Travels in the Ukraine – The South West Coast

After a more than adequate breakfast in our Simferopol hotel Olga & I decided to take our trip along the coast from Yalta and travel west. The Sun was strong and the sky was blue so off we went, straight into a traffic jam!

The Crimea is very popular during the summer months with both Russians and Ukrainians and Yalta is the most popular destination of all, so we joined the line and edged our way out of Simferopol. We had not travelled very far when we spotted a grand, but abandoned house and decided to take a look.

Crimea is littered with reminders of both its history and the legacy of its conquerors. It would seem that the period during which the Italians occupied this country was one of good times and some granduer and they left behind them many fine and grand houses and small mansions. These houses share a style and age (approx 200-300 years) and were clearly very beautiful in their day and a sharp contrast to much of the Soviet/Russian construction that was to follow years later. In defence of the Soviets they faced the huge task of rebuilding their country immediately following World War 2 and the priority was to throw up as much housing as possible as quickly as possible, a task they clearly achieved very successfully. This construction has not stood the test of time, but actually I suspect it was never intended to. It was a quick fix that due to circumstance never got fixed.

We continued our rather slow trip to Yalta, taking a pause from the conveyor belt of traffic to pull into one of the many road side Cafe/Restaurants that line the road. The minimalist style has clearly not arrived in these parts, maximalism is king here. The restaurant we had chosen was packed with life-sized plastic goblins, animals and wooden structures all over the place. I guess the term kitsch has not yet made it here either.

Well we finally arrived at Yalta, 2 hours to cover 85 klms and it was packed. We found a place to park the car $10 for 4 hrs, big money here and went in search of a beach. As with much of the Crimea large sections of the beach are closed, or inaccessible, but eventually we found one. How to describe it? Lots of construction, very crowded beaches, well sadly I liked neither Yalta, nor its coastal strip, but having said that it is probably the Crimea`s most westernised city and for anyone on a first trip to the Crimea a good starting point.

After 4 hours we set off from Yalta heading west. There is a good road connecting Yalta with Sevastopol, but it is high up in the hills, so we braved a smaller road and headed down towards the sea. We encountered some very interesting small villages, many littered with decaying, but inhabited grand houses from a previous era,mostly of a similar grand Italian style, quite clearly once very beautiful and imposing,but sadly access to the sea, or beach was either restricted, impossible, or just to ugly to consider.

Eventually we found ourselves back on the main highway and pulled into yet another very elaborate, over designed (imagine a Christmas tree with so much tinsel and decoration that you cannot see the tree and you get the picture) but good quality roadside restaurant, we took a short coffee stop and they told us there was a beach some 8 klms further westward and that’s where we headed to catch the last of the days sunshine.

We came across a road sign pointing to the village we were seeking and headed back downhill towards the sea. We meandered through a small, but undistinguished village and the road ended at a car park, paid our $1 and headed off through a myriad of buildings in search of access to the beach ,sea, which we found. What we found was a small pebble cove quite pretty and took what was to be a very pleasant bathe in a sea clean and quite warm. This area had clearly been of some industrial or military value at some point in it`s history, now nature and the sea was working hard to return what was left into its component parts, I wish nature Gods speed.

We returned to our rental car and headed off towards Sevastopol, but midway came across a very dramatic and appealing cove way, way below us, so adventurously headed off the main road at the first turnoff we could find. We offered a ride to 2 hitch hikers (not a common site) from Kiev. They told us that they enjoyed this area as it was largely unspoilt. They rewarded our generosity by telling of a beautiful beach nearby and giving us directions,

We headed down and down towards the sea the small road turning into a lane, then a mud track and finally a good way to wreck a car. The beach was tantalizingly close and we could see the beach and yes it looked beautiful, but……. They forgot to tell us it lay within Russian territory!! Through a quirk of history there are several Russian owned enclaves within Crimea and we had driven into one.

The Russian sailors patrolling the area were friendly enough, though I felt that they wondered what a European was doing in such a remote spot and we were not invited in, well actually we were shown the easiest way to leave.

We retraced our steps, eventually finding our blacktop road and started back uphill to the main road. Much of Crimea is mountainous and the biggest mountains hug the south west coast. On reaching the main road we again set off to Sevastopol and having become beach addicts this day decided to complete our day with a moonlight swim in Sevastopol.

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