It’s safe to say that it was Crimea that showed me once more what a wonderful country Ukraine can be to travel in. Another overnight train took me from Kyiv to Simferopol, a trip involving true Ukrainian travel hospitality. By now I’d figured out that Ukrainian hospitality revolves primarily around vodka, and sharing it with any and all strange young foreigners in your train compartment. Thankfully this journey was a little more casual and I got some sleep – I think that this was due to the fact that my cabin buddies were a couple in about their sixties who had only half a bottle of vodka and enjoyed their sleep.
A taxi driver in Simferopol tried to make the best of the opportunity of a young Australian backpacker, offering me a ‘cheap’ taxi to Yalta for only 250 hryvnia. I took the bus for 20 hryvnia instead. I’d been unable to find a hostel in Yalta, and had instead found what I thought was a single room in an apartment for the wonderfully low price of 15 euro per night. It turned out to be a whole apartment. The apartment was fairly simple, with a rather dysfunctional kitchenette, but it was wonderful to have so much space to myself for the first time in five months. The best thing, however, was that it had a BATH. I am a big fan of baths, and never miss an opportunity to appreciate such a luxury. I went out to explore the town, and also hunt for some bubble bath or some other special bath-related treat. That was unsuccessful, but wine was acquired so I can’t complain.
Yalta is a resort town on the Crimean Peninsula, and the main boulevard along the waterfront is filled with ice-cream stores, designer labels, restaurants, bars, young men with monkeys and exotic birds and plenty of people strolling casually in their trendy beach fashion. The street is lined with palm trees, the water is a delicious blue and self-esteem-destroying perfect-figured Ukrainian and Russian women sunbathe in their bikinis on the small strip of beach available.
It didn’t take me long to come to the decision that I won’t be stripping down to a bikini anywhere in Ukraine without losing about twenty kilograms first – and I don’t really need to lose that much. I’m a little self conscious, more so given that the number of cakes and tasty sweets I’ve been consuming in Europe has had an unfortunate effect on my figure. My usual habit of losing a stack of weight while traveling has, on this trip, been reversed, and while I could try to be a little more disciplined in my diet I’m holding on to hopes for India and South-East Asia doing at least some of the work for me. I’m not ready to give up cakes and chocolate and wine and enjoying myself at this point…after all, it’s my journey and I can always start wearing black! It’s also freezing cold so living on salad isn’t the most appealing option right now.
Yalta’s quite a pretty town, but it’s not exactly packed with things to do. It seems to be a pretty good base for day trips though, and after researching what I could do I started regretting both spending so much time in Kyiv and not getting the five week visa that I wanted. I just couldn’t do it all. And I have to say, after my disappointment and frustration after the Chernobyl Tour Debacle, Crimea was working hard to remind me that Ukraine’s not such a bad place after all. It may also have helped that it was WARM and SUNNY and it felt like the last breaths of summer. It was relaxed and laid back, and had some cheap restaurants and most of all I had space to rewind and just be alone. I think that what with being sick and having so many hassles in Ukraine up to then, I’d been exhausted and tired of everything, and I greatly needed the recharge that Yalta and Crimea gave me. One thing I’d been trying to do on this trip was remain positive, but also to be honest. It’s not always easy to find the best, or even the good, in a situation and there’s no point pretending that you don’t sometimes get angry and pissed off and simply over things. Sometimes it’s damn hard and the negative takes over – I think that’s human. No one is perfect. But Crimea really rejuvenated my spirit and reminded me that there’s good and bad everywhere – just because one thing goes wrong, it doesn’t mean that life is over.
Besides, how can you be negative when you have this two minutes walk from a whole apartment that has a bath?
Oh wait. And Lenin. Yes, Lenin’s still there. You don’t see him around too often anymore.