CRIMEA TRAVEL: the Highs and the Lows

1 bio 5My Crimean vacation wasn’t all rosé and roses.

Let us dispense with the unpleasantries first.

1. Rain

Nobody loves rain more than I do. It’s cozy. It’s romantic. It’s beautiful. But when rain takes over half of your summer vacation, it becomes a pain in the ass.

In Crimea a day of heavy rain meant not just staying indoors for that day, but several days of canceled hiking and riding trips, because the ground in the mountains needed time to dry up. It also meant cancelled sightseeing excursions to farther-off parts of the peninsula because the roads were made dangerous by mudslides and falling rocks.

Things I didn’t get to do because of the rain: visit Sevastopol (home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and hero-town of many wars), Massandra and Livadia palaces near Yalta, hike up Mount Ai-Petri and down the Big Canyon, plus go on many more horseback riding trips. Also, the rain killed whatever little Wi-Fi there was in Novy Svet.

1 rain 3Novy Svet after the rain. 1 rain 32. Cabin in the Woods

This kind of rustic living was cute for the first few days of my vacation, but got annoying fast. Next time I go to Crimea – or anywhere, really – there will be a proper bathroom and Internet!

 

Woods outside my cabin.

Woods outside my cabin.

3. The toilet situation…

Um. Crimea was the first place where I saw with my own eyes that a toilet can be just a hole in the ground that you have to squat over. OH MY GOD. NO. And the scary part was that they were everywhere, including at some restaurants and museums! This is still absolutely horrifying to me.

"Not a toilet!"  A backyard in Bakhchisaray.

“There is no toilet here! No entry!” A backyard in Bakhchisaray.

4. Abandoned construction

There was quite a bit, especially in some parts of Crimea, like the outskirts of Sudak and Simferopol (the capital). Some residential and industrial buildings, including private houses, looked like catacombs. It was all very depressing, and I hope it changes in the future.

5. The strays

There are so many cats and dogs living on the streets of Crimean towns and around resorts! Summers are good to them, as all the tourists feed them day and night, but what happens the rest of the year? I wanted to take them all home.

1 strays

Are these not the saddest eyes in the world? I wanted to start my own zoo, and just adopt all the cats and dogs in Novy Svet.

Ugh, this was grim, though to be fair, those were the only negative bits of my entire Crimean experience.

Okay, now onto the good stuff. The whole trip was so amazing, with the highs outnumbering the lows by a factor of hundreds at least, that picking favorites was very tough!

1. Novy Svet

Nestled in a pine valley, the charming townlet where I stayed is isolated enough to feel like a real getaway yet close enough to the proper town of Sudak to allow access to all the conveniences, from banks and doctor’s offices to night clubs and beauty salons. It is a relatively unknown “chamber” spot – as the Russians are fond of saying – and the locals were always very curious to find out how I’ve learned of the place. The magic of Novy Svet even made the endless rain more palatable. If you have to be stranded somewhere with nothing but a book or a journal, there is no better place.

1 Novy Svet 1

2. Tour Guides

I expected that three-hour-long narrations of Crimea’s history, tales and legends would get tiresome, or at least repetitive after two group excursions max. Instead, I was happy to be proven wrong. Each guide brought his or her personality and flare to the stories, and during each trip I learned something new about Crimea. This is certainly a testament to the cultural richness of the place, but also to the passion with which the locals embrace their land.

1 Tour Guides 13. Horses

Three 3-hour-long, 30-kilometer treks into the mountains and valleys near Sudak were not just breathtakingly gorgeous, but highly therapeutic. For the first time in half a year I could be on a horse without shaking and breaking down in sobbing hysterics – something I hadn’t been able to kick during repeated attempted to get back in the saddle at my Moscow stables, following my second riding accident last December. Tatar approach to riding is much more intuitive and relaxed, the horses were extremely well-behaved and calm, and my guides were very considerate of my trauma history. While I was clutching the saddle for dear life when we left the horse time for the first trip, on my third one I galloped across wildflower meadows seven times.

