Ukr8 – The Crimea & Odessa trip #2: Yalta and neighbourhood

After we came to Simferopol by bus we decided to go  instantly to Yalta. Quick talk with few locals gave us the basics knowledge how to do it: from Simferopol to Yalta we could either travel by a trolley, which was slower and cheaper, or take marshrutka. Both had their stations on the street in front of the train station, so it was easier than to feed a baby to catch one. Do I need to mention that we took a trolley? ; )

The ticket for a trolley cost about 12 UAH, totally unbelievable – something like 1 EUR or 5 PLN for a 2-hour journey! The trolley was new, air-conditioned, nearly empty and it even had a small tv screen (Jarda fancied it very much, he was watching Tom & Jerry everytime it was on ; )). It had it flaws though, which we had an occasion to experience soon enough. Sometimes there is a problem with trolley electricity lines, the ones suppling the maschine with the power. The trolley cable falls from the electricity line, which stops the trolley and forces the driver to get out and mechanically put it into order (!). How does it look like? This poor fellow simply dresses in an orange waist of a physic worker and a pair of gloves, takes a long metal stick and tries to put two lines together again. Basically he stands in the middle of the street, with cars passing right beside him, as long as he succeeds. Then the journey goes on, to the relief of the other drivers that were waiting in the traffic jam, which had formed in the meantime. During our first journey to Yalta the driver of the trolley had to make 3 stops on the way due to cable problems… now what can I think about our bus/tram/trolley drivers, who feel so offended when they have to sell one a ticket inside the maschine? That they should consider themselves lucky ! (and I bet they earn more too.)

   

Even though our journey was spoiled a little with technical distractions, it didn’t change the fact that what we were seeing through the window was truly amazing. Travelling more into south, the landscape was turning into more wild and mountainous with every minute. After about an hour we saw first bays and beaches on the left, which compared to the wooded hills or even mountains on the right hand side of the street gave an astonishing view. We travelled like this and simply couldn’t wait to stop and just get out of the trolley, as if it was all a dream : ). The closer we were to the city, the more people were getting on the trolley and more crowded it became. It reached the peak in Alushta, the last bus stop before Yalta, but since we had our sitting places from before, we didn’t worry about anything.

               

They say that Yalta is the most desirable destination in south Crimea, it is also the most expensive one in terms of the costs of temporary and pernament living. The city lays in the heart of south seaside, has an interesting historic past as well as the nighlife and is surrounded by the number of smaller attractions such as beautiful beaches, castles, palaces, gardens, sanatories and other. We were there twice and each time didn’t manage to see everything that had been planned for the day. What is uniqe, throughout the centuries the island was changing its owners many times, so it is possible to find residues having their origins in Russian, Greek, Roman, Italian or Turkish culture. The older ones lasted to our times only as ruins, but the other didn’t loose nearly anything from their looks and charm. Everything seems to coexist so naturally as if this diversity was a common thing. Compared to the large part of my country that was totally devastated during numerous wars and conflicts, it’s hard for me to believe that so many monuments can be found on such a small piece of land and, moreover, they are still in a very good condition. Or maybe they’ve been rebuilt from pieces and I’m just unaware of it, well who knows ; ).

From the economic point of view, Crimea is also the richest region of Ukraine. I’m pretty sure that it will still be considered cheap by the majority of Western visitors, but even a quick comparison shows many differences between the general prices there and in other regions of the country. To find a hostel in a good location one should count at least 130 UAH per person per night (80 UAH in Odessa for instance); food and other everyday expenses also are about 30% or more expensive. However, it is absolutely worth it – the unspoiled beauty, hotness and stillness of the weather together with a huge variety of relax opportunities compensate for it. Besides, it can be a good solutions for friends or families who never can agree on what to do or where to go during their summer vacation: one can simply rest on a beach if is lazy or tired, do sports like mountain climbing/biking, swimming, walking if is active, party if finds it a good way to relax or sightsee if helds an interest in history… numerous options are at one’s fingertips.

Coming back to our arrival into Yalta, first day we managed to get a general hold of how the town works and looks like as well as saw its biggest monument – the Livadia Palace. This is the famous hotel complex where a post-war meeting of “big 3” – Stalin, Churchil and Roosvelt – took place, followed by the agreement that divided world into 3 main groups of influence. The place itself is extremely beautiful, with many picturesque views of the sea and neat workaround. The que to the ticket office was so long that we decided to see only garden, park and squere surrounding the main building (and remained a happy owners of 50 UAH each we would have to pay for the entrance fee). On our way back to the city centre we took a calming walk by the sea, but soon realized we didin’t have enough time for it if we wanted to catch our trolley back to Simferopol. A woman from the fruit stand nearby offered us a lift and we agreed. So her husband was our taxi driver (they had an old, 20-year old car : D) and during the journey he told me that he had been in Poland in the military service in late 80’s and how he had loved it. What’s funny the guy wasn’t Ukrainian, he wasn’t even Russian, he was from Azerbaijan : D.

