Thursday, March 12, 2009

Getting a room in Lvov, Ukraine

One day last July, we crossed the land border from Poland into Ukraine. We then boarded a bus to the town of Lvov, knowing that we’d be spending the night there.

We don’t usually book accommodations ahead. The guidebook had good things to say about Hotel George and so that’s where we went. It was a huge hotel that must have been the place to stay during the Soviet years. It was ornate and gilded, with high ceilings, but everything looked worn. The hotel was very quiet and we didn’t see other tourists.

We liked it but the rate quoted to us was quite high – it was higher than what we would pay for a hotel room in Chicago. Since this was Ukraine and things weren't supposed to be that expensive, we told the receptionist that we'd think about it and would come back if we decided to take it.

The receptionist didn't like this at all, and managed to convey it in the brusque manner in which she took back the room key.

It was past 10pm but we were not very tired. We had spent most of the afternoon sitting in a train and then in a bus, so we decided to go check a couple of other hotel options nearby.

But none of the other hotels were comparable to Hotel George, so we were back in 30 minutes to face the receptionist.

"Go there and wait. I have to check if any room is still available. " she said, pointing to a sofa by the side.

There was no way that all the rooms were taken. We could even see that there were dozens of keys still hanging in the rack behind her.

For over ten minutes the receptionist ignored us and went about her work. I am always a little amused by what I think of as the 'pettiness of those in small pockets of power.’ When they do get a chance to flex their muscles, they will do so, to feel important.

She wasn't checking if the room was available, she just wanted to teach us a lesson, to punish us for not taking the room right away.

"Give your passports," she said suddenly. In a few minutes we got the room, the exact same room she'd shown us earlier.

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