Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Tarhankut with the Seytaptiev's
It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and instead of sitting at the library where I usually am on a Tuesday, I am at home, sitting at my desk, looking out on spring with the apricot and apple trees in bloom. It’s May 3rd and the second day of our two-day May 1st holiday. There are a lot of holidays here in May—Easter (Paska), then May Day, then the Great Patriotic War memorial holiday—all involving at least one day off from work. I also have been home more than usual because for a week, the library had no electricity. I’m unclear why, except that it had something to do with the fact that the Ministry of Culture has never appointed a replacement director for the library when the original director resigned last year, so we really don’t have a director who can make the Ministry of Culture pay the electric bill. So since no electricity meant no computer, I worked at home. Did get a lot more done, but I sure missed being at the library and around the people there.
This past Sunday I took off with the Seytaptiev’s for a May 1st holiday picnic. They didn’t want to go camping like we did last year because it is still pretty cold at night. Hopefully we will go sometime in June. We were debating where to go—the cave city of Eski Kermen or Tahankut in far western Crimea. Tarhankut won out because Serdar has always wanted to go there, and so have I, once he showed me pictures of it on the internet. Problem is that it is pretty far and almost impossible to get to by bus. It looked to be about a 3-hour drive, and we didn’t get going very early. Actually, it is really about a 2 ½ hour drive, but because we didn’t follow the maps, it took us longer. The typical way of navigating around here seems to be to just stop people on the street and ask for directions. That is what we frequently did when I was driving around with the library for our regional seminars last year, and it is what Neshet did this time too. However, one of those directions ended up sending us down a very bad, ultimately dead end, road. Backtracking took a bit, and finally, exasperated, Serdar got the GPS going on his phone, and we followed that. Which doesn’t take into account things like major potholes and cows wandering across the road, but did give us the shorter route and ultimately took us to our destination. Coming back was much easier and faster.
Tarhankut lived up to all its expectations. Initially there is the village with a lighthouse and not such huge cliffs, but then we followed a dirt road along the edge of the cliffs and it just got more and more spectacular. A lot like the headlands of northern California. It would be a wonderful place to kayak, because the surf in the Black Sea is not so strong and there are many caves along the shoreline to explore. We were on a large open grassy area on top of the cliffs. Eventually we pulled over and hiked around, took pictures, and got out the “shashliking” equipment. Shashliking is the Russian form of barbecuing, which is cooking chunks of meat on skewers over a fire. A very popular activity around here. Any holiday the nearby forests are filled with people shashliking.
Serdar decided he wanted to practice driving, so I went with him in search of a bush to pee behind. It was a little nerve wracking—the road is right on the edge of the cliff—but he really has driven enough now that he is pretty competent. Just that a mistake would end up us not in the ditch but instead… Actually, when we left Neshet had him drive the whole length of the road along the cliff, which really made me nervous, but all was well (or I guess I wouldn’t be writing this, would I?)
The weather wasn’t great—kind of cold and cloudy—so we didn’t say very long, but all of us were so glad to have seen this far edge of Crimea. As Neshet said, Crimea has so much varied topography—the sea, the steppes, mountains, marshes, forests, sea cliffs, rolling hills—all in a fairly small area. I think you can drive west to east in Crimea in maybe 8 hours or less.
Off soon to have dinner with the two young PCV’s who live here in Simferopol. They hang out quite a bit together, but I really don’t see a whole of them, which isn’t surprising. I am, after all, quite a bit older than their parents!
With love from Crimea.