This interview was published on my favorite website about Kyiv in March 2011, after Manchester City’s away game with Dynamo Kyiv. The original article in Russian is here. The original Author is Ezhi Rud. Below is my translation of the interview. And sorry for my bad English
We would be happy to publish some positive reviews of foreigners about Kyiv, but there are not too much of them. Unfortunately, there are much more negative ones. So, let us introduce some Kyiv impressions of Jonathan, a fan of Manchester City FC, who had decided on such a risky thing as a trip to Kyiv on his own.
Our acquaintance could not happen if I wouldn’t have forgotten my monthly Kyiv metro ticket at my workplace. Near the metro cash desk my attention was drawn by a well-dressed middle-aged foreigner, uselessly trying to ask the cashier about how much to pay for “that blue thing” (metro coin). After watching this situation, I bought another one and “treated” Mr. Alien with it.
As it turned out, the Englishman Jonathan (a philologist by education) wanted to get to the nonexistent station Arsenal, and to meet a few dozens of fellow Manchester City fans near the Monument of Glory. I promised Jonathan to take him to the place, in exchange for his story.
“Holy crap!” – started Jonathan – “Your city is truly erratic. We already have EURO-2012 booklets in UK, describing clean streets, European hotels, friendly staff and automatic tourist terminals with city maps almost at every corner. In fact, I found only one such terminal in downtown Kyiv, and it was not working. Believe me, football tourism for me is nothing new – I’ve been to Lisbon in 2004, and to Hamburg in 2006, and to Zurich in 2008. Lisbon was the worst one, but if to compare it with Kiev, all the services and staff were on top.”
The unprepared public service workers, according to Jonathan, are a major problem in Kyiv:
“It’s terrible – I just couldn’t ask anyone for a direction. When I came up with a question to anyone, even a policeman, he looked at me with his mouth open and eyes bulging and said something like “eeerrrmmm”. Since my arrival in Kyiv I’ve heard enough of such sounds – even at McDonald’s only one administrator could speak some English. At the Airport Boryspil I could manage to get some help with directions and catch a taxi to the city. But in the City itself I could easily get lost – there are no traffic or street signs in English at all.
While Metro was carrying us to “Arsenalna” Station, Jonathan shared his impressions about Kiev transport, catering and hotels:
“British EURO-2012 booklets show comfortable buses and convenient city transport. In fact, the only regular buses I found were small yellow cars, crowded with people. I’ve never seen so many passengers packed into a small bus like Tetris figures, and moving like this. It’s sad and funny.
Kyiv is a city where you can go to a place with a certain name, and discover something completely different. For example, I went to an Irish pub and found nothing Irish there. No Irish meals, no Irish alcohol in the menu. The interior was not Irish too. Why did they call it Irish pub then? (After we came to the meeting point, some other fans told about a restaurant with “British cuisine” they had visited in downtown Kiev. Well, the dishes didn’t even smell like England there).
But the main surprises, in the context of EURO-2012, are high accommodation prices. Hotels seem like they want to earn a lot of money providing minimum of services. To pay 50 pounds for some shabby room with cockroaches is ridiculous. Hostels partly save the day, but there are also many bad stories about them: lack of security, it’s dirty, bad food. I would doubt if it’s a good idea to get into such risk and to pay money for it.”
With the approaching of EURO-2012, when there will be thousands of such “Jonathans”, Kyiv can finally win an image of a wild capital of the Third World. I’d love to believe that everything will radically change over the next year. But, knowing the situation from the inside, it’s useless to hope for something really better.