Summer, sea, scent-laden wind blowing from mountains, rave of colours in fruit bazaars, silence of morning parks, splendours of royal palaces: this is Greater Yalta. Only when you come will you understand why Russian Tsars sent rebels into exile to the Caucasus while they themselves went on vacation to the southern shore of Crimea.
Greater Yalta is simply a paradise on earth worth discovering. Its boundary stretches for 70 kilometres on the Black Sea coast, mountains, and beaches from Foros to Gurzuf. Its ‘settlements’ are 170 resorts and sanatoriums. Its calling card is the sun shining here 2,250 hours a year, same as in Nice. Its border checkpoint is the 150-year-old Baidarsky Gates, 46 km from Yalta. The panoramic view which opens before your eyes through the arch of this gate to Greater Yalta will stay in your memory forever. As will the elegant silhouette of the Church of the Resurrection built in 1892 on top of the Red Cliff rising from the sea as a 400-metre pedestal. Or, perhaps, the palace of a “tea king” Alexander Kuznetsov located in a shady park. Or the road running along Berehove (Kastropol) with the 120-metre Iphigenia cliff and Devil’s Ladder pass. But let us start our trip from Yalta.
Church of the Immaculate Conception in Yalta.
Our departure point is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records: to get to Yalta from the Simferopol Rail Terminal you take the longest trolleybus route in the world (86 km)! After that, directions are simple: all roads lead to the shore where the heart of this 80-thousand resorts city beats. Palm trees, sea waves, seagulls, mountains, music everywhere: it seems like a picture from a tourist brochure come alive.
If you are here for a cultural experience, welcome to the city theatre. Here, in 1900, Anton Chekhov was watching his own plays staged by Konstantin Stanislavski. Chekhov and Yalta have a long romance. You will see it when visiting the writer’s dacha-museum where he lived for five years and wrote his Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.
To continue with classics, visit the Lesya Ukrainka Literature-Memorial Museum. The poetess often visited Yalta where she translated Byron’s Cain and Shakespeare’s Macbeth into Ukrainian.
Those of you tired from the glamour of the embankment will surely be attracted by the old narrow streets where fishermen once lived. A funicular runs from the seashore over the city. A half hour in a two-seat cabin gives an opportunity to peek into Yalta residents’ windows for UAH20. When you get to the observation site above the city, do not forget to take a lot of pictures.
Children will surely love the delphinarium, and architecture buffs will want to see the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Pushkinska Str. 25, built in 1898-1906 from a design by Russian Imperial Court Architect Nikolai Krasnov. During Soviet times, this place was turned into a museum of local lore, but today, masses are celebrated and organ concerts are held in the church. By the way, quiet, pedestrian Pushkinska Street is Yalta’s version of Montmartre. The city’s other treasures include Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral (1891-1902) at Sadova Str. 2 which looks like a carved chest and a former Moresque palace of the Bukhara Emir which is now Yalta Sanatorium (1903).
| Gaspra, Alupka, Simeiz|
Palace of Count Vorontsov.
Looking for picture-perfect beauty? Head to Gaspra! This town is best-known for its romantic ‘castle of love’ – Swallow’s Nest, built in 1912 from a design by Sherwood at the cape of Ai–Todor.
The architect did the impossible: Swallow’s Nest is at the same time monumental and elegant, majestic and miniature. Who cares if it is a stylisation of the Medieval Ages: Swallow’s Nest boasts frantic admiration from the masses, nothing short of star popularity, and the status of Crimea’s emblem. Destiny itself decided the profile of this romantic building sitting on top of a 40-metre cliff. Today there is a restaurant within the building.
Heading southwest from Gaspra along the shore, you get to Alupka. This resort town captivates you with East and West meeting at the splendid Palace of Count Vorontsov. The design of the palace spreading inside the amphitheatre of mountains in the middle of a landscaped park was developed by Edward Blore, court architect of William IV and Queen Victoria! Its romantic appeal still lives here where sleepy lions greet you at the entrance and marble sculptures are hiding in the winter garden.
