Friday, March 02, 2007


So I forgot to post this. This is a special magical video from the toilets of the Bratislava-Lviv train. We saw this in other places too, for the record.

Right. So after Kyiv the next destination was Yalta, the Cape Cod and the Ft. Lauderdale of the Former Soviet Union rolled into one. It is the PRIMO destination for summer vacationers in the Soviet Union. Not just for drunken teenagers or just for families with children or just old people. It's for EVERYBODY, which would certainly be quite amusing. Unluckily, I was there in February.

Yalta is at the southern end of the Crimean peninsula, which is at the southern end of Ukraine, jutting out into the Black Sea. Florence Nightingale IN THE HIZ-OUSE! Crimea is technically an autonomous republic within Ukraine. They are independent except for matters of national defense, foreign relations, some aspects of transportation infrastructure, and other boring things. Russian is the official language, and they're proud of it.

Yalta is unreachable by train. Running along the southern shore of Crimea are the Crimean Mountains, which make easy train crossings somewhat prohibitive. So what the traveler has to do is take a train to Simferopol, the capital of The Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and take wheelbound transport from there. There are multiple options--buses taking about and hour and a half, Marshrutkas taking a little less than that, and the world's longest trolleybus!

That broke ass fucker runs all the way from Simferopol to Yalta, something like 80 kilometers, or about 45 miles. Unfortunately, I never took it. On my way to Yalta the trolleybus was broken, and they didn't know when it would be running again. On my way from Yalta, I didn't have enough time to take slow transport. Alas!

The drive to Yalta over the mountains is quite amusing. You're passing trolleybuses while passing from sunny valleys to snow covered shitholes:

It wasn't too cold in Simferopol, but it's in a valley. The above pictures are maybe 15km from Simferopol, going up and down the mountain.

But then, you start to decline. And it warms up as you approach Yalta:

And then you're in Yalta. And it's...uhm...yeah...

Hey! At least there's no snow. It snowed every day I was in Ukraine up to that point. Actually, it would snow every day I was in Ukraine, but not while I was in Yalta (I was there only 1 night).


Right. With a little more than 24 hours in Yalta, I was eager to cram in as much shit as possible. So I hopped a Marshrutka and headed out to see the cutest little castle EV0R!

It's the Swallows Nest! Arrrr! Walk the Plank!

Being the icy off-season, reaching the castle was much more difficult than I expected. I was dropped off on the side of the road, and pointed in the general direction. I walked, found a secret path, walked by a guard station, and ended up at a dead end. I went up to some dude, pointed at a picture of a castle, and he pointed me back up the the guard station. PRETTY SEA SUNSET:

So I went to the guard station, showed the camo-clad guards the picture of the castle, and watched as they chatted with each other and on a walkie talkie for a minute. Then they promptly told me, "20 hrivna" (4 dollars). I obliged. I think it was a bribe. Yeah.

So some dude came walking up a path on the other side of the guard station, holding a key attached to a big piece of radiator pipe. I crossed through the guard gate, and started walking somewhere with radiator pipe guy. I was inside some compound. I didn't realize it earlier, but we were surrounded by fences of barbed wire. Weird. Well, we got to another gate, and beyond it was the castle. Another dude came to the other side of that gate, opened it and let me. The first dude with the radiator pipe walked off. I was at the castle.

Inside the castle was what appeared to be a restaurant. I couldn't get the pictures to come out. It was fucking TINY, maybe 8 tables. Scope the view:

The lights on the faraway shore are Yalta:

I'm fucking cool.

So on the way back to the guard station through the compound, I examined my surroundings a little more closely. The compound appeared to be some sort of resort, but it wasn't clear if it was government or private. What was clear was that NOBODY was there but me. The fact that the guards were in camo doesn't mean that it's government...a lot of private guards wear it too, since it's comfortable and free from when they were in the military. Yeah. Check out this Albania sized pothole:

The snow makes it look less deep.

Back in Yalta I did a little more exploring. This is the pier at night:

And who's this dapper fellow?

Lenin! It's like a lesson in political history:

That's Ruzvelta Ulitsa. "Roosevelt Street" for capitalist pigs? If you're asking why there's a Roosevelt Street in a Soviet resort town, then you slept through history class. DINNER TIME:

I thought I was getting ripped off by my hotel, but then the room came with this monster meal (and breakfast!). Above is some awesome soup, with pieces of pork and pickles in superbroth with sour cream. Below are pickled mushrooms, extreme rice, and intense fish.

Dessert was blini (blintzes, Americans). They are essentially crepes, with cheese rolled up inside. For maximum boner they are covered with sour cream and served with jam and some raw sugar goop. It was amazing.

More Yalta coming soon.

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