Transportation in Ukraine is extremely reliable and inexpensive, even in the cities. In Lviv, we walked almost everywhere except for a few occasions when we took the tram or a taxi. It’s a big city with a small historic center, with the train and bus stations on the outskirts. After almost a week in Ukraine, we were feeling pretty confident, cocky, even. After all, we’d just successfully taken 4 or 5 different buses from village to village in the Carpathians, and we could even read town names in the Ukrainian alphabet. Look at us go!
On our last day in Lviv, we hopped a tram to get to the other side of town. “Dva,” Mathieu said, holding up 2 fingers for the driver. We got our tickets and punched them in the old-style mechanical ticket punch. Though reliable, these trams are definitely not new. No digital time stamps here! No sooner had we sat down, when a man comes over and starts demanding something of us, gesturing and showing us his badge. My mind is racing. What does he want? Should we show him our passports? Are we going to have to actually bribe someone? Just a few hours earlier we’d heard countless stories of corruption on every level from our new Ukrainian friends. With these stories fresh in my mind, I was sure for a brief second that we were being targeted for an easy few *hryvnia from some low-level government employee. However, as it turns out, we’d unknowingly purchased student tickets, for Ukrainian students only. Why the tram driver gave us student tickets, I don’t know. We definitely weren’t dressed nice enough to pass as Ukrainians. Finally it clicked, and we realized what he was saying. He wrote us out 2 tickets, a receipt and took our 40 hryvnia. We felt stupid, but had a good laugh about it anyways. Luckily this was our one and only run-in with the law, and next time we may read more carefully about which ticket to buy.
Despite this one minor mishap, which was more or less our own faults, we were so impressed with the hospitality of the Ukrainian people we came across. Many people went out of their way to guide us to where we needed to go or answer our questions. Even though it was often difficult to communicate, we never felt frustration or annoyance from whoever we were speaking with. They genuinely wanted to help and persevered until we all understood each other.
*1 euro = 10 hryvnia in June 2010