Wednesday, June 13, 2012
We could not come up with any feasible way of getting back from here to Lviv for tonight’s match between Denmark and Portugal. Markus has, very fortunately, come to our rescue by offering to drive us up. After dropping us of he will drive on to Poland where his son will pick up his second jeep which broke down a few weeks ago on its way back to Ukraine from England.
There’s just time to have a final walk around Chernivitsi which is home to some gorgeous squares, buildings, churches and possibly the world’s most architecturally stunning university building. The city is an absolute diamond in the rough but remains completely undiscovered by mass tourism.
There are six of us in the Land Rover including Markus’ Ukrainian wife and boy as we set off for Lviv. It is a 4.5 hour journey which fortunately doesn’t have quite the same heart-in-the-mouth stress as yesterday’s fortress trip.
As we get close to Lviv corrupt traffic police are trying to pull over as many cars as they can and bag on-the-spot fines rather than allowing things to run smoothly up until kick off. It is a mess finding anywhere to even set down guests as we make it to the stadium. Markus has been a complete diamond during our couple of days with him and is certainly the main man if you are thinking of travelling out to western Ukraine. We throw him some petrol money, briefly hug and set off for the Lviv stadium as he and his family burn off into the distance towards Poland.
Neil has unselfishly sacrificed not getting into tonight’s match as he trolleybuses it off to Lviv train station in search of overnight train tickets to kyiv.
Inside the stadium I bump into my friend from the Latvian FA, Martins, who is working for UEFA in Lviv. It’s a top game with Denmark pulling back from 2-0 down only for Portugal to snatch a 3-2 winner. In the media centre Andy Townsend looks knackered and appears to be wearing a flack jacket. Perhaps he was in Chernivitsi as well and we never spotted him…
After the match I leg it for the number 10 bus to the train station and somehow make it there with a good hour to spare before our overnight train (which Neil has managed to bag while I was at the stadium). Lviv stadium is an absolute beauty. They certainly don’t build train stations that look like this anymore. This Art Nouveau masterpiece handles more than 1 million passengers per year and also has one of the best keeping-it-real railway station bars I have had the pleasure of sitting in. More goosebumps on the arms as we head for the platform and board our overnight Soviet train to Kyiv, three Lvovske beers each to help us get to sleep. We are sharing a sleeping cabin with Oksana and her little lad Nikolai. After the train trundles out of Lviv and we discuss the events of the past few days, it is finally time to crash down in our carriage ahead of our early morning arrival in the capital, Kyiv.