Missed connections

Across the forest fields

Having decamped from Rome for Lviv on Christmas Eve in order to put some well earned distance between myself and the hectic environment of tourism in Rome, the experience thus far has been an outright and expected success. Productivity has soared, projects on course, ideas rampant. An autonomous work group, maintaining the machine with absolute objectivity and commitment. E-commerce in it's purest form. The only blot on the landscape has been Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. I have several tourism contacts here in Lviv, Kiev, and current eye of the storm, Simferopol. Lord only knows what they make of being invaded by mystery men in green and living in fear of being forced to join the Russian Federation. Today is their day, as Russian armed forces and Cossacks control the illegal referendum in Crimea with menace.

The first three months away from Rome are almost at an end and monthly trips back home on the immediate horizon, unless war breaks out tomorrow in which case i'll be back on the peninsula much, much sooner. I refer to Rome as "home" in the sense that I have not lived in England since 2003. Indeed, visits back there have been few and far between since 2008. If any, in fact. It is common knowledge that my intention is to settle down in Anzio one day and I do miss Rome dearly, but what are said "missed connections" in the title?

There is no deficit of oddities and unexplainables here, at least in the retail sense. Many fresh fruit and vegetable stalls in Rome are owned by north Africans these days, and I would kill for any one of them to relocate to Lviv - the absence of orange, yellow, and green edibles is quite shocking. One cannot, must not drink tap water in Ukraine for fear of diarrhoea, dysentery, and other unmentionables. The question is, why does bottled water taste bad too?

Brands; Sensodyne toothpaste just isn't, Coca Cola tastes suspicious, and the only toiletries which seem to be genuine are moderately expensive imports from Poland and Germany. I did meet a guy who knew a guy whose job it is to import "real" commodities across the Polish border west of here. I had no questions. Only local beer, local chocolate, and fruit juice tastes genuine. Even the currency feels unreal - it will be unless the IMF and EU send over promised billions ASAP. Walk out of any shop with your provisions in a plastic bag, and the bag will split open. It's all very Ukrainian, and all the fault of Russia of course for backing uncontrolled state corruption for so many years. We have "Celentano" here in Lviv, where one can amble in or take away a pizza, of sorts. Pizza here is a base + unconnected main course more or less served on top and reheated. The first pizza I ate in Lviv comprised chicken, sweetcorn, and potatoes. Tasty, but wildly confusing. Meat eating here in the form of pies, casseroles, and on pizzas et al. can be a coarse affair. Unexpectedly "colourful" pork, beef, and chicken is the norm so don't inspect your food too closely when dining out in Lviv, or, I suspect, anywhere else in Ukraine. So, I miss fresh Italian fruit and vegetables, real toothpaste, Roman pizza, and meat which doesn't glow in the dark. What else?

There is plenty of common ground between English and Italian lads; football, music, friendship, and everything else which relative economic stability brings. Common ground between English lads and Ukrainian males is non-existent. The latter, through no fault of their own, struggle on in a culture of early marriage, early divorce, and then for some, alcohol to the end. The general air of resignation and fear of the future around Ukrainian males is as understandable as it is depressing, which makes me wonder why Ukrainian women are as bright and cheery as they are beautiful. It's a baffling mix. Post-Soviet life was never going to be a breeze.

When in Rome and around the Vatican, when the sun is shining, life on the peninsula is a joy, especially for those of us who are lucky enough to work at the business end of Rome sightseeing and Vatican tours every God-given day. Having written this article, a week in Rome is assuredly in the offing.

Published on March 16th, 2014
© When In Rome Tours, article provided by Cajes.

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