Crimea

Crimea was a gift from (Soviet) Russia to Ukraine. Officially in recognition of the bravely and sacrifice of its soldiers in the Great patriotic War, the gift was perhaps not intended to be as generous as a gift as it was. After all Ukraine SSR was still part of the Soviet Union. With the fall of the Soviet Union this once Russian territory passed to Ukraine.

Russia still hangs onto it in a way though by keeping its military bases. Also some say this is really more Russian than Ukrainian in atmosphere (I guess I mean less like western Ukraine).
I should start by saying I have been to Crimea but not really experienced it. So much so I almost never added this page. Having only spent some rain filled hours in Yalta, going to Sevastopol or the Botanical gardens hardly qualifies for having seen Crimea. However I hope to add to this page by visiting the beautiful Crimea again.

Dont ever stay in Nikolaevka!

I can say without doubt if you rely on public transport don’t EVER stay in Nikolaevka!
It is possibly the worst place to be situated, with direct links to Simferopol and nowhere else (well not regular links to anywhere else anyway). I stayed at Hotel “Casa Oliva” which was a nice place although the described sea view is perhaps “economical with the truth”.

I hadn’t planned to visit Crimea, I had just returned from Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina and Montenegro

And in need for a new job. However my good friend and since the trip girlfriend Valeria invited me apparently as a joke. As it would happen I thought why not, I would delay my job search by a week and bought my tickets.
As she was on a holiday with a friend and family the actual time we had to meet was small and in the evenings. This further limited my ability to get away from Nikolaevka
A friend told me Nikolaevka had been criticised for its facilities before and I have to say I have to agree. It is a kind of ‘domestic’ family resort, which can offer a moderate beach, a seaside small town kind of feel and some OK restaurants, but outnumbered perhaps by kebab places.
Not really that bad but not somewhere worth travelling far to, especially if using public transport.

Leeches

I flew to Simferopol, the airport possibly being the smallest I have been to yet. With the luggage being put on a revolving belt on the airport field (there wasn’t a terminal per se) and the walk from the luggage to outside the airport being a matter of seconds. There I had my driver to take me to my hotel who proceeded to overcharge me (despite the price being pre-agreed). Taxi drivers here in my experience being every bit as trustworthy (i.e. not at all) as many of their counterparts around the world. Although in this case I was to be refunded as the owner deducted the amount overcharged from my fee.

 
My most frequent destination was Simferopol, which was unavoidable coming from Nikolaevka, and in comparison to Crimea’s places of nature beauty or Sevastopol, places I have not yet been, it is of moderate interest.
There was the Church of the Three Saints, but under restoration at the time I was there. It seemed out with out of place with its surroundings of canons and soviet statues outside.

Also I saw the Kebir Djami Mosque, built in 1502. As well as Park Gagarina.
One thing to be careful of is if using Lenina as a point of reference in asking directions. There are two! One near the station and one not far from the Mosque. This fact caused me a lot of unnecessary walking and wrong directions until I figured it out.

A nice restaurant serving some Tatar / Central Asian food is Marakand on Voroskovo 17.
During my second trip to Simferopol I met my kind penpal Aliya, a Crimean Tatar who I had not being in contact for years. Whilst there I remembered she lived in the Crimea and sent an email.
She very kindly made time to meet me despite her busy schedule being the end of Ramadan.
We met and walked the cobblestoned streets around Pushkina as well as stopping in a cafe.

 

Crimean Tatars 

It is easy to speak of Crimea’s connection to Russia and now to Ukraine but the contribution of the Tatars to Crimea cannot be ignored as they also have a deep connection to the island. The island has been homeland of Tatars from the middle ages. They formed important towns such as Bakhchisaray. It has always had a sizeable Tatar population; however the Soviets in their usual destructive manner tried their best to eradicate the presence of Tatars by forcibly removing them from their homes often deploying force. There are still an estimated 150,000 Crimean Tatars in exile according to Wikipedia

I have read about some of the racism that returning Tatars have had to face but surface wise at least things are harmonious and Tatars once gain can play an important role in Crimea. The first Tatar I met in person was not my penpal, Aliya who I did meet during the trip but Lilia who I met on a bus to Bakhchisaray.

As stated in Crimean Tatars box, I also visited Bakhchisaray. A nice looking town with a notable Tatar and some cobbled stone streets. A onetime capital and once the residence of the Crimean Khan, the Khans Palace or Hansaray was built in the 16th century. It is also of fame because of the Fountain of Tears (based on the poem of the same name by Alexander Pushkin).
The fountain is said be the work of Giray Khan, who was said to have fallen for a Polish girl in his harem. Besotted with her he was distraught when she died that he commissioned a rock that would weep forever or so the story goes. It has been described as life imitating Art; nevertheless the story will be told by guides as the origin of the fountain for many years to come.
Walking through the palace I came across same friendly Ukrainians and made a new friend Olya.

Not far from the Sultan’s palace (or better still a short Marshrutka ride away is Uspensky Monastery.
Built in the 8th century by the Byzantines now part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarch)

Finally I did visit Yalta but due to the poor weather I missed the Tsar’s path which is really inexcusable despite that. But it only guarantees that I plan to return to the Crimea again.
In the heavy rain I only got to Swallows Nest. A famed ‘castle’ now restaurant perched atop a clip overlooking a bay.

The present structure being made by an oil baron for his mistress, the dramatic setting is interesting although I think overhyped. Deciding whether to stay more, or move on to Sevastopol or return to Nikolaevka in the end I returned due to meeting Valeria in the evening.

Until now I have not made mention of the Crimean War, probably the biggest reason in the UK and often the only reason why the Crimea is known at all.
All of which is hyped in British history as a heroic act (despite the imperialist and at best dubious aims). For those interested in it the sites are there too.