Yalta!

Trip Start Apr 24, 2007
1
12
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Trip End Jul 09, 2007


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Where I stayed

Flag of Ukraine  , Crimean Peninsula,
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

This morning was a 6am start to the metro, again no signs and a lot of dark tunnels underground. I followed two guys in suits, figuring they would be on their way to work via the metro. Good call, they led me straight there. One of the little ladies working there helped me out through an exchange of pointing and sign language. I made it out to the airport metro station fine, but the airport wasn't next to it... There were a bunch of minibuses with airplanes on the side of them, so I asked some people getting off "Boryspil?" One shook his head and one answer back "city" in English. So I crossed the street and caught an identically minibus going in the opposite direction.
I don't think the picture of the planes meant anything, that one didn't go to the airport either. After I was the last one left on the minibus, the driver asked me something of that I couldn't decipher. A guy at the hostel had taught me the proper way to say areoport and Boryspil, but apparently I hadn't been the best student. Using the only two words I had, along with some had gestures of a plane taking off, I tried to convey that I was trying to go to the airport. The driver started yelling at me. A lot. All I could realy pick out was "Rooski" so I think he was angry that I couldn't speak Russian. He opened the door and pointed for me to get out. There was no airport in sight, I guess this means I have now been kicked off public transport. Trying not to get too discouraged and slightly worried that I may miss my flight if I made another attempt at public transport, I walked down the street he had left me on to a taxi rank.
Before I got into the cab, I asked how much (another phrase I had tried to learn the night before). The cab spoke a bit of English and understood exactly where I wanted to go and best of all, he said the price would be 5 Hryvnia (about $0.80CAD). I was quite happy with the price, but a bit surprised that he was offering it after the cab yesterday, so to be sure I gestured 5, repeated it twice and got to him to reapeat it and nod his head as well as shake his head no when I questioned the currency and verbally agree that he meant 5 Hryvnia and not 5USD. Satisfied I got in the Cab and 5 minutes later was in front of the airport. I handed the cabbie 5 Hryvnia, he turned around and said no, no, 50. He faked a good shocked expression and even called me crazy (in English) for thinking it was only 5, I showed him my wallet that now only had 1 Hryvnia left in it (I had thought it would be better to take money out at the airport than the night before, just incase any hands found their way into my purse on the metro). When he saw that I didn't have any more money, he got out, grabbed my bag, walked straight into the airport, dropped my bag next to an ATM, turned to face the other direction(I think to give me some privacy?) and stood there. I knew there was no way to argue with him (he knew a lot more English when I getting in than he did now) and at the end of the day it was $8. Reluctantly I withdrew the money. It wasn't until I turned around to hand it to him that I realized a semi circle of 30 large men, with their arms all folded like body guards, had formed around the ATM facing me and the wall. Cabbies in Kiev have got friends! Trying not to look too scared, I handed him the money, he counted it, smiled, the bodyguards dispersed and he lifted my pack up to help put it on. All within 30 seconds. I walked away quickly and then took a minute to cool my nerves. With all that done, I checked in and went through security. On the plus side, I had made it to the airport with plenty of time!
Made it to Simferopol and this time was prepared for the cabbies in arrival and walked right through them. For the persistent ones who followed me around the airport and outside I discovered the glorious new tactic of pretending I don't speak English! It worked quite well. Caught the bus into town and then found the shuttles to Yalta. Success at last with public transport in Ukraine!!
I fluked out big time with finding my hotel (that's right hotel, no hostel here!), I went up to the doorman of one random hotel and asked him where the Bristol was and he pointed inside. Life was starting to seem too easy! The hotel was amazing. I hadn't been able to find a hostel that existed in the area and all the cheaper hotels that I tried to book ahead were full so this was my accommodation splurge for the trip. Well worth it, the room was sweet! Big balcony with a view of the mountains, the water and some of the main square, a big double bed that was incredibly comfy with big fluffy blankets and best of all, a sparkling clean bathroom just for me! Ah bliss. I took advantage of my personal shower and then headed out for a walk to check out Yalta.
The place is stunning; no wonder they call it the Russian Riviera. It has a long promenade which starts at one end with a big square and fountain where, among other things, there is a bunch of bouncy castles and trampoline rides. There is also a statue of Lenin that seems to glare directly at the MacDonald's Express. Along the promenade there were shops, flower beds, huge trees, guys with monkeys, roller bladders and exquisitely dressed couples. Next to the promenade was a rocky beach full of people. I wandered down to the end and there were a bunch of market stalls. Have I mentioned it was +30 and a clear blue sky? Then I went along a side street that had a little river running next to it with tiny water falls all along. The street was mainly people selling painting and little Baba's sold plastic cups of nuts and packs of smoke off upside down boxes. I wandered a bit more before finding a cafeteria style place to eat. I have learned these can be the best since I can kind of see what the food could be and I can point! The Cyrillic is coming along for basic signs, but menu items are still above my level. I got what I thought was potato salad, cabbage rolls and chicken with cheese melted on it. I ended up with some of the best potato/veggie/egg salad I have ever had,  rolled up meat (please don't be tongue) stuffed with something I couldn't figure out and a piece of chicken topped with onions, egg salad, tomato and melted cheese.
After my interesting dinner, I wandered back down the promenade to my lovely room. I realized on the way back that a lot of signs are in English, just using the Cyrillic alphabet (or a lot of the words are extremely similar to English). I think I am starting to catch onto the alphabet quite a bit. When I got back to my room, I enjoyed all my new modern conveniences. I sprawled out in my wonderful bed and watched a bit of TV. Simpsons sucks in Russian, but Futurerama actually sounds better! They were also showing coverage of some fireworks in Moscow, I took a quick look at the trusty lonely planet and found out it was Victory Day in Russia from 1945. About an hour later I heard fireworks going off here so I went on to my beautiful balcony and watched them before climbing into my wonderful bed. Even with the setbacks, Yalta has already climbed up the list as one of my favorite places in the word.
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