It’s my first time to Ukraine and most stories I’ve heard about this place turn out to be true. Arrival at the airport was an interesting experience already. When the plane landed the first vehicle to approach it was an old Soviet truck painted yellow. An elderly, unshaved man in dirty clothes descended and connected a power cable to the aircraft. Then a whole bunch of uniformed women appeared followed by the bus.

The airport building is small and reminded me of a small railroad station. Whole passport and customs control crew was women in uniform (and with heavy makeup). Passport control was serious, questions were asked for example what is my name (clearly written in the passport and on an immigration form). Then my luggage was X-rayed, then they sold me health insurance for 5 euro and finally I was finally shaking hands with our country manager here.

Since then I have seen a bit of the city while driving through it from my hotel in the center to the outskirts where the office is. Overall Lviv must have been a very beautiful city before up until the Soviet invasion in 1939. The center is picturesque, but in rather bad shape. Many buildings are in need of renovation, but there is lots of nice 19th century architecture in the city center. The belt of ugly apartment block neighborhoods outside of the city is absolutely hideous. So are the industrial quarters – most buildings in appalling state.

To complete the picture add to that people who don’t look friendly and hectic traffic composed of dirty cars with no respect whatsoever for pedestrians. However, I have to admit women are nice around here. Judging by the girls from the office they are also more feminine, gentle in their behavior. But most of them wear rather heavy, old fashioned makeup. And some have distinctly Russian features, which for me ruins the attraction some. Still, I’ve seen at least as many nice blondes here as in Cracow.

All in all it is definitely not a place I would like to visit as a tourist, without the protective shell of our office here. They drive me and the team from Switzerland around, escort us everywhere and make sure we don’t clash with the Ukrainian reality.

And that is pretty harsh. For example: most of the city has no running water all the time. Supposedly the water system was not upgraded since fifties and can’t cope with the load. So, they solve the problem by switching the supply from one neighborhood to another every few hours. People also complained about inadequate heating in their homes – something that might be serious in the region with rather cold winters. With average monthly income around $200, half of which is spent on rent life of an average Ukrainian is spent struggling to make the ends meet.

Having said all that – if the Ukrainians will be lucky and will develop their economy and state then in twenty years it might be a great city again.