I left the George Hotel in L'viv after a hearty breakfast in the Chinese Room, with giant dragons and excotic wall coverings. Tamara the waitress was stunning in a tight pearl silk top, and a long black skirt and she strutted down the long carpet with my tea, as if she was on a Parisian cat walk.
Off to the Lviv Airport, built in 1936 and it looked the part with giant columned entrance and no electronic signs of any kind. I went through security for the 1,000km flight on Wizz Air Ukraine's Airbus 230 with a couple of carry on bags and a full bottle of water. On arrival at Simferopol, capital and transport hub of the Crimean Peninsula it was quite hot in this tropical area and the longest taxi to the terminal I can remember. I did read the guide book and managed to catch the No 9 bus to town. I thought it was 5 H, about 90 cents US, and I used my best Russian, learned on a week long ride on the Trans-Siberian Express ages ago. 'Dobra Utro, Adeen, pashalstra'. I noticed the NO SMOKING sign, but the driver kept her lighted cigarette in her mouth and shrugged. I tried again this time in Ukrainian,'Dobra Ranoch', until a passenger put a few coins in her lap. It was actually 0.5 H - about 8 cents into town.
Simferopol was a Tartar stronghold and after the Germans invaded in 1941 there was mass slaughter, 18,000 in one day, and after 1945 Stalin banished all the Tartars from the Crimean Peninsula to the Siberian Gulag as a collective punishment. In the early 1990's they were welcomed back and the population now is about 350,000. I stayed at the most famous hotel in town, Hotel Ukrainia, and turned on the television and BBC News to see that President had dissolved Parliament today for the third time in 2 years and the ORANGE REVOLUTION had turned into a BANANA SKIN, and the Prime Minister Yuli had flown off to Moscow to court favour with Putin.
The city is run down if you compare it with Poland, maybe 50 years behind, but there are lots of leafy boulevards and parks and a bus or tram every minute or so. I was off in the morning to Yalta, 85 km, 56m away. I could have caught the longest trolley car ride in the world, but was told that it stopped a lot and took about 2 1/2 hours. Instead I went to the train station and caught a small bus for 20 H, about $3.50, and it took about 80 minutes. It's a steep ride down the winding road past vineyards and mountains, similar to the ride down to the coast from Sao Paulo to Santos. I strolled by the harbour and got a great photo of a large McDonalds with a huge statue of Lenin in the background. 'Fries with your order, comrade"?
My main purpose today was to take the bus for 2H(about 40cents), 3km along the Black Sea coast road to Livadia Palace, built for Czar Nicholas II and family, but even more famous as the site of the Three Power Yalta Conference from February 4-11, 1945 as the Allies decided what to do with the world when the war was over. I took the tour in Ukrainian, but left half way through to do my own exploring. Chairman of the Council of the People's Commissars of the USSR, Joseph Stalin was the host, along with Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States and Winston S. Churchill, Prime Minister of Britain.
All the sessions were held in the Livadia Palace overlooking the Black Sea in the White Hall, in the middle of which was a round table-still there to be photographed. Here was discussed and adopted "Declaration of the Free Europe". Roosevelt who was ill was to stay at Livadia with his daughter Ann and his delegation. The other two leaders at other palaces. It was probably bugged, and Churchill told his friend to speak to him while walking in the spacious grounds. Besides the rooms where they met, Roosevelt had the Billiards Room as a dining room, and slept in another palacial room, the Library.
Upstairs I viewed the apartments of the Czar with lots of interesting photographs of him and his family, and lavish decorations and table settings. Back in Yalta I strolled about 1 kilometer along the promenade with an Italian restaurant blasting opera and a cafe playing 'With a banjo on my knee'. Old soldiers walked along with breasts full of medals-one had 7 rows of campaign ribbons. There were lots of little girls with their mothers since school had finished for the day wearing long embroidered stockings and some with high leather boots. I asked for directions from a couple of cops, who were chatting up the same girl, and there were hundreds of small stalls selling food, clothes and brick-a- brack, and lots selling local fruits and vegetables-melons, peaches, pomagranates, cherries, apples, pears and more.
One stall specialized in smoked fish and the lady was also selling giant corn on the cob, with a line of waiting customers. An old lady on the sea wall was palm reading, and little booths were offering apartments for sale and rent along the coast, since this area is packed solid in summer.
I normally use US dollars for prices, kilometres for distances and BBC not American English for spelling. For currency conversion go to www.xe.com. For directions, distances and more try www.viamichelin.com. To speak properly listen to the BBC !!!