Along with many other changes that occur in this world the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation on March 18, 2014. Crimea is a diamond-shaped peninsula with a subtropical climate. If you choose to travel to lovely Crimea then you have to have a Russian visa. The mountains here are the heartland of Crimean Tartars. This is a wonderful place to explore with many things to delight the eye including ancient cave cities. You can go trekking and cycling and enjoy the beautiful nature all around.
Khan’s Palace is an impressive mosque that was erected in the 16th century under the direction of Persian, Ottoman and Italian architects. In the west wing is the dimly lit Divan Hall, once the seat of government. Through the hall you see the inner courtyard with two lovely fountains – the Golden Fountain from 1733 and the Fountain of Tears from 1764, which was made famous by Alexander Pushkin, a Russian poet, playwright and novelist. It’s tradition to place two roses on the fountain – a red one for love and a yellow one for chagrin. Pushkin was the first to do this. Across the yard you can see the Falcon Tower. Beside the mosque is the Khan’s Cemetery and on the grounds in the southeast corner the mausoleum of Dilara Bikez.
Chufut-Kale is a long, bluff plateau rising 200m, housing a honeycomb of caves and structures where people took refuge for centuries. The burial chambers and casemates with large open “windows” are fascinating to explore. There is a breathtaking view of the valley below.
You enter through the 14th century main South Gate and come upon many carved-out rooms and steps. There are two locked prayer houses in a walled courtyard. You can take a look at the Kariate cultural center and relax in the cafe there. You’ll see burial chambers along a grassy track that will take you to the locked East Gate from where you make your way back to the main gate.
Take the time to explore the Uspensky Monastery. This gold-domed church was built into the limestone rock of the surrounding hill most likely by Byzantine monks in the 8th or 9th century. You can see whitewashed monks’ cells, a “healing” fountain and tiled mosaics.
Taurida Central Museum is Crimea’s largest museum with three main sections. The first is a collection of golden artifacts that were produced by Hellenized Alano-Goths in the princedom of Feodoro, today Mangup-Kale. This can only be accessed with a guide. On the upper floor is a conventional history exhibit with signs in Russian. There is a separate large hall that offers an exhibition dedicated to the Romanovs and their last happy summers in Crimea.
Mikhaylovskaya Battery is a massive fortification that can be seen across the bay from central Sevastopol. This served as a hospital during the Crimean War. Recently it has been made into a museum dedicated to Sevastopol’s military history with an emphasis on the Crimean War. On display are original uniforms, weapons, photos and lots of different memorabilia. You can listen to old military marches and speeches by historic figures. There are tours available in English.
Primorsky Boulevard is a pleasant boulevard to walk along and in the hot weather to find shade under the trees.
The boulevard begins at Grafskaya Pristan or Count’s Jetty – Sevastopol’s official gateway marked by a colonnaded arch. Here you can take a ride on a bay cruise.
In the square you can see the monument dedicated to Admiral Nakhimov, the man who led the city’s defense during the Crimean War.
Walking along the seafront you can see the Eagle Column, set atop a rock in the sea from 1904. It commemorates Russian ships deliberately scuppered at the mouth of the harbor in 1854 so that enemy ships could not pass. The boulevard ends at Artbukhta or Artillery Quay where you can enjoy the city’s nightlife.
The Naval Museum has impressively huge nuclear-blast-proof doors. You can wander through some of the 600m former repair docks, mess rooms and empty arsenal on a one-hour guided tour. It is located in Sevastopol and is an underground submarine base. In 2007 when MTV was launched in the Ukraine this was where the party was held.
Built in 1522 Dzhuma-Dzhami Mosque is the landmark mosque attributed to Mimar Sinan, the same architect who built Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque. Located in Yevpatoriya this was the main mosque during Ottoman rule.
Visitors enjoy exploring the ruins of Khersones, an ancient Greek city that was founded in 422 BC. It is located at the southwestern part of the Crimea peninsula where Volodymyr the Great was famously baptized into Christianity in 988AD, launching what would become the Russian Orthodox Church. Here the best preserved structure is the ancient theater.
You’ll also enjoy seeing the restored Vladimirsky Cathedral and an interesting museum which displays items excavated on the site. You can see the stone arch with the bell from a Crimean War cannon. It is lovely here in May when the red poppies bloom.
