Here I am. Back in reality. I still can't beleive what i've seen this past week.
So let me backtrack a bit. It started last month, when my friend Alison and I have were talking about the possibility to go to Odessa. However, both of our spring breaks got pushed, and we didn't know if everything would sync up or what. I decided on my own that I wanted to see the south of my oblast. I had heard so much about the beautiful countryside of Bakchissaray from my site-mate Michael. So in Ukrainian fashion, Alison's school decided to last-minute push their break too, and she was able to join me. Little did we know of the adventures that lay ahead of us.
I also decided to jump back on couch surfing, a site dedicated to travelers looking for a couch to crash on. I sent out a few hurried e-mails to people in Bakhchisaray, Sevastopol, and Yalta- all cities we were planning on hitting on our circuit around southern Crimea.
Alison came down on Sunday and met me in Armyansk. After a day of lounging around, we jumped on the first bus to Simferopol monday morning, and headed into the capitol city of my Oblast, located in the south of Crimea. We then jumped onto another bus heading to Bakhchisaray, after a delicious lunch of Crimean Tatar food (very similar to Arab fare) in Simferopol.
Needless to say, we were shocked when we arrived in this amazingly scenic town. We were dropped off in a deep canyon, enormous white cliffs rose up all around us, and a beautiful river ran down the middle. This was not the Ukraine I was used to. It felt like I landed on the moon for all I knew. We were met by a fellow couch surfer, and we stayed at his and his wife's hostel, which was nestled in a cute small village whose name eludes me at the moment. We hiked around that evening and explored a "cave city" where ancient farmers used to store their live stock in "stables" carved out of the cliff faces. We got to see the sunset from the top of the mountain, and we even found a small cult-like settlement further up the plateau.
The next day, we parted ways with our new friends, and headed down to Sevastopol. We only stayed there for a night with our new friend Marina, who graciously showed us around the San-Francisco-esque town. It's truly a gem of a city, but unfortunately it was raining so we hopped the next bus to the fabled Yalta.
To those of you who don't know, Yalta is known for it's rich history, beginning with a key Allies World War 2 summit meeting, to housing Chekov, one of Ukraines most celebrated writers. We were hosted by two of the coolest people, let alone Ukrainians, I have ever met. Kostya and Liza showed us around Yalta and even invited us to come talk to some students at the local school about what we do in the Peace Corps. God I love couchsurfing.com. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to meet awesome new people while traveling.
The whole trip was a huge success, and we ended our last day in Yalta drinking some of the local wine up on a hill overlooking the whole town. It truly was a very European experience throughout, and look forward to my next adventure :)
Below are some pictures from the trip:
Cliffs of Bakchissaray
Hostel in Bakchissaray
Typical Ukrainian village house
Alison and I in front of the Cave City
Tire stairway to the Christian settlement
Front of the храм or chapel
Alison doing a good imitation of Merlin
View from the hostel
Rock Monestary in Bakchissaray
Chifoot Kale, by far the coolest spot i've seen in Crimea so far
View from one of the cave windows
Streets of the ancient settlement
I found Hebrew there!!! Couldn't make out what it says though...
My new buddy Ilya and I
Guard post in Sevastopol
Monument in Sevastapol
Our new friend Marina on a ferris wheel overlooking Sevastopol
Greek Ruins, Sevastopol
Our wonderful Yalta hosts Kostya and his girlfriend
Rainy beachfront in Yalta
Our boy FDR has a street named after him in downtown Yalta!
Sparrows nest- was a bit of a let down, we thought it was a real castle, but turns out it's just a disney model of one, and it now houses a defunct restaurant... fail
APRIL FOOLS ALISON!!!
Tea time, pretty much all the time in these twos home... Kostya lived in Japan and we quickly bonded over our love for Ti Kwan Yin... my type of peeps :)
Last day spent drinking wine overlooking Yalta= Win