Traveling is exciting especially to a country where I have never been before. One can say it’s exotic, even. For part of September, Vlad and I flew across the globe to visit Ukraine and more specifically to Simferopol in Crimea, where he grew up. The two and half weeks trip has been an adventure for me as I didn’t speak Russian, the primarily language in Crimea. (more on that later). Surely not understanding the language had been a source of frustration, although it forced me to really observe with my eyes.
First shocking, yet basic fact about Crimea/Simferopol is that it is F…A….RRR. We flew on a direct but long 11-hours flight from San Francisco to Paris and then it’s another 3 hours to Kiev, the Capital of Ukraine. Then, for some odd reason, the layover in Kiev to Simferopol was nothing short of 4 hours. Then, it’s another 90 minutes to Simferopol. We counted, the entire trip, door to door, was over 27 hours. It reminded me of the days when I used to travel from Ecuador to Taiwan, except this time around, I’m 10 years older, which translating in travel terms, the pain felt seismically 10 times more!
The second intriguing and surprising fact about Crimea is that it has years and layers of history unlike any other places that I’ve been to. Crimean peninsula, given its proximity to Black See and therefore more temperate weather, has been desired and sought for. Consequently, it has been ruled by different cultures throughout history, including Greeks, Romans, Mongols, Turks, and more recently Russian/Soviet influence. While touring Crimea, my mother-in-law and Vlad’s aunts have shown me different parts of Crimea that showed evidence of this. For example, one of the larger cities in Crimea, Sevastopol was once a Russian navy stronghold and yet it had archeological evidence as early as 6th Century BC, Greeks & Romans were there!
The more recent foreign occupation of Crimean Peninsular was Russian influence during the Soviet times. Aforementioned, proximity to Black City was of militaristic importance, which did not surprise me. What’s more interesting is that Crimea has been considered a resort vacation spot for Russians. For example, Vlad and I went to Yalta, which was located on the Black Sea. Yalta was famous for being the host of the Yalta Conference in WWII. The scenery was picturesque and the weather was very similar to California. Yalta has been considered a resort as early as the Tsar era where there were number of palaces for the Royals and the Influential. We visited the Vorontsov Palace and this place was stunningly lavish – perched on the edge of Black Sea, with the Crimean Mountains as backdrop, the ocean-front view was gorgeous! The inside showed luxury and more.
Finally, the whole Russian-speaking culture in Crimea, in Ukraine still has me puzzled. However, given the history of the Peninsula, I’m not at all surprised. After all, Ukraine gained independence from Soviet Russia in 1989, which was only 23 years ago. All in all, it was an eye-opening experience to me. Mostly, I’m in awe of the rich and intertwined history of Ukraine.