1 Horses and horizons, Sudak, Crimea 2 - Copy4. Biodiversity

I have no idea what else to call it, but Crimea stunned me with the variety and beauty of its landscape and nature. Before the trip I thought of Crimea as mostly beaches and Soviet-style canteens, with some stables on the edge of town. Sure, I’ve seen some pictures of hiking trails, but I had no clear image of the place as a whole. Turns out – there isn’t a defining snapshot of Crimean nature. Drive for a couple of hours and you will cross pine forests, temperate rain forests, blooming meadows covering the rolling hills, flat steppes, sharp mountain peaks, and barren deserts. Though I didn’t come across any deer, wolves and boards, I was prepped on what to do if one jumped out on the trail in front of my horse – evidently not a rare event here. I watched dolphins frolic at sunset, and was introduced to so many varieties of plants, birds, fish and insects, and made friends with a hedgehog and a bunny right by my cabin.

5. Lions of Taigan

Taigan Safari Park is forever going to be a “must” destination for me in Crimea. Being THISCLOSE to these huge, gorgeous, majestic animals as they rested, fought, cuddled and played was frightening and fascinating at once, and I wish I had more time with them.

 

BONUS

Not sure if this is a high or a low but at my “WiFi café” I made friends with this little guy:

I named him Solnyshko – “little sun,” as he was the bright spot on yet another rainy day. I even took him to my cabin for one night, where he slept in the crook of my neck. Then I spent a week devising a plan to bring him with me back to Moscow, where surely he would be savagely murdered by The Beast. Leaving Solnyshko behind broke my heart – might have been literally, as it hurt so much – but the café owners promised to take good care of him. He was their seventh adoptee!

Solnyshko 1

 

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27 thoughts on “CRIMEA TRAVEL: the Highs and the Lows

    • Shut up. It was an exceptional cat. I only wish it could stand up to The Beast (who is getting a trainer soon bc he is now attacking everyone – including his ‘mommy’).

  1. Just come back from Crimea(Alushta) via Anapa to Moscow.Crimea was excellent.Unfortunately I have not a lot of time to explore it widely(I have only one week for this) but these three days in Kerch and two days in “touristic triangle” Yalta-Alushta-Sevastopol were excellent.
    Even the Northern Crimea which is full of military vehichles and soldiers,refugees from the Ukraine and emergency workers have its own charm.
    When I leaved the Crimea for Port Caucasus by ferry I began to plann my next Crimea vacations on the next holydays.
    P.S.Just few minutes ago I watched Ukrainian media channel TSN by Internet.They said about starvation in Crimea.I visited a lot of supermarkets in Kerch,Alushta,Simferopol,Yalta,Sevastopol and Armyansk.All shelves are full of products from Ukraine,Russia,Poland and local produsers.Almost all Ukrainians supermarkets nets are working.Only McDonalds was closed.I have a lot of photo and video evidences of this.Ukrainian supporters if you are still here and reading this blog:You are LIERS and your media is a propaganda.
    P.P.S.Ann,you said about the exclusive “political” issue about Crimea.I have some photo and video materials about the life on the peninsulla,locals thouths and refugees stories.If you are interested ask me to sell this material via e mail.

    • I’m glad you had a good time too!
      Re: Crimea materials – on this blog I only post something I have personally seen or experienced, unless I explicitly reblog, with a link, someone else’s post. But thank you for the offer! As a matter of fact I am holding off on the political post for now, but eventually, if I publish one, there will only be one, and based solely on my conversations with locals and things I saw with my own eyes while there. Also, in the future, please refrain from using the comments on this blog to call people names and wage political battles. I’d rather people discuss the cuteness of Solnyshko the Kitten on here.

      • After the watching the Ukrainian media I`m really want to make only thing:grab ALL my occasional Crimiean photos with the working shoping malls,tranport system,markets,beaches,e.t.c.,and began to post them in all international media,blogs and other sourses of information.
        It was really funny when my relatives from Kiev asked me about starvation in Crimea just after my returning to Moscow.They really believed this before I sent them my Crimean photos.
        You can even dont make a political post.The post about the everyday life in the peninsulla is enought.

