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The fresh Crimea

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A busy and crowded resort in summer, Crimean Peninsula should probably better be seen in spring: same beauty, less people

In spring all the Crimea is covered with flowers. Its stretching beds of tulips, whose scent spreads from the airport right across to the sea front, greets the descending plane. Visitors coming there in April or May will be rewarded by sunshine and the absence of heat. In spring the Crimean picturesque countryside is dominated by colourful fields with hidden dormant vineyards and mountain slopes covered in all shades of green.

Unlike neighbouring Turkey, Crimea has a very short swimming season, which starts later on in the summer months, although in spring there is a chance to sunbathe on empty beaches and walk in the gardens already in bloom. The cobbled pavements of the old towns are cool and deserted. The off-season accommodation rates for either apartments or hotel rooms are significantly lower and the locals are nearly desperate to rent part of their houses to early visitors. There is still a small amount of entertainment in the resorts until the main pack of holiday-makers arrives, however many places, which are worth seeing, are already open for visitors — such as various historic houses and summer residences of Russian artists and writers.

To make the most of Crimea, it’s worth visiting small seaside towns, such as Simeiz — a small quaint area between Alupka and Foros. Life is really tranquil in places like this — visitors can have a pleasant stroll along its streets, planted with giant junipers, go down to the sea and, drop into the market for some fresh milk and fruits, or visit old villas and relax in outdoor cafes. The large number of masterpiece Art Deco and Modern villas can be explained by the fact that in 1900, brothers Maltsev, who owned most of the land in Simeiz, would only sell it on the condition that the new owner would build a villa, which is different from all the others. Nowadays some villas have been converted into holiday homes and some still stay abandoned.

The town’s landmark is a mountain Kosh-Kaya, or Koshka, which resembles the figure of a cat leaning to the sea to lap up water, hence people call it “The Cat”. A few meters away from the shoreline towers the main attraction of Simeiz — the 50 metres tall rock, which is named Diva. The top of the rock reveals a spectacular view of the coast and slopes of Crimean mountains. This is a perfect spot to watch the sunset and the dolphins swimming.

Simeiz is only a 40 minute walk to Alupka — another pretty old town, which is famous for the Vorontsov’s Palace — a pseudo-Gothic “fortress” with a touch of Islamic architecture, built by the British master Edward Blore as a summer residence of the Governor-General of Novorossiysky Region, Prince Mikhail Vorontsov. The palace is surrounded by scented gardens and is famous for its great collection of local and exotic trees. In spring the palace grounds are covered with flowers.

The Mangup plateau is within a driving distance from Alupka. The 500 metres high mountain with the flat top was a perfect place for Byzantians to build a fortress in the forth century. 800 years later Mangup was a busy town, a capital of the Christian Principality Feodoro. In 1475 The Great Prince of Moscow was trying to arrange a marriage of his son and the Feodorian princess, however his plans were disrupted by the Osman invasion of Crimea, Feodoro fell after a six months’ siege and the princess threw herself from the cliff. Today, the residents of the nearby Tatar village Hodzha-Solah happily guide visitors up to the mountain and make them acquainted with their spicy cuisine. During the Greek occupation the area was populated by Karaites, who practiced Judaism. In the present day they have disappeared as a nation, just leaving the rows of tombs with Hebrew engravings along the Mangup slopes. The mountain top greets the visitors by generous gardens with flourishing apple and plum trees.

For centuries, people in Mangup were building their dwellings as caves, carved in limestone. A usual flat would have bedstones, shelving, a balcony and a window, which overlooks to the green valley. Those who are keen on extreme holidays may stay over for a few months to enjoy the life without the means of civilization. Crimean mountains and mountain streams are another big attraction for visitors who like outdoor hiking or would enjoy a ride in a cable car. Near to the southern shore of Crimea, there is a river called Auzun-Uzen. It starts in the crevasse, which is called “Great Canyon of Crimea” and brings its fantastically blue bubbling waters 300 meters up to the surface. On the bottom of the canyon there is a road, which leads to the Blue Lake and from there — to the “Bath of Youth”, a deep niche being washed out in the limestone for centuries. A steep climb on the trail leads to the plateau, which opens the breathtaking view over the canyon and cloudy mountain peaks.

 Images/ Natalia Muravskaya

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