Saturday, 15 March 2014

whereabouts: Crimea, 9 months ago

9 months ago, I travelled through a region of Europe, that is a blank area for many Austrians: the Ukraine. I knew nothing about the Ukraine before I went there. You might remember this blog entry: The Hat Ladies.

I picked a small language school not far from Yalta. Lena, my teacher lives in Simferopol. She and her aunt, who owns the school, both teach Russian, they speak Russian and yet .... they are committed Ukrainians. Everything I write here is based on my experiences during those four intense weeks. I am fully aware, that my impressions don't exeed the level of being lets say - sketchy. I am not in the position to understand how the recent politics function over there. Not in four weeks with language skills on the level of A1++. Still I want to explain some things. In case you find me writing false facts, please correct me!
The Ukrainian flag hanging on the balcony
Not far from the village the Crimean Tatars settle and build new villages. Crimean Tatars were deported to Uzbekistan under Stalin. In 1988, Michael Gorbatschow's politics made it possible for them to come back. They build new houses, because their old houses now belong to those, who moved in then the Tatars were deported. Over the years they new owners earned the right to stay in their houses.

To be accepted as a settlement, the newly built home has to be equipped with a chimney, a window and a roof. This explains all the shacks on the hills, even in the woods:
beginning of a new settlement in the woods
 Often the new settlements carry the name "Mikroregion" - Mikroregion-1, Mikroregion-2 etc
microregion-2 outside Bakhchisaray
Those microregions are located outside the villages. Sometimes a bus goes there, often the new residents walk up the hill to get to their homes. You don't hear about the microregions in the news. Hardly anyone reports about the Tatars. As you can see: there is a lot going on! The society is changing.
a more established settlement at the Black Sea coast.
Many Tatars sell the approved building lot and make profit
Every day during my stay, I did learn new things about the history and present of Crimea and the Ukraine. I watched, I listend (ok, I did not understand that much) and I learned. I also learned a lot about pigs. Human pigs.

If I know one thing, then it is this: people in Simferopol who speak Russian and don't automatically want to be a part of the Russian empire. Maybe that's why the referendum only offers to choices: Yes or Yes.
on the rooftop of Hotel Yalta in Yalta
The photo calender 2014, which my friends and parents received for Christmas, is well equipped with photos from Crimea. Today the same square, where I rested in front of the airport in Simferopol, while waiting for my delayed flight back to Kiev, is occupied by the military, violating national aw, because they are Russian.
the airfield in Simferopol, capital of Crimea
Retrospective I can not believe how lucky I was. Such a timing! Having been there just recently feels like a privilege. Those three weeks with Lena and her family as well as the one I spent with Mr Paula - doing a round-trip - they left so many imprints on my blank area. I hope for a future Ukraine, where I can go again, to continue to reduce the blank area.

Last year the trip from Vienna to Simferopol was complicated. But still, the connections from Kiev to Simferopol existed. Whereas today, there are not flights available going from Kiev to Simferopol.
airport mural in Kiev
heading South
Sevastopol in the far back
an ancient cemetary near Bakhchisaray
a "beach" in Sevastopol with a late USSR-monument in the fog.
Ukrainian banana
water that pretends to be beer
buying a ticket for the trolleybus
most of the trollybusses are conducted by women
while men drive the marschrutki, dreaming of fast cars
a businessmodell in Koreiz
pipes are a common sight in the woods
the pine trees around Ai-Petri after a fire
lunch at the "Old Fountain" in Koreiz
the market in Simferopol
sign at an amusement park. well ...
The Russian and the Ukrainian fleet, side by side
Sevastopol in the late afternoon
seamen in Sevastopol
a young peach in Valentina's garden
on top of the mountain Ai-Petri
at the "beach" in Alupka

"just do it"
Crimean family entertainment
cherries in Valentina's garden
Now, that I have put all these thoughts and images down here, I can return to Vienna, where I am at the moment. Vienna looks like this today:

Have a comfy weekend, I still got some Roman stories to tell, but not today.


  1. It's a rare privilege to experience a society, a culture or a place right before cataclysmic events. Your post reminded me of my visit to NYC just a couple of years before 9/11. I still have a photograph I took of the twin towers and I have to say that I haven't been able to bring myself to look at the photos from that trip ever since the terrorist attack.

    1. Yes Ana, you understand me. Hope for the real to be unreal, in a way.