Friday, December 4, 2009

Planning Stage: Ukraine (Part 3: Lviv)

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There is an urban legend about a prisoner of war who, in order to preserve his sanity while in captivity, retreated to a "warm, safe place" in his imagination: his favorite golf course. Every day he pictured himself playing a round of golf. When at last he was free and back in the United States he picked up his golf clubs, strolled out onto the course, and played the best round of golf in his life.

While the story is probably fiction, the value of visualization in sports is well-known. I read an excellent book on gymnastics from the Sport Psychology Library which discussed this concept. I think people who read fake or removed-from-context "inspiring stories" in motivational books would be better off studying how real athletes deal with real pressure when they compete (objective biographies are also instructional).

Nowadays, as I unwrap and assemble Office Depot boxes, pack up books, and plug holes in my walls, I frequently imagine myself in Ukraine. What will I look like over there? How will I carry myself? For that matter, how will I carry two CD turntables and a mixer without breaking my back? My disadvantage in visualizing Ukraine is that I am not already personally familiar with that "golf course," so I cannot expect to play the best game of my life there. But like a gymnast who has seen competition elsewhere, I have been to other places with overlapping elements. I am familiar with the "overcharge the American tourist" taxi scam; it's the same in Romania as it is in Ukraine. I find that city metro systems are all fairly similar and all pretty navigable, whether it's the sprawling one in Paris or the simpler "cross and ring" of Bucharest's. So, while Ukraine intimidates me because it is an unfamiliar destination, I am betting that many situations I encounter over there will overlap with past travel experiences.


Lviv was recently deemed the best city in Ukraine to live in. It seems to have a progressive vibe to it (just the sort of place where one might expect to find the excellent DJ Tonika spinning drum and bass).

It looks a million miles away from Kiev. The streets are lined by old buildings very similar in appearance to those you'd find in just-over-the-border Poland. It looks like a less manic place than Kiev, so it might be a nice way to wind down from the energy of that city. All is not perfectly idyllic; somebody writes that the city has corruption problems in the business sector. I'm not sure if my sort of business as a DJ would be impacted by that or not.

It's a sprawling city of under a million people, most of whom probably live in the drab, communist-era apartment buildings surrounding the city (I imagine it's a lot like Lublin, Poland in that regard). However, the historic center is said to be very charming, and there are affordable hostels located in it.

Advertised apartment rentals are as expensive as budget hotels in Kiev, so the hostel route once again seems to be the best way to go. Hostels cost between $7 and $15 a night (and $15 guarantees you a single room, which may well be worth paying for for at least a couple days after the high pressure cooker I expect to encounter in Kiev). Traveling in the dead of winter means I might be able to get a double room all to myself.

(An aside on the subject of the dead of winter: the Bradt travel guide notes that in winter Ukraine daylight hours amount to a total of seven.)

The Nightclubs and Discos

I am quite intrigued by the whole disco/casino/strip club combo concept, which I had not encountered before elsewhere in Europe. This seems to be the norm in Ukraine.

Millennium might be the most progressive of these entertainment complexes, since every Thursday they invite "all women to get pleasure from watching a bright show of Kiev strip dancers." The men get their show on Friday. By the way, the female DJ in the photo off the preceeding link is, I think, the aforementioned DJ Tonika. However, some describe it as a place for "high rollers," which might make it off limits for the trashy street pigeon. Then again, as the name of my blog suggests, one club's trash may be another club's treasure.

Disco Mi100 is another big entertainment center with the usual mix of strip club and disco, and in this case also bowling. This place actually looks like a lot of fun when reviewing pictures. The DJ talent seems to be bigger names, but the intimacy of the dancefloor makes it look like just a cool little disco. It smells like a possibility.

Picasso is described as being popular with the student crowd. It looks like a fun joint.

Pirate-themed Tortuga has a very strong student vibe, and reminds me somewhat of Slovenia's Metelkova. This could be an excellent choice for DJ'ing.

San Remo is said to be a popular student venue, but I cannot find a web page on it.

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