Friday, October 27, 2006

Back to Yalta

Wednesday 25th October

By a quirk it is exactly a year ago this week I was in Yalta visiting Crimean and World War Two battle sites. So here we are, a year on, back in Yalta. The ship docked before we were up this morning but at 7am we saw from the top deck daylight starting over the town.

All the places visite today I did last year with one exception. In 2005 I went to the Massandra Winery for a wine tasting session. Today we sampled the same wines, though not in the Winery itself. Instead, we went to a wine tasting hall. Other locations visited today included the Vorontsov Palace (which looks like a Scottish manor house and indeed was designed to look precisely like one) - Churchil stayed here during the Yalta conference in 1945. After the wine tasting we went to the Swallow's Nest. This is a tiny mock castle on a rocky outcrop at the top of a cliff overlooking the Black Sea. Much of the rock face collapsed in 1927 due to an earthquake so the building sits precariously on a concrete plinth overhanging the cliff edge. In Britain it would have been condemnded as unsafe. Here it is a rather pleasant though small Italian restaurant. Alas we were not eating there (I ate there last year) but we were there just to take photos.

Next visit was the Livadia Palace, the Tsars' summer home and venue for the 1945 Yalta conference. It was at this location I suddenly got hit by the emails of the previous 2 days. The network out here in the Crimea is rather odd. There appear to be narrow strips of land where I can receive my emails and the rest of the place appears to be a no go area for them. So I rattled off as many replies as I could whilst looking at photos of Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. I also sent the previous couple of blog entries that were waiting on the blackberry. The moment I left the Palace, I lost the GPRS signal.

Then to lunch in the Hotel Yalta which is where I stayed last year. This was another of those occasions where we were completely caught out by the number of courses and quantity of food. The two old ladies sitting next to us didn't want their vodka so it was handed on to us. Went well with the glass of local champagne.

Then to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and following that, a visit to Anto Chekov's house. Back to the ship at that point to drop off our bags and then we went back out through passport control - we were waved through with no checks at all - and took a walk along Yalta promenade and around the inevitably named Lenin Square (his statue is opposite McDonalds).

The ship left later than usual, 11pm. The distance to our next port of call - Sebastopol - is a short one.

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