Posted: 10/9/2008


      I climbed aboard my carriage on the night train to Kiev at Krakow Glowny (main station) and went to bunk no 51 and met my new travelling companions, both Ukrainian, Eugeni on his way home to Kiev, and Dobran going only as far as Lviv like myself. The night wagons were run by a company called WARS, on behalf of PKP Polish State Railways, and just after 1.15 pm we slowly moved off. It would be midnight before we reached Lviv in Western Ukraine, a journey that should have only taken half that time.

      Heaven help the poor traveller at EURO 2012 if things don't improve.  The carriages were well designed and clean and we put up the bunks to leave a couch to relax on and we spread out our picnic supplies. I had brought bananas, ham, Gouda cheese slices, multigrain bread and bottled fizzy water. Eugenie produced delicious large, crisp apples, Polish sausages and giant tomatoes, while Dobran went for frequent smoking breaks in the WC at the end of the carriage. Three hours later we stopped at Przemyl, the last Polish town, and there we got off and strolled around for 2 hours while the carriages went to have their 'bogeys' changed for the wider Ukrainian tracks.

    We went shopping, and I bought stamps and mailed a  birthday card to Mattie, spend half an hour at an internet cafe, and we drank tea - Lipton's yellow label, at a bar. On our return to the station we went through Polish emmigration and sat on board for another hour. When the train finally started up it trundled maybe 15 km to the border and stopped again for 45 minutes.  Can you imagine 1,000 or more Dutch or English fans, drunk and pissed off and what mischief they would get up to?

     Three troops in forest green camaflauge got on board (guys, I can see you, in the wood panelled corridor!!). Then a dachshund drug sniffing dog came by, but took no interest in my bananas ,and then a STUNNER of a definately female immigration officer called Svetlana in a tight fitting back uniform pant suit with blue and yellow Ukrainian shoulder epaulettes and a narrow green stripe down the pants. She had dark chestnut hair and the narrowest pointed 'winklepicker' toed black boots I had ever seen. Remember the scene in James Bond's 'From Russia with Love' where Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya)of Spectre tries to poison 007 with a stilletoe in her shoe in a Venice hotel room?  If UEFA wants to attract tourists they should definitely feature her in posters and videos!!

     We put our watches forward 1 hour from Central to Eastern European time and off we went. At Lviv I said goodbye to Eugenie, who would meet me again on Sunday morning in Kiev and show me around. Dobran was met at Lviv Station by his wife Barbara and his 20 year old son who said his name was 'Little Dobran'. and they kindly  gave me a ride to The George Hotel. It's the oldest hotel in all of Ukraine and very elligent and famous. Irene at the front desk had been waiting for me.

      LVIV has had a number of names as various armies marched through,(Lviv, Lemberg, Lviv, Leopolis) but was fairly prosperous 150 years ago as part of the vast Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire and in 1888 the railways arrived and linked it to Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest and Vienna.  It is one of 4 Ukrainian cities to host EURO 2012.