The resort town of Simeiz, located to the southwest of Alupka, hides in the cool shadow of Mount Koshka (Cat). The Cat’s “back” gave archaeologists many finds including 70 ancient Tauri burial stones. This is one of the most majestic views in southern Crimea: the imposing peak of Ai-Petri, the Pulkovo Observatory, and swimming pool and slides of a large aquapark by the sea. Astronomers love it: the sky here has few clouds and the air is surprisingly clear. Excellent conditions for studying the Sun and the Moon!
| Massandra and Nikita|
Massandra is Crimea’s absolute “must see” place. Long ago, a splendid palace was built here and travellers to Crimea noted: “All Crimea’s beauty is in Upper Massandra”. Construction of the French Baroque palace surrounded by a beautiful park was started by the Vorontsovs in 1829 and finished by the Romanovs. In 1893, Alexander ІІІ, who adored Massandra, ordered the palace to be rebuilt even though he could not take time to fully enjoy living here. For a long time Massandra was a Soviet government dacha but a museum was inaugurated in the palace in 1991. Make sure your visit the palace’s quarters! Each room is designed in a different style: Roman vestibule, Gothic dining room, Classical study, Renaissance billiard room, Modern Tsarina’s chambers, Empire Tsar’s chambers... Not only a palace but a textbook on the history of culture! The Russian Tsars loved Crimea: Nicholas ІІ picked another Greater Yalta location, Livadia, and built a splendid palace there.
Three kilometres away from Yalta lay the cool alleys of the Nikitsky Botanical Garden opened in 1811. It has almost 30 thousand species of plants from all corners of the world! Where else can you find Californian oak, feijoa, bamboo, and sequoia peacefully coexisting? The lower park in Nikita was founded in the 19th century, and the olive grove has been here for 160 years. The botanical garden also includes The Martian Cape with its 120-hectare sub-Mediterranean forest preserve.
If your childhood years were in Soviet times, you will surely want to visit Artek, the world’s most famous international Young Pioneer camp in Gurzuf, although the town is interesting in itself. Gurzuf has oriental-style narrow and mazy streets, noisy souvenir bazaars and an exceptionally beautiful park with numerous sculptural inhabitants which currently belong to the sanatorium of the Ministry of Defence. Some 120 years ago, it was the luxurious summer residence of Russian millionaire Gubonin. Most of the hotels built back then are now used as sanatoriums. A sensual fountain The Night, brought in here in 1898 from Vienna, stands in its explicit beauty, surrounded by banana groves (the park has many exotic plants). Gurzuf also features the museum house of painter Korovin where opera genius Feodor Chaliapin and writer Maxim Gorky used to visit, as well as a small house by the Genoese Cliff where Anton Chekhov worked in 1900, and “the House of Richelieu” (inside Pushkin sanatorium) where in 1820 Oleksandr Pushkin lived the three “happiest weeks” of his life.
Artists and Tsars had the same feelings towards Greater Yalta. They were right: vacationing here is a royal luxury with unforgettable memories.
| PLACES TO STAY|
Hotel Oreanda****: Yalta, Lenin Str. 35/2, tel.: +38 0654 274 250, www.hotel-oreanda.com
Hotel Yalta****: Yalta, Drazhinski Str. 50, tel.: +38 0654 270 260, www.hotel-yalta.com/ua/
Hotel Bristol***: Yalta, Roosevelt Str. 10, tel.: +38 654 271 606, www.hotel-bristol.com.ua
Yasnaya Polyana: Gaspra, Sevastopol Shosse 52, tel.: +38 0654 273 754,
Yusupov Palace****: Koreiz, Park Descent 26, tel.: +38 0654 722139, 241222,
Nizhnyaya Oreanda Sanatorium: Oreanda, tel.: +38 0654 322 212, www.oreanda.biz.
| PLACES TO EAT |
Riviera Chinatown: Yalta, Lenina Str. 35/2, tel.: +38 0654 274258.
Siam Paradise: (Thai cuisine): Yalta, Drazhinski Str. 31, tel.: +38 0654 271 883.
Old Baku: Yalta, Sadova Str. 5, tel.: +38 0654 325 503.
Jolly Khotei: Gurzuf, Gurzuf Shosse 16, tel.: +38 050 5680 966.
Tiflis: Livadia, Baturin Str. 1, tel.: +38 0654 314 793.
© Panorama Magazine