Saturday, April 14, 2012

Back to adventuring

And on with my life here. The visa registration process is over, now I can focus on other things. And the weather has finally moved a little more towards spring. Not that we aren’t without cold and sometimes windy and rainy days, but we do have some bursts of warmth and sunshine, and I am determined as always to take advantage of them.

Besides as many local walks as I can fit in, I am starting to do some hiking in the mountains. But first, there was a trip to Yalta for a day with Nadjie to celebrate her birthday. Nadjie has a friend who lives in Yalta whom I have met several times. He is always inviting us to come and visit, so for her birthday, Nadjie decided to take him up on it. Luckily, he wasn’t busy and agreed to meet us at the bus station.
Nadjie and Stanislav on the terrace of his cafe.
His name is Stanislav—mother Russian, father Kazan Tatar. He was born in Siberia but has lived in Yalta for 35 years. I don’t know how he ended up in Yalta or what he did in the years previously—he is my age. Someday I hope to get more of his story.
I have been to Yalta several times but only with other Americans or stumbling along on my own with a guidebook. So it was a real treat to be shown Yalta with a native, someone who lived there before it became so developed. Though I didn’t always understand what he was saying, I was able to absorb enough information that the next time I take a visitor there, I can be much more helpful.

We took the trolley bus--free for us pensioners (basically anyone over 55)-- down to the water front and spent the day strolling from one end of the boardwalk to the other, Stanislav pointing out different landmarks along the way. Though it was windy and a bit cold, it was still pleasant to be there. We finished our excursion by ending up at the cafĂ© he owns. It wasn’t open—is only open for the season—May through September—but he broke out some champagne and cognac in the typical birthday celebration style here, and the toasts began. Nadjie pretty much doesn’t drink, so we kept it to a minimum, but I could tell she was pleased by the attention. She kept saying that Stanislav and I are her only true friends, which though I don’t like to think of that’s true, perhaps it is.
Stanislav's cafe.

The following weekend, Cheryl and I took off for a true hike. The weather forecast was iffy, but more and more I realize exactly how unreliable the forecasts are here, so we just decided to chance it. She got an early morning bus into Simferopol (a 2-hour ride for her) and met me at the train/bus station. We also took off for Yalta, but instead of going into Yalta, we caught another minibus once we got there to the Uchan-Su waterfall and an 8 km. hike on the Botinsky Trail. We had heard about this hike and been wanting to try it. And I’m so glad we did—what a stunning trail along the mountains high above Yalta with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside and the Black Sea.

We started the hike at Uchan-Su, the highest waterfall in Ukraine. I had been there once before but there was little water running then. But in Yalta the weekend before I had seen how high the river was that comes down from the falls, so I wanted very much to see it again. And we were rewarded for our efforts.

Uchan Su means “flying waters” in Crimean Tatar and what an apt description it is of the water bursting over the mountain top high above us and “flying” down to the rocks below. As is true of many famous sites in Crimea that are accessible by car, there was a small admission fee to take the path to see the falls. When we came to the gate, the woman there said something to me about “souvenirs,” or so I thought, but I realized after a few minutes she was saying “pensioners,” and that I could see the falls for free! Yet another reason to keep my grey hair here in Ukraine, despite probably being the only woman I ever see without colored hair.

When we left from the falls area, she gave us directions on how to get to the beginning of the trail, and off we went. And miraculously enough, we were able to find the beginning with no detours and indeed, never got lost on the entire hike. A first for us, I think. Trails here are poorly marked, if at all, plus there are numerous side trails that don’t appear on the maps, destined to confuse us map oriented hikers.

The weather was beautiful—at least at the beginning. Later it turned windy and cold and rainy, but we were near the end of our hike by then. We passed many waterfalls and rushing creeks which we crossed over on poorly maintained bridges—missing floor boards or holes in the floor boards.
The trail wound through forests of tall pine trees—what looked like red pines—and out onto exposed bluffs high above the valley. We encountered a few other hikers, but mostly we were alone to soak up the brilliance of the day. The trail is named after the physician of the last czar of Russia—Nicholas II—who “established” it (in reality it was probably used for centuries by Crimean Tatars and other early inhabitants of the peninsula) and exhorted Nicholas and his family to get out and hike for their health. He also established another trail below their summer home of Livadia Palace (the site of the Yalta conference) which I hope to hike someday.

It made me so happy to finally be out in the mountains I love so much after such a long and hard winter. Spring wildflowers were starting to come up, the birds were chattering away, and the water was running. Kind of like Minnesota, though below me was not Lake Superior, but the Black Sea surrounded by a world far different from Minnesota.

With love from Crimea.

No comments:

Post a Comment