Monday, July 12, 2010

BLACK SEA PART 4: SEVASTOPOL, UKRAINE

Note: Yeah, this was supposed to come before the last one, but no one would ever know that besides Bob and me--or you, if you're paying attention to my titles.

We had this nice brass band waiting for us when we got off the ship in Sevastopol. I think they were playing "Money, Money, Money" or some such song. We got on one of those buses . . .
and drove an hour and a half to our first destination. En route, we learned that Ukraine has a huge wine industry, and we saw grapes growing everywhere:
However, our guide told us that Ukrainians drink mostly vodka and brandy and export most of their wine. On the way we also learned a little about Sevastopol, a strategic military city. It has undergone two different sieges, one in the Crimean War (1864-1865) and one during World War II (1941-1942) that lasted 247 days. During the latter, 83% of the buildings of the city were destroyed. It shows. It is not nearly as beautiful as Odessa and has a few more ugly Soviet concrete buildings. Guide books, however, say the rebuilt city center, which we did not see, is beautiful. The guide told us that the city has seven hills, which made us laugh since we’d heard the same thing in Bucharest. I guess everyone wants to be like Rome!

At one point during our drive, off in the distance we saw hillsides covered with huge fields of lavender:

Our first stop was the Khan's Palace, located in Bakhchisaray, Ukraine. Khans were the tribal leaders of the Tatars, a Turkish ethnic group that conquered the area in the 16th century. This is one of three Muslim palaces in Europe, the other two being the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (which we had seen earlier on the trip) and the Alhambra in Spain (which we saw on our trip to Spain with Andrew in 2005).


Bob, can we have a fountain in the middle of OUR living room?

Below is the "Fountain of Tears," which has a constant drip of water. The story is that one of the khan's fell deeply in love with a young Polish girl in his harem. She died young (actually, she was poisoned by a jealous woman in the harem), and the Khan was so upset that he commissioned this marble fountain that would weep, like he did, forever:
When Alexander Pushkin (remember him from the Odessa post?) visited the fountain and heard the story, he was so moved that he wrote a poem about it.

Here is a picture of one of the harem rooms:
Gotta love those Muslim doorways:

We saw a dog with the world's most interesting fur at the Khan's Palace. I WANT one of these:(Wouldn't he look great sitting next to my living room fountain?)

Our second stop was Uspensky Monastery, the first of two monasteries we saw on this trip built into the side of a cliff. Originating in the 15th century, it was closed by the Bolsheviks in 1921. It was reopened after the break-up of the Soviet Union and subsequent Ukrainian independence in 1990.

The story is that a shepherd discovered an icon of Mary the mother of Christ miraculously lit by a candle high in these cliffs. The icon was taken to the prince's palace, but the next morning it was gone and was later discovered back on the cliff. After the same thing happened again, the people built a small chapel in a cave up on the cliff (and a long flight of steps to reach it) and moved the icon into the chapel. We filed in a long line past the icon itself, following many obviously devout Orthodox believers who were there on a pilgrimage. No photos of the icon are allowed, and they must be serious because I couldn't even find one on the Internet!
Other structures were even further up the cliff. Monks still live here (with no electricity or heat):

I loved this mosaic of an Orthodox priest:
But it wasn't as good as the real thing walking around at the shrine:

Coming back into Sevastopol, I was excited to see this rendition of Harvey Ball's classic. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see a previous post here.)

Sevastopol is rather strategically located, as you can see in the map below:
(click on image for larger view)
and was the former home of the Soviet Black Sea fleet, but is now the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy. However, it still leases facilities to the Russian Navy, and there were scary-looking ships filling the harbor. (Those Cold War years were not that long ago):

We would have liked to spend more time in the city itself, but we had to head back to Turkey for our next day's adventures. We did see a few interesting sights on the way out of town:

1 comment:

  1. When I think about those doorways, I think of it like a quilt: how many years it must have taken them to do the mosaics on that door! And how many unnamed workers gave their time to do that doorway, as well. Beautiful sights. I think a fountain would like nice in the living room--your grandchildren would like that!

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