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A dacha called the Swallows Nest, Crimea The Crimea possesses some of the most dramatic scenery of the former USSR. This is the "Swallows Nest"--which was actually a rich mans dacha--built in the early 1900's, and is now the symbol of the southern Crimean coast. It takes a bit of a hike to get to it! Our group walked all around it, and felt the effects of the Black Sea. Just think how many communist leaders have gone there on holiday!

Livadia Palace, Crimea This is Livadia Palace, near Yalta, built by Czar Nicholas II. Livadia was the meeting place of the 1945 Yalta Conference held during the close of World War II, with Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. This site was definitely on my "must see" list when we started thinking about going to the Crimea. We got a guided tour in Russian, but it was translated to us by a young Ukrainian woman who came along with us from Kiev.

Conference hall, Livadia 
PalaceThis is the main conference room of the palace, where the leaders decided the fate of a large portion of Central and Eastern Europe. We also saw the room where FDR slept, and the room where FDR and Stalin met in secret to discuss the War against Japan in the Pacific.

Courtyard photo, Livadia PalaceThe courtyard photograph of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin.

Click here for a map of Ukraine and Crimea

The Crimea was actually our second choice when we were trying to decide where to go for our one-shot weekend trip at the end of our six weeks in Kiev. We had been hoping to go to Moscow as our first choice, but as time passed we realized that we could not get train tickets, (they were all bought and were being sold on the black market), so we decided to take advantage of an offer to fly to the Crimea. There was a lot of conflicting information from local travel agents no matter which way we decided to go. Some Ukrainians that we knew, and trusted, told us that we could get a flight to Simferopol for the same cost as a Ukrainian citizen, if we let them do the arrangements. That meant turning over our passports, and some cash to them--it seemed risky--but we did it, and everything turned out O.K., Whew!!! What might have been chancy in hindsight, worked out to everyone's satisfaction. The Crimea was our destination, so we looked forward to it.

We flew out of Kiev's city airport on a Friday evening, in an Air Ukraine twin-engine plane, headed south for the Crimea. After the two-hour flight, we landed in Simferopol, in the middle of the Crimea, at about 10:00pm. From there we still had a two-hour bus ride south, to a hotel (sanatorium), well past Yalta, near the town of Alupka on the southern tip of Crimea. The bus was provided by a local tour agency that we booked in advance, so we felt safe, and proceeded expectantly, if not a little giddy about being out of Kiev. Along the way, I noticed that there was hardly any traffic on the highway, and hardly any lights in the distance, but light from a multitude of stars up in the sky seemed to comfort me as we drove through the night. We reached the sanatorium at about 1:00am, and the staff was waiting for us with tea, bread and jam. What hospitality!

The next morning, we awoke two-to-a-room to bright, warm, sunshine outside, and the blue waters of the Black Sea about 100 yards below our balcony. From this point on, we had two days of hurried-sightseeing along the mountainous southern rim of the Crimea, with our tour guides Vasily and John. Unforgettable! I must say, though, to be a little bit critical, the sanatorium food was disappointing, and the Crimea used to be the most popular holiday destination of the whole USSR, but after a few years of neglect, it left a lot to be desired. The beach was not very attractive below our hotel and consisted mostly of broken amusement stalls, but this was a lesson to me about what is more important in life. Plus, I wish we could have spent more time in the City of Yalta itself, and explored more of its historical sights, but we only had a limited time there. I think I tried to make the most of it, however. Find out what I did on my excursion to Yalta and the Crimea in Part III of my Kiev Diary.

Click here for a map of Ukraine and Crimea