The Crimea is a fascinating, bewildering and beautiful part of The Ukraine and it is an enigma, seemingly stuck between its communist past and its western leaning, European aspirations and no where within the Ukraine is this more apparent than in The Crimea.
The Crimea, almost an Island at the southern tip of The Ukraine is a very beautiful and scenically diverse region, very popular with the Soviets and Ukrainians alike. Actually it has been fought over for centuries, but that is another story.
The weather was hot and sticky in Kharkov and we had been working hard in office of my Dating Agency, plug, plug, Confidential Matchmakers, lets go to Crimea I suggested to Olga, yes she said, why not, so we packed our lap tops and the following morning we set off, very early.
We were advised to use a more, or less completed, but unopened 4 lane highway for the first leg of the journey, you have to experience Ukraine to understand the life here and this kind of thing is the norm………. So much of life here makes me smile. This road has gas stations/service stations that are open for business, yep you read it right, on a road that is officially closed. Well we made good time, only having to avoid the occasional car coming towards us on the wrong side of the road and the occasional pile of sand, or earth blocking the road, just to make it more interesting……luckily its possible to drive around these diversions.
I had better cut short the story of our journey south, some 650 kms, and an adventure in itself and begin my tale of The Crimea. We headed to a small place called Saki, we had a friend there. The resort we started at turned out to be a typical. The entrance was through wide gates, manned and constantly closed, (someone might steal the beach?). All was contained, controlled and very crowded. I was half expecting to see a sign telling me, “That now I must have fun, this is the place you enjoy yourself”. The place was packed with a combination of Russians and Ukrainians and I was quite possibly the only European there.
Well we decided to take a while on the beach and boy was my companion attracting a lot of attention ( she is very beautiful), even one guy tried very hard to make her aquaintence……Now I know what the Invisible Man felt like. Late afternoon we took off for Simferopol, to a nice Hotel in the centre, which was to be our base for a few days.
The next morning we set off for Business in Ukraine Sevastopol, a big city/port in the south west corner of the Crimea. Sevastopol is a big, sprawling and confusing place for the foreigner. Here we hit our first concrete beach, yep, a tiny beach surrounded on three sides by concrete walls, I guess a left over from the days of the Soviet Empire and effectively unchanged since. It was packed and for me, both strange and unattractive.Quite a culture shock for any westerner.
Occupying a costal promitory within this large sprawling city lies what they call “The old city” It really is quite something to see and confirms the importance and desirability of this area throughout the ages. The remains of this city, still in remarkably good condition, are maybe 2,000 or more years old and probably date from the time of the Grecian civilisation; yes the Greeks along with just about every other important culture and civilisation had a spell in the Crimea. Certainly the style of architecture seems very Grecian and this was quite an important colony judging by its size and the remains of the fortifications surrounding it.
I was to find many examples throughout the Crimea of how life was in the Soviet Union and to my experience little changed under the current political system. It seems the term communism as practised, was a contradiction. It seems that very little was in fact communal So much of the beautiful coastline of the Crimea is either closed, fenced off, or hideously disfigured with concrete and high fences. It is a truly beautiful region and perhaps as the Ukraine slowly awakes and finds itself, much of this ugliness will be removed.