Sunday, June 15, 2008

1-8 June – Crimea and Southern Ukraine

We passed the police control into the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This peninsula has a long history and there have been numerous rulers here during the last two thousand years. The people here are more oriented towards Russia than towards Ukraine. There is also a substantial population of Crimea Tatars, a Turkish and muslim ethnic group. Stalin tried to kill all of them, but some survived the many years in Siberia and have now returned.

We camped on the beach on the south coast and went swimming in the Black Sea. But 17 degrees in the water is not warm even if you come from Scandinavia…

We washed our clothes (Nina used the French foot technique) and used our solar shower. Room service is not on the program.

The Rybalko family from Belarus camped next to us and we had a lovely time together. They told us about the continuing repression by President Lukashenko, the communist dictator of Belarus. It is unbelievable that such a fascist-communist state can still exist in the middle of Europe.

We passed Yalta (where Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met in February 1945 and decided about the future of Europe) and Sevastopol (which is a major Russian military port and controlled by Russia until 2019). The historical town of Bakhchysaray was impressive. We climbed up to the Uspensky cave monastery (picture) and also visited the Khan’s Palace from the 16th century.

We reached Odessa after a long drive across the plains of Ukraine. The soil is really black and fertile here. In Odessa, our first destination was the Potemkin steps which Ola remebers from his Russian studies. To be honest, the steps were not very well maintained and a bit of a disappointment. And the kids wondered why on earth we should drive all the way to Odessa to look at some broken stone steps. But we had a nice time at the beach, a nice lunch at a tradtitional restaurant, and were threatened by guards with Kalashnikovs when camping at an abandoned camp site. So Odessa, with its surprisingly nice and cosmopolitan city centre, was a positive experience!

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