Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Crimea - Our First Family Vacation

Our view of the Black Sea from the apartment we rented just outside Yalta.
This spring we went South!
Well, first we went North, then we headed South . . .
It was quite trip . . .

We had some business to take care of in Smolensk so we 
flew from Houston to Moscow, 
drove to Smolesnk, 
then, a few days later 
we drove 24 hours to
The Crimea - on the Black Sea in Ukraine!

Masha and Sophia enjoy ice-cream in Yalta

We met up with some mountain biking buddies just outside of Yalta. 
 And, stayed in a hostel that caters to those who love downhill riding.
Every morning, the guys went up and down the mountains a few times 
while the women and children took in the area attractions.
Can only imagine what these Babushki are talking about . . . and what they have lived thru . . .
 Yalta is a quaint sea-side town.
It feels very Old World.

- a mix of Europe, Russia, Asia - 
- of Islam and Christianity-
- of The Empire and The Soviets - 

Anton Chekov "The Lady With the Dog (and 3 crazy kid)" statue in Yalta
The history alone is complicated 
with groups coming and going,
wars raging,
dreams of a New Constantinople,
of a pure people and a true faith . . . 
nothing new under the sun, it seems.

Yalta - I love how the mountains fall into the Sea and bump right up to my dear husband, keeping all in line.

The topography is amazing.

For some reason I always imagined the Black Sea to be murky, grey . . .
and, it can be, just before a rain.
But usually it is a brilliant blue.
Not bright, like the Mediterranean,
but brilliant, almost royal.

And the mountains . . .
great slides for a giant's water park,
 just roll into the sea.
This, my friends, is a great invention!
 Masha and Sophia spent hours catching fish while the parents rested!
Experiencing a new part of the world with my husband - LOVED IT!  (Can you guess my love language?)
 We had so much fun strolling along the boardwalk,
eating ice-cream, fishing for magnet sea creatures, and people watching . . .
old Ukrainian,
New Russian . . . 
"The Swallow's Nest" - a small castle built by a Baltic German oil magnate for his ballerina mistress.

Sophia and Masha in awe as we ride up the mountain.

We climbed the mountains . . .
Going up! 
In large gondolas - 
 moving rooms with a view,
barely missing the jagged cliffs 
just inches from our fingertips.

What a view!
 Mountains over-looking the sea.
 Look at the colors in the sky and water . . .
 No wonder artists flocked to live here 
and the nobles summered every year here.

Dressed in Crimean Tartar hats on top of the mountain.
 At the top of Ai Petri (Greek for Saint Peter)
we met a community of Crimean Tartars.

These people were deported from their native land 
during WWII.
Stalin wasn't sure of their loyalty, 
so to get the problem out of the way,
he had them all sent to Central Asia.

In a matter of hours, 
they lost their homes and most of their possessions.
Just recently, the Ukrainian government has invited the Crimean Tartars to return home.
Many are now living on their family's land again.
There is still tension, 
still some mistrust. 

Anton getting ready to ride - and what a view!
While some of us took the "sissy way" up the mountain,
others braved the serpentine twists of road 
so they could fly down and off the sides.

Here he comes!

Mt Bike Heaven!

Biker in Black! - I think I see a smile of anticipation!
The bottom of the trail . . . 
This is a whole new culture 
invading The Crimea.

It has its own language, armor,
costume, code of ethics, and rules of engagement.

My cool biker dude!
But still, it is young men,
looking for adventure 
and adrenaline rush.
Pushing themselves to the limit 
physically and mentally.
Conquering their fears 
and the mountain.

 Yep, nothing much new under the sun . . . 

Secret mount lake known only to those who ride the trails!

"The Littlest Mermaid" - Sophia and the Black Sea
 The Sea!

Every morning, after a common breakfast,
 the men went off to battle the mountains
and the women and children inched carefully 
down the steep slopes to 
The Sea!

"OOOooo!  It's COLD!"
The sun was warm
 the Black Sea is cold in May!

We sat on a rocky beach.
The children ventured into the water to 
catch jellyfish that didn't sting.

They built rock castles
and buried each other up to the neck in hot rocks.

Some people pay big bucks for a hot rock treatment!

Volodya - riding on the back of a beautiful Beluga whale.

One day we visited an aquarium.
The white whales allowed Volodya to swim with them.
They took him for a ride in exchange for fish and approval.
I wish I could have captured his beaming smile
and saved it to share on difficult days.
BFF! - "Best Friends Forever" 
 Smiles and ice-cream.

ICF! - " Ice-Cream Forever!"

 Sun and Sea.

A Room With the Most Incredible View!
 Mountains and Sea
and Sky.

The Yastrebov's Family Vacation
The Crimea.
 A wonderful first vacation.
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