Showing posts with label Sevastopol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sevastopol. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ukraine: When Travel brings Headlines Home

Travel not only makes the world feel smaller, it also brings the headlines home.  And with this week’s headlines, we are taking a brief break from our Hawaiian tales, to take you with us on a trip down our travel memory lane:

Back to Sevastopol, Ukraine.

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It has been three years since a Black Sea cruise introduced us to  Sevastopol, the city established in 1783 by Catherine II after Russia gained control of the region.

We spent but a few hours in this port city that figured prominently in the Crimean War (1854-55) and the Bolshvik Revolution.

Those few hours were far long enough, we had thought back then. 

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It was autumn. An incessant rain fell from a leaden sky. The sky and sea the same gun metal gray as the military ships docked not far from our pleasure craft.

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But have you ever found in your travels, there are a few places you visit - if even ever so briefly- that leave a  hauntingly vivid memory ~ the kind that keeps details alive in your brain and your soul? Sevastopol was such a stop for us.

As most of you know by now, we prefer to set off on our own to explore our cruise ports of call and this stop was no different.  We saw the usual ubiquitous influences of the Western World. . .

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They were ‘lovin’ it’ at McDonald’s and this hotel, (pictured below) the Best Western Hotel Sevastopol, was housed in a stunning building.

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We didn’t walk very far from the well-groomed flower beds of the park to find ourselves on  real neighborhood streets.

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It was the emptiness of the streets and the people,or the small numbers of them, we encountered that created the most vivid memories.  The rain perhaps kept people inside, but it was those few people we encountered that we we won’t forget.

PicMonkey Collage

As we approached one trio I commented to The Scout that they had been staring at us – the hard penetrating kind, not the curiosity gaze - from the moment we came into view.  As we neared them, I smiled and they raised their eyes, focusing on some far distant spot over our shoulders; as if we’d ceased to exist.

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Another trio stood talking on the sidewalk outside this church – until I paused to take photos of the façade. They quickly disbanded. (I took this photo to capture the bullet holes that you see in the upper right hand corner.)

PicMonkey Collage

In watching the news this week, I think back to the somewhat Pollyanna-like observation I made to The Scout as we walked back to the ship, “Gee, these people aren’t very friendly. They don’t even make eye contact or smile at us.”

To which he replied, “Think of their past.” 

Today, I wonder if it perhaps it wasn’t the past, but their present and future that caused their behavior?

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The last photo I took of our stop in Sevastopol was of the submarine off our side as we set sail.

Have any of your travels brought headlines home? Or did some place send you home with hauntingly detailed memories of it?

We’ll be back soon with more tropical tales for you. We appreciate your time and interest and would love to hear from you. And please come back again soon! 

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sevastopol: We're not in Kansas,Toto!

In  Sevastopol, Ukraine, I knew how Dorothy felt after she and her dog, Toto, arrived in the Land of Oz

We generally consider cruise ports of call to be 'appetizers', giving us enough taste of a place to prompt a return someday. But, this stop -- of less than three hours, in our case -- took Sevastopol off our 'future's' list.

Admittedly, we had but a snapshot of a city on a  rainy, gray day; a setting that gave a spy-movie feel to the place, but that wasn't the only thing. . .  

First, on the positive side -- unlike the guarded welcome at Sochi, Russia --we were allowed off the ship here to wander the streets on our own. So we had a chance to explore the town - unlike fellow cruisers who saw  Romanov's Summer Palaces and the Best of the Crimean Riviera on ship-organized tours. 

                        Strolling through the park
Tourism websites describe a Sevastopol that is vastly different from our 'snapshots' which include:
* Sodden streets, empty, but for an occasional pedestrian or two.
* Empty parks - music playing from high mounted speakers in one gave a haunting feel to the empty surroundings.
* Closed stores.
* A handful of elderly women standing on a street corner near the padlocked sprawling market area selling produce from small plastic bags.

Weather conditions and timing of a visit can affect first impressions, but it is the interaction -- or lack of -- with people, that leave lasting impressions  Here, I wondered, were people's souls as empty as the streets? 
Although there were people, we had no verbal or non-verbal contact with them. It was if we were invisible. Or maybe they wanted to be invisible?

Our travel fall-back greeting, 'smile-and-nod-if-you-can't-speak-the-language' didn't work.  You have to have eye contact for that. There was no eye contact. There were no smiles.

I tested my invisible theory on those we did encounter:  a family at an espresso machine in the park, a few lone pedestrians, a trio outside a church, a clerk in a deli. . .each time their gaze -- (and in each case they had watched us approach) was quickly averted to someplace off in the horizon just beyond our shoulders. 

An elaborate fence reminds one of Sevastopol's history
A War Torn History
When one considers the history here, these folks, and generations before them, really haven't had much to smile about. The Crimean War and its Siege of Sevastopol in the mid-1800's and World War II are local history.  With all the memorials and monuments they've erected, those battles won't soon be forgotten. We saw war memorials (guns are prominent in the designs), statues of war hero's and Lenin, elaborate ironwork fences with designs incorporating the dates: 1941 - 1944. Even the facade of the stately Vladimirsky Cathedral was pockmarked with what appeared to be bullet holes.

 Gun Metal Gray
Even today there is a strong military presence. Our ship anchored in such a manner that our balcony was a viewing stand from which we could watch a passing gunmetal gray military ships . . .we weren't sure if they were Ukrainian or Russian ships.

With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, both Russia and the Ukraine claimed the Black Sea fleet stationed there. By 1995 they had agreed to divide the fleet between the two countries.  The ownership of Sevastopol continued to be a point of contention and in 1997 Russia dropped any claim to Sevastopol but got 80% of the fleet.

A cruise stop is but a snap-shot of a place - the one we put in our memory book of Sevastopol is gray-toned, well, in fairness with just a splash of color:


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