We had good reason to fear the USSR!

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Europe » Ukraine
May 31st 2013
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: 44.5144, 34.1757

0630: Up and off again today with Svetlana the daughter. Cant wait........


<ul><li>Drive on the old road to a small church perched on hill top.
</li><li>Balaclava submarine pen - cold war James Bond setting deep in rocks.</li><li>Bakhchisaray: Tartar settlement in hills to see Palace and cave monastry - lunch</li><li>Drive through mountains to view point and then back to Yalta.</li></ul>
<b>Svetlana:</b> Late 20's excellent English. Lives with Alena (mum) and "Granny" in 2 room (not 2 bedroom) flat in Yalta (shares room with Granny)........., this really highlights the over blown, lazy want it all now attitude of the English. She has worked her way through University speaks better English that most people I deal with and cannot break free. Tour guides here earn about 200-300 USD  per month. The 3rd floor apartment was built by Nikita Khrushchev's regime in the 1960's and was supposed to last only 30 years. It is now 45 years old and crumbling.........She was cheerful and positive, but has no hope of evening getting to the UK as permits are non-existant.

Again,  we drive off at "get away" car speed into the mountains that are the pre-dominant feature of the area. We arrive at a small Russian Orthodox Church perched high up on a crag over looking Yalta. Built by Tsar Nikolai The First as a mark of his thanksgiving, having surived a train crash.

<b>Why the West had good reason to be frightened: </b>Arriving in Balaclava late morning, we learn that the town (once famous for the Crimean War and "HELMET"😉  was taken off the map during the Cold War. We arrived at what first appeared to be the side of a quarry, adjacent to a small rocky harbour full of Oligarch's speed boats. Immediatly in front of us,was a wide opening and huge tunnel (with water)  leading into the rock face. Proceeding onwards, we passed through several sets of steel "nuclear proof" blast doors and into a huge and secret  former Soviet submarine base. Expecting OO7 to make an appearance at any moment, we were then led though avast and at one time TOP SECRET Cold War facility. WOW!!! Whilst undoubtedly very secret, the actual technology looked reminiscent of a lawn mower service centre and the knobs and buttons had a distinct 1950's gas cooker feel........

<b>We are now in Turkey! </b>After escaping from the submarine pen we were driven to Turkey. We must have been drugged as it only took 1/2 hour!. This whole area used to be part of the Ottoman Empire - and still has about a 20% Muslim population called Tartars. The town of Bakhchisaray is located about 20k inland and feels like a different country. Moseques, ladies selling sweatmeats and a large palace/mosque complex  built in 1501 by one of the Khans (The Mogul Dynasty - not the Ashtead restaurant!) Lunch was spent eating some sort of Arabic version of Dolmades with a watery mutton soup on a  "TUFFET" . To be frank, we had survived very well in the old "small room" department up this point in the journey.........

<b>Cave Monastery: </b>Also visited the spectacular Russian Orthodox Church Cave Monastery nearby. We huffed and puffed up the cliff to a hollowed out crevice into which had been hewn an ornate chapel. We were not allowed to talk and the ladies had to wear special head scarves and long skirts. At the side of the chapel, was a grill and inside we could just about make out a dimly lit "ICON". It looked a like a slightly bashed in biscuit tin lid....... who I am to comment as many were making a huge fuss when they saw it........ 

<b>Drive back via the scenic route:</b> As we treated Ditmar to a box of Turkish delight he offered  to drive us back to Yalta via the "SCENIC" route. This sounded most generous, but we failed to realise that he was about to practice his "mountain pursuit techniques" involving 2 hours of switch back mountain roads. Knees knocking, wobbly and slightly green we arrived at "THE TOP" and were rewarded with a spectacular view over the Crimean Peninsular..... Ditmar  then proudly announced that this was the most dangerous section of rally track in the world...... as he gripped his steering wheel and threw the car into every bend with gusto.......sadly, as a result of his enthusiastic cornering, his car is in dock today having 2 new wheel bearings!!!

We bade farewell to Svetlana and was most disappointed to learn that she had a "cruise ship job" the next day and her friend "Max" would be guiding in the morning.





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