Thursday, October 17, 2013

Yevpatoria in October, part 1

Yevpatoria- hands down my favorite place on the planet.

They say it's a hot mess in the summer time- beaches swarming with tourists, rusty Ferris wheels running nonstop, exorbitant prices. Vacations and the massive dance festival/party called Kazantip (advertised to "crazy party animals") bring tens of thousands of visitors into the city during the hottest months of the year.

In the winter the city is sullen and silent. Most of the shops are bordered up. Downtown feels haunted, empty, and unsafe. Hotels drop their prices.

For both economic and sanity reasons, we avoid the entire Crimean peninsula in the summer. Come fall, winter, and spring though, you can find us on the phone, booking a room in Yevpatoria for the following weekend!

This was our first time visiting in the autumn. Last year we managed a visit in the winter and in the spring. This year we fell victim to workaholism and only now took our first vacation of 2013. Can't complain about the timing too much though, because we found a train that left Kharkov at 2 AM, meaning we could work a regular day on Thursday and still arrive in Crimea the following morning.
View of the countryside from the train window
Plus, we ended up travelling in the first-class compartment, which meant it was just the two of us! : ) Usually we travel in a four-person compartment, which is fine but it can't compare to having your own private space. Not to mention that trains coming through Kharkov are often en route from elsewhere, so when you board at 2 AM you enter a pitch-black compartment where people are already sleeping and you're fumbling around to make your bed in the dark. Not this time!

Arriving in Simferopol
The train arrived in the Crimean capital (Simferopol) at noon. We dropped off our backpacks at the luggage check and set off for a nearby park. Simferopol is D's hometown and he still remembers most of the shortcuts.
Simferopol park
It was almost like travelling back in time, back to before листопад, that moment when all the leaves turn yellow and drift away on the winds. (Why don't we have a word for this in English, btw?) Here was still the green leaves and sunlight of summer. A fiddler played for a lively wedding party near the Eternal Flame of Glory. Small dogs trotted along obediently on leashes. A man and a woman passed us; he pushed a baby stroller with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other while she argued with him about the beer.
Simferopol park
Yevpatoria is on the coast, only a 90 minute ride from Simferopol. The ancient, creaking elektrichka (slow day train) makes the journey between the two cities but takes at least 2 hours to arrive. We traveled by marshrutka (small minivan/bus) for about $5, crammed into tiny seats with our backpacks on our laps.
Simferopol's train station in the distance, the bus/marshrutka launching point in the foreground.
That night we ended up at one of the few open restaurants around, a Georgian place in which it was just us, the cook, and the waitress. We ordered way too much food, drank a bottle of local wine, and really, really, really enjoyed each other's company. Life goes by so fast sometimes and spending time with your partner gets put on the backburner. It was good to have a chance to catch up again and focus on our relationship.

The rest of the weekend passed in a daze. Amazingly, it was still warm enough to do some swimming in the Black Sea. The beaches attracted a small crowd of children bundled up enough for a trip to the North Pole (oh, that dreaded skvoznyak!) and middle-aged/elderly in nothing but a swimming suit.

Men in Ukraine wear tiny little bathing suits. This works out wonderfully when it's a good-looking young guy, but you gotta watch out when he's an older guy with a big beer belly :p An American friend recently went to a waterpark in his usual swimming attire (knee-length board short swimming trunks) and he was hassled by the administration about his choice. They claimed it was unsafe apparel for a hot tub (???) so if you're a man coming to Ukraine, prepare yourself for a Speedo. Ladies, you can just relax and enjoy the view.

Anyway, one of us bravely ventured among the jellyfish to swim:

The other person may or may not have stood around awkwardly on the beach:

The city is known for its healing properties. It's common for the ill to come here to seek treatment or just to breathe the air and visit the shore. Wheelchairs and crutches are everywhere. Many stretches of the shoreline sport a "Curing Beach" sign.
The sign on the right reads "Coastal" Children's Sanatorium Curing Beach. 8 AM to 8 PM. Entrance with permit.
Is it the sun? The sand? The sea? There definitely is something restorative in this place, something that makes it more than just another coastal city or port town.

According to the Black Sea News, the demand for sanatorium services in Yevpatoria has increased recently. Below are some of the sanatoriums that line the beachfront. Some of them are grandiose Soviet blocks. Some are slightly-creepy Victorians.
Diagnostic-Treatment Center "Alternative Medicine". Welcome to good health!
I'm guessing these fancy places are for out-of-towners and the local residents end up at non-seashore places like this:

Okay, so aside from the swimming-

we strolled through city parks-

tried in vain to find an open restaurant near the beach-
No McCheburek for you!
found some cats-
and then one more-

visited a run-down children's park-

drank up sipped some samples (yum, yum!) at the House of Wine-

walked along the beach some more-

and devoured two buckets of popcorn (caramel and banana/strawberry) while watching a terrible film (although it was actually in Russian for once, with Ukrainian subtitles).
Movie Theater "Rocket"
Best. Weekend. Ever!

to be continued....


  1. Well I did comment, but Google chose to delete!

  2. Looks great, though I could do without the jellyfish.

    And I especially love the beer + cigarette + baby combination.

    1. Yes, it's quite a common sight here. Is it the same in Moscow?

    2. I'd say yes. If not more common.