Sunday afternoon in the park, as I walk out of my Art Nouveau 1901 Hotel George, the oldest in Ukraine and stroll down Svobody Prospekt(Freedom Road) in the heart of L'viv, seemingly more Viennese than Ukrainian., and called 'The Florence of the East'.The park that runs down the centre from Adam Michiewicz Square down to the Opera House is full of hustle and bustle.
It's a mixture of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Copacabana Beach promenade and London's Hyde Park. Groups of old men animatedly talking politics, babies in strollers holding on to balloons, bearded guys smoking and playing chess on the park benches, couples embracing, babushkas (wizened old women) selling flowers, kids whizzing around the space in front of the magnificant Opera House fountain in mechanical toy cars. A big crowd is gathered by the huge statue of the national poet Taras Shevchenko listening to Brahms on the loudspeakers as names are read out, a dozen at a time, by 3 students, and candles being lit-maybe for wartime dead, I don't know. The statue was paid for by Ukrainians in Argentina.
I walk a couple of blocks past the Cathedral and into Pl. Rynok and Ratuska(Town Hall) Square. There are lots of coffee houses and indoor and outdoor restaurants on this warm evening. At one corner there is a statue of Neptune and on the other corner one of Diana, goddess of hunting, with her dogs. Next to it is a small floodlit dance floor with couples dancing the tango, and in the middle some Gypsie fire dancers entrancing the crowd. Opposite the Town Hall with its Rennaissance Tower is No 14, home of THE MOST wonderful themed restaurant on this planet!!!.KRYJIVKA www.kryjivka.com.ua
You go down a short alley and there is a large door with a 'speakeasy' style flap. You knock, its opened and you say some pass word-I say 'F.B.I.' and the big door is opened by a guy in dark green battledress and a machine gun. He gives you a shot of vodka, and when you have drunk it in one gulp he points you to the left, a fake bookcase. He opens it to some steep stairs to the basement. There are three huge underground 'caves' decorated with netting, old photos of the defenders of this land against the Russians, and who lived underground. There are weapons, uniforms, old faded photos and posters, patriotic souvenirs, bullets strewn on the floor and an electric menu-and its full of diners and drinkers and smokers. Fourty five different brands of cigarettes and cigars are on sale. Fire hazzard?, you bet. 136.000 Jews were murdered in the L'viv getto, and altogether 300,000 local people lost their lives in 'The Great Patriotic War.'
Some of the menu offerings include: 'The haggard delight of a Partizan woman' (home made baked sausages); 'Hero's first communion' (borsch). Pork Leg ' Division hero dinner'; 'The forest gauleiters dinner',(beef baked with goat cheese; 'Adios Liberators' (stewed cabbage); 'A virgin partisan woman'(forest fruits and ice cream); 'Patriots elixir' (syrup, horse gowen, hips) -Over 400 items and drinks.
The next morning I go the short distance round the corner from the hotel and up 4 flights of stairs to the offices of Karpaty Lviv, in the Premier league. The office has a wall covered in scarves of world football clubs,and they take down their scarf as a present to me. It's 10 years since they played in a European competition, against Halsingborgs of Sweden. One guy, is an England fan, another supports West Ham. Oleh, Taras and Viacheslav. They are planning a football fan's tournament in a few weeks, with fans such as Chelsea FC taking part. www.gokarpaty.org
Next I go back to the Town Hall, Room 417 to the LVIV 2012 office with a big plan of the proposed stadium on one wall. Mariya Lupynis has on her desk dozens of designs for the L'viv 2012 poster, and one of the artists shows up to discuss the competition. Go to www.lviv.ua and click on EURO 2012 and you can enter on line. She is a student of football stadiums world wide, but it's getting a little late to start planning for the new stadium, to be built in a new out of town area.