Ukraine: Crimea

Global Voices Online
Friday, August 31, 2007

On the last day of summer, here's a translation of LJ user drugoi's photo report (RUS, Aug. 13) on his trip to Crimea, one of the favorite summer tourism destinations in the Soviet times, now facing fierce competition from resorts in Turkey and Egypt:

[Yalta] is like a native town for me; I was five when I was taken here for the first time, and then I've visited it an innumerable number of times, lived here for a long time and know the place very well, and miss it. I'm here now because I've missed it. It happens once every five-seven years now.

This time we've decided to stay at "Livadia" sanatorium, located in a small town near Yalta. The roofless building in the picture [Please visit the original post to see this and other pictures accompanying the text.] is part of the sanatorium's reception department. It absolutely does not mean that the rest of it looks the same. But this isn't a rare sight here, either - old things gradually collapse, new ones grow slowly, yet steadily.

Since our last visit in 2000, Yalta has changed a lot - there are more cars and more people, and every square centimeter of the city's surface is used to sell something. In summer, the resort city is desperately trying to recover what was lost during winter hibernation - everyone is selling something. A man walks out of his house, places floor scales on the sidewalk, writes on a piece of cardboard, "Scales - 1 hryvnia [$0.25]" - and he's already an entrepreneur, taking the much-needed kopeck back home.

The contrasts have grown more pronounced - utter poverty is next to luxurious limousines and palaces built over old vineyards. My favorite confectionary "Pchyolka" ["A Little Bee"], where I could stand for hours as a child, looking at the toy railway in the shop window, has been replaced with a casino. [...]


They way they talk in the street is different now - there's more shokanye and fricative 'g' [Ukrainian pronunciation]. It appears as if people from Eastern Ukraine have replaced those from Moscow and Leningrad; the latter are now vacationing in Turkey and Egypt. There are very few cars with Russian license plates in Yalta - I've seen two or three.


[Livadia]'s center is a small square near a bus station. Buses are no longer running - they've been replaced with Mercedes minivans and taxis. There's also a small market here, where you can buy anything your soul desires. Our lifestyle here is the proper lifestyle of a Soviet tourist in Yalta - we buy watermelons, boiled corn, and drink homemade wine on our balcony.


[The Livadia Palace], next to which we live, has lost its calm grandeur and has turned into yet another money-making machine. Souvenir tents surround the palace, and there're wax sculpture exhibitions and God knows what else inside. Next to the home church of [the Romanovs], music is blaring day and night from the restaurants stuck right to the palace.


Take a few steps from the palace - whose flower beds are still taken care of, sort of - and there's ruin. Garbage is under every bush and no one's taking it away.


[Behind the summer residence of the last Russian czar], the stench of [excrements] was unbearable and none of the street lamps was intact - it looked like someone had deliberately torn off the light bulbs [...] out of them.


Below are a few comments of the 132 that this post has received:


They steal a lot in Crimea's [government] :( No one's looking after the historical monuments - the whole territory has been given away to [individual entrepreneurs], and officials are pocketing the money obtained from them. Turkey and Egypt are indeed a better deal now - they, at least, have normal service and it's clean there.


Terrible... to treat the land like this (wherever it is, in Crimea, St. Petersburg or Ryazan...). They talk about the government, [the Orange and the Blue ones], about a lack of funding... But it's so simple! When you go camping with friends, take an extra garbage bag with you. And everything will change right away...


We were in Crimea two years ago because of the problems with my foreign travel passport. I haven't had such a terrible vacation in a long time. In Simeiz, we paid $30 a day for a room that didn't have a bathroom of its own, where water was being turned on on schedule, and the landlady, named Evgeniya Nikolayevna, was running around the hallways, inquiring loudly who hadn't flushed the toilet completely, instead of cleaning it quietly by herself.

Then I quickly cleared up the situation with my passport and we went to Montenegro. For 20 euros a day we had everything there, including free grape vodka, sailing the sea in our landlords' boat, and everyone's love. All this as well as the relative cleanliness and the European idea of what service is. Crimea does not deserve our oil dollars.

P.S. On the way to the beach in [Simeiz], there was a turd - it lay right in the middle of the road, drying in the sun. In the 14 days of our stay in this resort town, no one bothered to take it away.

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