Thursday, October 15, 2009

Travelling in Crimea

It’s a cold Wednesday night, after some beautiful warm weather these last few days. My house is so snug though—I hear the wind blowing, but nary a draft. No heat….but…I do think it might get turned on sometime soon. Until then, it is lots of layers, and I do have a Peace Corps provided space heater if it gets really cold. Not sure if I am going to be able to stay in my little house. My neighbors the landlords want more rent because of increase in gas and electricity, but the Peace Corps is only willing to kick in a little more. I am willing to put in some out of my living allowance, but I can’t do too much, and I don’t know if the total will be sufficient enough increase to satisfy the landlord. Then what, I don’t know. There really aren’t cheap apartments here at all, which is the reason there are no PCV’s here besides me. There is plenty they could be doing, but the organizations can’t afford the housing. The Peace Corps gives us about 400 hrv towards housing, but here it is at least 1000 (about $125) a month, and the organizations have to make up the difference. I hope this doesn’t ultimately mean I end up living with someone, though I suppose that is a real possibility. I think I would really have to feel okay with the situation in order to do that. If I have a choice, which I may not. Well, I see I am starting down one of my endless speculation roads, so I will go on to cheerier reports.
Once again I did some Crimean touring, this time partially as the guide. Jud, a fellow PCV that I became friends with in training, came down for a few days to see some of Crimea. He stayed with me, and I took a couple of days off from the library. He came in on Saturday, and we walked around the city—down the lovely (as long as you are able to overlook the ubiquitous trash, something I have gotten quite good at) parkway along the river that winds through the center. Stopped at one of my favorite bookstores which sells books mainly for people teaching English, and then walked through the section of the city that is cordoned off from cars, pass the obligatory Lenin statue. It is quite a lovely city, as I saw it through Jud’ s eyes. Later we went out to my house, walked around a bit out there, had some leftover plov my neighbor had brought over the previous night, and then dropped in on my other neighbors for a chat.
Sunday we took the bus down to Yalta on the coast and found an old hotel (used to be a brothel in the 1800’s) at dirt cheap off season rates. Went to see Lavidia Palace, the summer home of the last czar and where the Yalta Conference was held in which Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill met to divide up postwar Europe. It’s quite an imposing structure overlooking the sea, though we took the back way in and thought the first building we saw was the palace. Turned out to be some kind of nursing home. We do have lots of pictures of it, though. Spent the evening walking around the waterfront in Yalta, having dinner on a replica of a Greek galleon built out over the water-very touristy, but pretty tasty, and when I got cold they gave me a fuzzy blanket to wrap up in!
The next day we took a bus to a nearby village on the sea which is where Chekov had his dacha—a little one room cottage which has been lovingly preserved. It had a beautiful little rocky beach in front where Jud took the opportunity for a swim despite the cold water, while I hung out, contemplating the sea. Walked the steep winding streets of the village, and then caught a bus that took us all the way back to Simferopol. Decided to have dinner in the city and found an Indian restaurant that I had heard about which is located in the dorm of the medical university here where a lot of foreign students go. In our quest to find the place, we ended up being escorted there by a student from New Delhi and had dinner with him and his buddies. A great connection—they invited me to some Hindu festival this weekend, which I might go to.
The next day we headed out to Bakhchysaray to see the Khan’s Palace and the cave city of Chufat Kale, which I had been to before. The palace was beautiful and very interesting. It housed the Crimean Khanate, the governing body of the Crimean Tatars, when they ruled Crimea from about 1500 to 1800. Part of it is still an active mosque, and we were not allowed in there, of course, but the rest has been turned into a museum with some signs in English. One of the areas of the palace was for the harem. Except for the obvious drawbacks of being in a harem, it wouldn’t be so bad to spend your days lounging around in a beautiful setting with a bunch of other women. (Nothing like seeing history through my western, modern eyes).
It’s Thursday night now and I am fading once again. Cold in my house—no heat yet—so I am huddled by the space heater. Tomorrow morning I have a television interview(!) about the Peace Corps, and then PCV friend Grace is coming for the weekend and we are off hiking on Saturday with Sirdar to another cave city, I think. Trying to do a lot of exploring before the winter everyone keeps warning me about sets in. Right now it is gorgeous here, despite the cold nights.
One thing that felt so good about this past weekend and travelling around so much, is that I was able to communicate enough with people to navigate the transportation, hotel, restaurants, etc. Jud was impressed by my language skill. However, today, my first day back at the library, it was all squashed as I struggled to communicate with anyone, and just wanted to scream by the end of the day. A very bad language day, as we say here in Crimea. But tomorrow will be better…
Love to all from my Russian and Crimean Tatar speaking life.

1 comment:

  1. You are having a very active and interesting experience. You also seem to be making a lot of friends, language skills aside! I am learning that you can be a little impatient with yourself! Love to you.