Traveling to L’viv, Ukraine

Traveling to L’viv, Ukraine is a long, yet short trip to the other side of the World. It took about 13.5 hours from takeoff to landing (given I performed the correct time shifts). 13.5 hours seems like a long time, but I really only spent 12 hours in an actual plane. I had a 1.5 hour layover, that was supposed to be 55 minutes (guess I got lucky with an extra 30 minute standing break).

The first of two flights to get to L’viv is from SFO (San Francisco, US) to FRA (Frankfurt, Germany) and takes approximately 10 hours. My flight got there in just over 9 hours, but apparently being early doesn’t help much at a small airport (FRA is big, but only if you’re flying Lufthansa airlines). So we made about 4 circles before landing. By the time we landed we ended up being late, and with a 55 minute layover being 10 minutes late is an issue. I promptly announced to the people taking their sweet time getting off the plane that I had 45 minutes to catch my next plane and they quickly moved out of the way.

I followed Bob’s directions of “don’t look at the monitors, go directly to Terminal 2” by stopping at the first monitor I saw to find out what gate I needed to go to :). Discovering I needed to be at D2, I followed the signs and walked in the wrong direction for 10 minutes so that I could get on the tram to take me in the right direction for 2 minutes. Apparently the Germans aren’t the smartest engineers after all.

When I arrived at gate D2 I saw two lines, well one line and one big group. I opted for the “line” only to find out that I needed to join the “group” first. The group moved in a very slow fashion. I believe there were 10-15 people in front of me and it took about 45 minutes to get my boarding pass. Would have been faster, but the airline had done extensive research and found that having one person create the boarding passes and let people check-in while two others waited to accept the boarding passes was far more efficient because there was never a line at the boarding gate.

Let me explain this again, one employee takes approximately 4 minutes per person to check each in. Two employees then take this boarding pass and feed it into a machine (takes about 1 second). Therefore, the airline figured it was faster to have two people do a 1 second job and one person do a 4 minute job. Awesome.

Being the last person in line (apparently if you speak Ukrainian, you’re allowed to cut) I quickly checked-in, handed my boarding pass over to the two ladies doing nothing, and walked down 2 stories where I reached a bus.

This bus had no room left, so I used my experiences of getting on BART during rush hour. I took a step back and quickly bursted forward as to carry enough momentum to push the people at the door into the center of the bus. Mission accomplished.

I’m on the bus and we’re driving. As the bus pulls out I see the Ukrainian Airlines jet sitting right there, “perfect,” I thought. We’re already here. So the bus turns left and now the plane is behind us. The bus continues down this makeshift road on the tarmac for another 2 minutes and then hangs a right. He then makes another right and begins to head back to where we started. But wait, we hit traffic. Imagine this, we’re driving on the tarmac and we’re in a traffic jam. Luckily it only took 15 minutes to drive back the original 2 minutes. So I’ve been standing on this bus for 17 minutes to travel approximately 100 yards. By the time the bus stops and unloads we’re at the exact location of where he made the original left hand turn. Awesome, another engineering breakthrough, 17 minutes to complete a 1 minute task.

So far I’ve learned that Frankfurt likes to run things on their time

Once we all board the plane they begin to pass out newspapers and nearly every single person on the plane grabs one. Some opt for the Ukrainian version, others the German. Once all of the papers are out we begin to taxi.

We taxi all the way to the end of the runway and hang a right. We then taxi all the way back down the runway (on the other side of where we were). So we had to “drive” 1 mile down to cross the runway, only to drive 1 mile back to hang a left to find a hidden runway. As we complete our left hand turn the pilot immediately goes for a full throttle and we’re off.

After we level off at some unknown altitude, the flight attendants in their 1980s uniforms begin to pass out some food. Excellent, because I’m starving. The meal is some sort of specialty-mix-wonderful-idea-of-leftovers. Fish mixed with a potato-carrot-pee-corn solution. The solution was good, but the fish was grade Z. The fruit cup was also yummy. So overall the meal was 50% good.

As we begin our approach I notice everything is white, a beautiful snow dusting. Perhaps a few inches of snow on the ground, which was cool to see at 20,000 feet. Though it became concerning that as we landed, this snow covered land was apart of the runway. But never fear, the pilot was an expert and the gentlemen next to me was using his imaginary break pedal to help slow the plane.

After the plane comes to a stop, he flips a u-turn and drives back down the runway. Yup, this isn’t a very busy airport, so there are no taxi-ways. We “drive” over some ice patches and arrive at some designated parking spot. About 20 of us get off in L’viv, the rest of the people were heading to Kiev. I see my name on a sign “Met Van Zant.” That must be me, so I explain to the woman that I’m “Met” and she points to the VIP bus. I get on that bus and we drive about 20 yards where she asks me to get out and walk to the building. I walk in and the nice army gentlemen with his huge military hat, at least a 1.5 foot circumference, takes my passport and hits a few buttons on his computer and we’re done.

I walk to the waiting room where Mar’yan is waiting for me (one of the Managers from SoftServer). We wait about 2 minutes and my bags are handed to me. Now that is service. I did nothing and my bags appear. Excellent. Mar’yan helps me with my luggage and we get into his car and drive to the Opera Hotel.

I made it, with my bags


#1 bigbadbob0 on 01.16.08 at 6:29 pm

Some of this is really funny just because I’ve been there and I know how it is. It’s great to see it through someone else’s eyes. The other parts are funny because it’s Matt and I can just see him rushing the crowd on the bus to squeeze in. Or the grade Z fish. Or the dude next to him hitting the brakes.

#2 bobvanzant on 01.16.08 at 8:56 pm

Pretty funny. Too bad you couldn’t have lost some luggage on the way it really toughens you up and changes your entire perspective.

Glad you made it safely though.


#3 Mom on 01.17.08 at 3:56 am

Matt, that was beautiful.. thanks for the laugh. As Bob says, I can see you doing just what you said from telling the people in front of you to move it so you will make your connecting flight to pushing forward to fit in the bus. What an experience!

#4 Bryan on 01.17.08 at 9:18 am

Matt don’t Lie… It was really you who was trying to hit the brakes buddy. Don’t worry I won’t tell anyone.

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