One of Yalta’s attractions is the Chekhov House-Museum. This was where Anton Chekhov wrote his classic play “The Cherry Orchard”. Being a tuberculosis sufferer the great Russian dramatist spent much of his last five years in Yalta. He designed the white dacha and garden himself. He entertained such famous guests here as Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin, composer Rachmaninoff and writers Maxim Gorky and Leo Tolstoy. There are nine rooms left as they were when Chekhov departed from Yalta for Germany in May 1904. There are explanation sheets available in several languages.
The Swallow’s Nest is a decorative castle located in Gaspra. It is the favorite object of Crimean postcards. The castle sits perched on the cheer cliff of Cape Ay-Todor, 10km west of Yalta. It has quite a dizzying affect when visitors realize that the castle actually overhangs the cliff. It was built in 1912 for German oil magnate Baron Steingel, as a present to his mistress. You can head on up the walkway or take the most spectacular approach by ferry. Today it is home to an Italian restaurant.
Massandra Palace is a hunting lodge in Yalta that was built to look-like a French chateau. It was completed by Tsar Alexander III in 1889 but is most famous for being Stalin’s summer dacha. Inside you can see antique furnishings and paintings. Outside on the grounds is lovely parkland with sphinxes with female heads guarding a pond with water lilies and an Art Nouveau power-station building.
Nikitsky Botanic Gardens in Yalta has a wind range of flora from all around the world. There are 3sq km of hillside, and seaside grounds. It was founded in 1812 and designed by British gardener Christian Stephen. Fondly named “Nikita”, the gardens have around 28,000 species including olive trees and roses, cacti, ancient yews and pistachios. You can relax at the cafe surrounded by all the beauty. This is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world. On the premises is also a scientific research institute, a center of production of exclusive saplings and seeds and a famous park complex of relict forests and man-made natural exhibitions.
Genovese Fortress in Sudak sits perched on a massive seaside cliff. It was built during the 14th and 15th centuries. Today ten original towers remain. These bear the grand-sounding names of Genovese nobles who ruled the city. Visitors can visit the sea-facing Consul’s Tower and 13th century temple. Originally the fortress was a mosque. Every summer it plays host to the medieval festival Genovese Helmet, held on set between mid-July and the end of August. Visitors can see actors dressed as knights in sword-play and storming the fortress on horseback. Stalls offer blacksmithing, crafts from the Middle Ages and AK-47 shooting.
Livadia Palace was the site of the 1945 Yalta Conference. In the White Hall you can see the most famous Yalta photograph of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Originally this Italian Renaissance-style building was designed as a summer residence for Russian Tsar Nicholas II in 1911. He and his family spent four seasons here before being arrested by the Bolshevik troops in 1917 and executed in Yekaterinburg the following year. You can see photos and mementos of the Romanovs in their private apartments. There is a row of souvenir shops at the entrance.
In Miskhor, on the coastal road you’ll find some market stalls and a cable car that will take you up the cliff of Mt Ay-Petri. The ride up is spectacular and the views are fantastic of the coast and the sea. There are also some nice Tatar eateries.
Visitors enjoy viewing the Massandra Winery which was once the imperial court’s winery. The Russian-language tour takes you into the tsar’s wine cellars, containing more than a million dust-covered bottles including a 1775 Spanish Jerez de la Frontera that is supposedly the oldest preserved wine in the world. A shop sells wine bottles for collection at modest prices.
Voloshin’s House sits by the bay in Koktebel beneath the Kara-Dag Mountains. This is the home of Poet Maximilian Voloshin, who lived here even as the Civil War was raging in Crimea. Today it is a museum.
Ayvazovsky Gallery displays the paintings of Ivan Ayvazovsky who was the official painter of the Russian Navy. He was mesmerized by the sea and created thousands of paintings.
Gurzuf Park is a large coastal estate with a vast subtropical park and palatial buildings. You can take tours of the estate and the Pushkin in Crimea museum here. Pushkin the exiled Russian poet enjoyed trekking in the mountains.
Cape Fiolent at the southernmost tip of Sevastopol offers visitors great beauty and an 800-step descent from the cliff-top Georgievsky Monastery to the city’s most scenic beach – Yashmovy.
You’ll discover some amazing rock formations that have been created by wind erosion of sandstone under Mt Demerdzhi in the Valley of the Ghosts. There are strange pillars and lodging can be booked at the nearby village Luchistoye with impressive views of the coast. At the Dolina Privideny Lodge you can arrange to go trekking in the mountains.
432 steps will take you up Mithridates Hill in Kerch. The view from the summit is spectacular and you can see the ruins of the ancient city of Panticapaeum revealed by an archaeological dig.
Take the time to visit the candy-striped Church of St. John the Baptist, dating back to 717.
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