can virtually find any cuisine they can imagine, whether it is Italian, Chinese, French, or local food.


My friends took me to an old restaurant called Reberna, located in an old building that served many centuries ago as an armory. Reberňa is one of those places that focuses on one thing and delivers it with utmost perfection – roasted pork ribs. All I received was a paper apron with ribs drawn all over. When I have asked for cutlery, the waiter draw a plate with a fork on the paper table cover in front of me. Pork ribs have to be eaten with bare hands and did we eat a lot of them…

City and people

If I were to choose one city that Lviv reminded me the most of, it would be Prague. What surprised me the most was the number of people walking in the city center. The temperatures in Lviv during my visit were hovering somewhere between rather cold 5 and 10 degrees Celsius, but the number of tourists was far above my expectations. All restaurants and cafés, including outdoor seating, were full. The city was throbbing with life, people were smiling, and the street artists further enriched the already lively atmosphere.

I found out very quickly that if you have a problem or are unable to orient yourself, just ask the locals. They may not speak English, but everyone will do their best to understand you and help you. Slavs are have a long tradition of warm hospitality and respect for guests. Nobody would ever ask for money in exchange for help. Quite the contrary – trying to pay for a little advice could make the proud Ukrainians feel offended.

On the first day I was consciously looking for any hint that would suggest that this country is suffering from a military conflict on its eastern border, but I couldn’t find one single symptom of this. Lviv is a vibrant metropolis, same, if not better than in any other corner of the world with a rich history, vivid culture, and a pulsating life.

Altogether, I spent three days in this amazing city. I was greeted with a warm welcome and traditional Slavic hospitality when Dima and his family and our friends at the Pipe Club Lviv took care of me all the time. I was convinced that the preparations for the smoker's top smoking event are in full swing and I am sure that these people will prepare a worthy meeting for pipe smokers from all over the world.

Dima and other members demonstrated also their online registration system with an online payment option. Accommodation for participants will be prepared at the Dniester Hotel, which every participant can book directly from the website after registering with a discount. I saw also the venue of the competition itself, and the hall for the gala. My hosts have informed me that a rich cultural program is prepared for the gala evening that nobody should miss out.

Problems, risks and conclusion

As I mentioned in the introduction, due to the conflict on the eastern border of this country, I was consciously expecting and looking for some signs of this problem. But I found absolutely nothing. I was fascinated by the city and have experienced one of the most pleasant “working vacations” in my life.

However, every report has to be balanced. Positives can be appreciated only if one is aware of the negatives, according to the principle of yin and yang.

In this perspective I had to ask myself honestly the following question: Did I find anything that can be considered as a negative during my stay in Lviv?

It took me some time, but eventually I found it.

During my hotel booking, I expected a smooth and easy process as Lviv has a large number of hotels in all possible categories. But I ended staying in my third or fourth best option as none of my personal favorites had free rooms. I was quite surprised as my trip happened in mid of April, which is definitely not the peak of the tourist season.
However, I found out during my stay that even outside the tourist season, Lviv is full of foreign tourists. Streets are buzzing with tourists during the day and they are even fuller at night. Finding a free place on the terrace of one of the many cozy cafes can be sometimes quite challenging. Although the high number of tourists means a good source of income for the residents, I feel that this city might face a similar problem with accommodating large numbers as Amsterdam, Venice or Barcelona in few years’ time.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that even with such a high number of tourists, Lviv can easily welcome another 300-400 pipe-smokers and their partners and prepare for them an unforgettable experience they will long remember.
I’m sure that the passion of Lviv pipe smoking club members, their enthusiasm and high motivation is a solid prerequisite for preparing a successful 2019 World cup.


Michal Koža
Pipe Club Nitra
April 2019

Michal Koža | 13.4.2019, 15:47 | Nitra