Euro 2012: Meet the pub boar, visit Chernobyl... and maybe even watch some football
The Foreign Office co-publishes a guidebook containing some unconventional advice to help England fans make the most of Euro 2012 in Ukraine next month
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Saturday 26 May 2012
Never mind the pub bore – meet the pub boar. A Ukrainian bar with a porcine pet is one of the startling recommendations from the Foreign Office in its advice to England football fans heading for the Euro 2012 tournament next month.
Casting aside decades of urging restraint among British travellers, the FCO commends a bar in Donetsk whose main attraction is "a resident boar who occasionally comes out of his pen to greet patrons".
The Foreign Office also suggests fans in Kiev for England's game against Sweden take a day-trip to Chernobyl Reactor 4. It advocates early booking to the site of the world's worst nuclear accident "for security reasons".
The advice is contained in a spicy 130-page guide book to Ukraine and Poland for Euro 2012, called Free Lions. It is published jointly by the Football Supporters' Federation and the Foreign Office, and departs dramatically from traditional diplomatic protocol. The Consular Affairs Minister, Jeremy Browne, said: "These simple steps can help ensure your trip is one to remember."
Never has a European football tournament had such potential for misadventure as the Euro 2012 finals, which kick off in Warsaw on 8 June and climax with the final in Kiev on 1 July. Neither Ukraine nor Poland has hosted a big international football tournament before. The most distant venues are 1,000 miles apart. And the further east the venue, the more primitive the infrastructure.
English fans face more arduous journeys and tougher local challenges than any of the other 23 finalists. In the group stages, England play twice – against France and the host country – in the eastern Ukraine mining city of Donetsk, formerly known as Stalino. The guidebook explains that trains in the city centre travel very slowly "so as not to cause any cave-ins to the mines underneath the station".
Non-white travellers are warned of harassment "involving unprovoked violence". And public displays of affection between gay football fans could result in "threats of, or actual,violence".
The guide's sponsors acknowledge that not every football fan will spend their spare time taking in the monuments and museums of the host countries, and accept that cross-cultural exchanges are most likely to take place in pubs.
The bar with the boar is the charmingly named Bar Svinya, which translates as "Bar Pig". It is on Boulevard Pushkin in central Donetsk. The pub was researched by Kevin Miles, of the Football Supporters' Federation, who said: "You have to go past the boar's pen on the way to the gents. Occasionally the owners take it for a walk."
The boar is called Modest, after the 19th-century composer, Modest Mussorgsky. A member of staff, who gave her name only as Tania, said: "We have trained him to be friendly". She said England football fans would be welcomed and could sample the local delicacy of selo – salted pork fat.
The guidebook provides translations of useful phrases, though terms for transactions with bar staff are of limited use. Only the expression "one beer, please" is given, which will trouble fans accustomed to learning the phrase "two beers, please" and its essential adjunct, "my friend is paying".
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