Waiting To Be Discovered Crimea

Crimea is a vibrant and colorful garden bursting with beauty… A place where you will feel the magic power of Pushkin's lines and the majestic images of Tarkovsky's films as you wander through It.

Forging strong ties with Anatolia throughout its history, Crimea is a land not at all alien to our cultural geography. Like Anatolia, Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula was a cradle of civilizations that played the role of a major bridge between the Russian, Asian and European cultures with all the concomitant cultural richness. With mosques from the time of the Crimean Khans, a cuisine similar to that of Anatolia, and Russian-style onion-domed churches, Crimea boasts a wealth of treasures just waiting to be discovered. But the reason it attracts millions of tourists every year is something even beyond its cultural assets: Crimea is at the same time a veritable wonder of nature! The micro climates along its southern shores especially make it the Mediterranean of the Black Sea, and not surprisingly the beaches on these pristine coasts are overwhelmed by holidaymakers in summer. You will encounter spellbinding landscapes as you tour these shores, which were an inspiration to the world-famous painter Ayvazovsky, whose works graced even the Ottoman palaces.

Crimea is at the same time a vital destination for health tourism. Its mineral-rich geothermal springs are known for their broad-ranging therapeutic properties. Meanwhile the region of low mountains and hills just inside the coastal strip determines the region’s overall topography. Rain clouds laden with water from the Black Sea have transformed Crimea’s mountains into so many emerald green jewels. If we had to name two colors that sum up Crimea they would be blue and green hands down. This vast countryside where you will discover the unique textures of rural Crimea in which Chekhov set many of his short stories, most notably The Lady With the Lapdog, invites you to explore in all its vibrance. Nikita State Botanical Park, Jur-Jur and Uchan-su waterfalls and the Demirji and Ay-Petri Highlands are just a few of the spots where you can bask in Crimea’s natural beauty. The Crimean countryside also offers extremely enjoyable and interesting opportunities for climbing, mountain hiking, spelunking, canoeing and bicycling.

But the cities of this country of endless natural beauty also delight visitors with a richness of their own. Simferopol is Crimea’s transportation hub. This city, whose name is a throwback to the Greeks who lived here in the 3rd century B.C., is both the heart of the country and a major cultural basin known for having produced world-renowned musicians, pianists, and athletes. Aka the Akmescit in Turkey, the Great Mosque of Simferopol is one of the city’s leading cultural and architectural treasures. The city, which boasts an advanced rail network, also holds the record for the world’s longest trolleybus line (86 kilometers), which links it to Yalta and from there to the Black Sea. Already a popular holiday destination in Czarist times, Yalta has always been a center of attraction for pleasure seekers. Swallow’s Nest Castle near the city is among its finest treasures. This castle, which overlooks the sea from the summit of a steep slope as if conjured up out of a fairytale, is, in a word, spellbinding. This castle, from which adrenaline-spiking dives are sometimes made, is an absolute must-see. Vorontsov Palace meanwhile near the town of Alupka offers visitors a perfect architectural feast.  Continuing from Yalta and tracing the curve of the coast through Sevastopol, Alushta, Sudak, Kefe (Feodosiya), Yevpatoria, Saki and Koktebel, makes a spectacular journey of discovery. But Crimea has one more city, modest yet magnificent: Bakhchisaray. Khan Mosque and Hansaray palace, built as a miniature of Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace, are among the must-see sights here. The celebrated Russian poet and writer Pushkin was very impressed by the palace, which inspired his famous work, The Fountain of Bakhchisaray. Exerting its influence over artists, emperors and travelers down the centuries, Crimea is truly worth seeing. Go there. You’ll love it!

Its construction undertaken by the Genoese in the 14th century, Sudak Castle is an opulent cultural attraction. Leaning against the mountains with its face to the Black Sea’s choppy waters, this castle harbors within it a museum and a mosque dating back to Ottoman times. Punctuated by towers displaying the Genoese coat of arms, its ramparts promise an impressive panorama. Crimea is known as much for its underwater riches as for its natural beauty.

Crimean dishes exhibit serious influence by Turkish cuisine. A variety of beureks are usually served at breakfast. Seafood is a perennial favorite alongside stuffed peppers, meat pilaff and fish soup. You can also sample selections from the world’s cuisines in Simferopol and Yalta.

You can find decorative items in the shopping centers at the city centers. Scenes from the Czarist period, rustic furniture, porcelain vases, bronze candleholders and antique clocks are among the items sold here.

Hotels in Crimea are rapidly rising in diversity. It’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance at the coastal hotels in the high season between June and September. A large number of economical hostels and apart hotels can be found at Yalta.

Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Simferopol-Istanbul flights daily. Departure times are 10:25 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. from Istanbul and 1:10 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. from Simferopol. www.turkishairlines.com

There is a widespread belief that the Black Sea’s most beautiful beaches are found on Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. A local guidebook recommends Cape Fiolente, the northern coasts of Sevastopol and the shores at Kefe.

A watering hole for Russian aristocrats since the 19th century, Yalta offers an opportunity for self-renewal in body and soul at its newly renovated health resorts. The first-class facilities here offer volcanic stone massages, aromatherapy and spa activities, all by expertly trained staff.

A hike is the best way to explore the cave settlements, aka Cave Town, on the southwest side of the Crimean peninsula. You may come across traces of medieval settlements in this region famous for its spellbinding natural beauty reminiscent of Cappadocia.

Crimea’s White House
Chufut-Kale near Bakhchsaray bears witness to Crimea’s long-standing  history. Mysterious underground settlements lie hidden in the walls of  this medieval fortress, built between the 6th and 12th centuries.

Crimea also boasts ideal areas for nature sports like rock climbing, spelunking and sailing. And the vineyard-covered slopes of Mt. Klementiev near Kefe are a favorite with paragliding enthusiasts.

You can see the works of the world-famous painter Ayvazovsky in the painting museum at the former fishing village of Kefe. There is also a statue of the artist directly in front of the museum.

The International Chekhov Theater Festival is held in Yalta every September. Theaters of many countries from Ukraine itself to Albania and Poland took part in last year’s festival, which used the Chekhov Theater as its main venue.

Suavİ Kemal Yazgıç
Writer-POET
“This lovely holiday spot on the Black Sea is a veritable jewel with its natural beauty and long coastal strip. Plus there are numerous must-see treasures in Crimea, which is just a hop, skip and jump from Istanbul by air. If you go to this special peninsula which is inhabitable year-round, I recommend that you also sample the richness of Crimean cuisine.”