I have been to Krakow now 3 times and it is a pretty and clean city and it buzzes with people. But I never need to go there again (we will be there next March though on route back to Ukraine). All these old European cities seem and feel the same to me. Don’t get me wrong – if you have never been to Prague or Budapest then they are magnificent places to visit. Like Krakow they are fun for a weekend and they offer a lot of postcard picture opportunities. But when I think of Kyiv, well, this a whole other kind of magic. Kyiv is huge compared to these places and it is unique.
My one friend shared this with me when I was texting him about my last stay in Krakow, “Ronnie, I have the same thoughts! Old town in Europe is totally same. I can’t distinguish Riga and Krakow or Wrocław. Good for weekend but no way for living. Kyiv is unique, Kyiv is alive.”
The brands are everywhere and each square block feels similar. Complete with beer drinking Brits that flew in on Ryanair or EasyJet and are there for a stag party. So many travelers and tourists that local culture seems almost non-existent. And each of these old cities always have a big piazza filled with tables and chairs with restaurants that are always “nice” and busy, but never anything special or authentic. Also, there is always a McDonald’s, Star Bucks, Burger King, etc. on every corner. America is everywhere. Globalization is what we are experiencing here. And there are souvenir shops on every block too that all look identical, and most probably everything is made in China. The horses and carriages and the street vendors always add some charm but once again it all feels quite generic. Yes, for a weekend away it is fun and lovely but it is just not inspiring. That is my view.
Now compare this to cities in Ukraine. You don’t see this kind of globalization. Kyiv and Lviv, for example, are not Americanized. Well, not yet. Yes, there are tourists, but no hoards of Brits on beer drinking romps. Kyiv does have cobble streets, churches, and beautiful old buildings, like In Krakow, but it does not have a generic feel about it. And that is what makes Ukraine so interesting and appealing.
Here are a few pics from Krakow. If you went there you would enjoy it, but I can’t say I experienced anything magical that would draw me back. Perhaps it is because it is a small city. Kyiv, on the other hand, is way way bigger. I like Poland and from my few stays in Krakow I did experience a lot of warmth and gentle people. Poland is good to Ukraine and this is something to embrace. Thank you Krakow. You helped us on our journey.