                          

The plan for the next day was similar: Yalta. We woke up very early in the morning and caught a bus there (we got to know that it is also possible to find a transportation to Yalta from the train station, which was closer to Svetlana’s father house – the couchserf’ place we stayed in last night). This time it was a big and comfortable bus that cost us 25 UAH and was going directly to the city. There we found marshrutka, which took us half an hour away from the city to a little village called Haspra . What we wanted to see there was another famous place called “Swallow’s Nest” or “Lastothky na gnezdo” in Ukrainian, a XXth century small Gothic Castle built on the top of 40-metre high Aurora Cliff, at Cape Ay-Todor.

Not many people know, but actually origins of the castle goes back to the year 1985, when the first building on Aurora Cliff was constructed. The wooden cottage, romantically called “A castle of love” was created here for sake of a Russian general. In 1911, however, the castle was bought by a German noble Baron von Steignel, who decided to change it into more solid, stone construction, the one we can admire today.  For a short period of time the building held a restaurant complex, but due to series of earthquakes that took place soon after it had been built, it was closed nearly until 1975. At that year though it already had been renovated and since then is open for turists as an Italian restaurant with a beautiful view of the Black Sea. For a lot of people Swallow’s Nest has a status of Crimean best recognizable monument and for this reason a small, charming castle was captured in few movies, just to mention a Polish-Soviet production “Adventures of Mr Kleks”.

Once one reaches the top, it is possible to catch a sight of the whole bay together with the highest peak of Crimean Mountains, Ai-Petri. Indeed, this part of village has a long past and there is a lot of legends that tell its story. For example, very close to the Swallow’s Nest there is a small separated rock. According to the old beliefs, this is a bear who turned into a rock after trying to destroy the village. I know it thanks to Olga, another Ukrainian couchsurfer, who spent with us the whole afternoon showing us around and telling various stories about the neighbourhood. Later I found a website with old tales from Crimea, nice thing to read in the evening before going to sleep : ) http://www.crimea.edu/eng/crimea/leg/ .

                

Olga took us also to another place laying nearby, but still on the Cape Ay-Todor, named Charax. Right now there is a well-known sanatory, but its history goes back to the ancient Roman conquests, around 1st century AD. At that time due to decision of Roman emperor Vespasian a 4-hectar area was adapted to become a military camp, which was supposed to strenghten their position in Crimea and protect local colonies from hostile nations. The camp was abandoned by Romans in the mid-3th century and some believe that also destroyed by them to avoid its seizure by the enemies. The ruins of fortifications were firstly discovered in 1837, but it was in 1896 that the more light were put on its existence, mainly thanks to the supervision of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia. Grand Duke had his summer house constructed in the same area and conducted an extensive research for 15 years. In the meantime it was reavealed that the place occupied previously by Romans was not only a fortress, but a whole Roman city together with all the brightest construction achievements of that times. Of course, what we can see now is a small part of the previous greatness, there is also lots of different teories connected with the exact appearance and past of this place.

                        

Soon after we moved on to see another attraction that was nearby: the Alupka Palace & Park Complex, known also as a “Woronisov’s Palace” thanks to the name of the count who founded it. This massive palace, resembling actually more a fortress, was built in the first male of XIX-th century as a summer residence of the count and includes also a great garden complex together with a small land by the Black Sea. For three generations the complex belonged to the Vorontsov family, but soon after Soviets came to power it got trasnformed into museum and it still serves this function. In the architectural sense, the Vorontsov’s Palace is one of the oldest and largest residences of this type in Crimea, no wonder it is also one of its biggest turist attractions on its southern coast.

                        

As I already mentioned few times, I still think there is much more things to discover in and around Yalta and generally speaking in Crimea. We saw just a small part of a big puzzle. For example, as for the city, I regret not seeing the house of famous Russian writer Anton Chechov; somehow it just never seemed to be on our way. I know that we also missed a breathtaking Massandra Palace and its wineries, we didn’t get to the top of Ai-Petri (the highest peak of Crimean mountains, around 1233 m. above the sea level) and we didn’t spend a single day at the beach over there. I think we’d need at least 3-4 weeks if we wanted to see all interesting places around the peninsula. Instead, we were more like children trying to collect as many seshells as possible in a short period of time ; ). I made a promise I would be back there one day and will do it (just watch me!), maybe when my Russian will be even better. It is such a nice feeling to talk with people in their indigenous language. (A small digression here: even though Crimea is the biggest tourist centre in Ukraine, it is nearly impossible to find anyone who speaks English, neither shopkeepers or common people, nor workers of public services. If you don’t speak Russian, necessarily buy a Russian phrasebook before you go – this is the one and only language used there).

There is a lot of internet sources that can help one find information about tourist attractions in Crimea. I recommend looking into English Wikipedia website of Crimea, as it’s done in a compact and totally user-friendly way. Another useful page I found is http://www.blacksea-crimea.com/places.html, it has despcriptions and pictures of mostly every place that is worth seeing. Polish can also visit http://podroze.gazeta.pl for more information, as there is a whole thread devoted to travelling around Ukraine. For travelling by train, check an official website of railway communictaion in Ukraine http://www.e-kvytok.com.ua (one can even buy a ticket on-line to be sure of its reservation in advance). Good luck and if you ever get there, don’t forget to tell me about it!

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~ by jumikao on October 5, 2011.

One Response to “Ukr8 – The Crimea & Odessa trip #2: Yalta and neighbourhood”

  1. A good promotional post advertizing the Crimea . I even want to go there))

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