  2. I almost stopped at the picture of that man in the speedos but glad I carried on! Sounds like the good definitely outweighed the bad – and those photos are absolutely beautiful. Such diversity. Gorgeous! And your little drinking buddy was pretty cute too 🙂
    Oh, and I can provide a toilet and internet in LV 😉

    • this is completely off topic but responding to this comment: the pink mtv shirt guy in speedos should get to hang out in linda`s super masculine sportsbar with pink walls and leopard print. the things that always cracked me up in post soviet countries is how homophobic people often are yet have no idea what is considered “looking/acting gay” in the west. I have witnessed with my own eyes the most tough and sour looking russian guys who like spreading homophobic views – I ve seen them wearing cheezy hawaiian shirts, speedos and sunglasses you will only see in gay districts of san francisco. thats not to mention how fiercely proud many russian men ive met were of their ballet dancers and figure skaters – not neccessarily experts or fans but proud. and they have no idea ist considered gay or feminine for boys in the west to do those things. most russian skaters and ballet guys are actually macho, womanizers and heroes of many affairs described and discussed in gossip journals. also russian men have no idea how gay their outdated navy uniform looks like. they look like they walked off a pride event singing YMCA. Im not suprised if this pink shirt guy was also some super tough russian muzhik, scratiching his belly, swearing and bossing his wife around. although I may be wrong. but I laughed at him for like a whole minute when I saw his speedos.
      (but than my nation is known by many thanks to the very accurate character Brüno so I shouldnt even talk).

      • Several posts ago you tried to create the political battle on this blog making provocative comments.Now you trying to create the “gay battle”.This theme is very outdated you are late my dear.This theme was very popular befor the Olympic games,now the Russian gays and lesbians are not interested the most popular medias.They were only the instrument for mocking Russia before the games.Now they are not interesting anybody.Nobody interesting if they under opression or not.What a pity!
        As for “looking/acting gay in the west”.We have a different cultures.Russian gays who are mostly concentrated in Moscow and St.Petersburg have their own style.
        P.S.I do not care about gays until they are began to require the exclusive rights for themselves like gay marriage for example.If you think you are opressed-the borders are open.Nobody opress you because of your nationality,religion or race but you want gay marriage and propagandizing homosexuality among the children?Well the planes to EU making flights daily just grab your bags and go to Europe.The gay minority is even not 1% of the Russian population,why should we make all your requirements?Even if the Putin allow the gay marriages tomorrow,the Russian and other nationalists will simply overthrown him.
        “Im not suprised if this pink shirt guy was also some super tough russian muzhik, scratiching his belly, swearing and bossing his wife around.”
        I`m not surprised if you are typical “European” whose land is in a deep crisis and whose people are fleding to UK,Germany,France and…Russia.Yes,and probably your life standards became very close to Russian ones after the recent crisis,right?Let me guess..Lithuania or Latvia?If you are from Latvia I have a bad news for you.Ukraine will take title of European sex tourism country from Latvia soon…

        • I am simply observing smth that is funny. not all russians are homophobes but many of them are. I dont care though and will never try to change russia. just trying to see the logic behind the dedazzled shirt and speedos….. and laughing out loud (come to my native city of gols during the wine fest and you will also find things that will crack you up).

          as for the political debate… I stand by what I said earlier. russia will be defeated and separated. ukraine will be free and whole. that crimea annexation was completely unworthy. I love russia. dont really care much about ukraine. Im sad but dont care anymore. Im not happy about it and not gloating at all. dont want to argue with you. dont really care.

        • Seriously, calm down please.
          I am actually totally with Emmi on this one – it IS funny, and the observation that the macho, often violently homophobic Russian men sometimes dress in a way that would make the New York PRIDE Parade seem bland is absolutely spot-on.

      • Ha ha! This is too funny – mainly because it’s so damn true! Send them this way! We’ll have them doing triple axels around the leopard print furniture in no time! In a macho way – of course 🙂

  3. I’m not sure which hurt my eyes more, the speedos or the late 80’s MTV t-shirt the other guy is wearing.

    No pictures of the bunny and the hedgehog?

    Solnyshko the Kitten is adorable. Nothing like a purring kitten curled up on your shoulder to lull you to sleep.

    That looks like an amazing trip. You’ve done a great job documenting it.

  4. It makes me want to visit Eastern Europe (As if EuroTrip were not enough). I also hope you shared libations with your buddy. No one likes to drink alone 🙂

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