Ivan's travels experiences..... In the Crimea

Monday 21 April.
E and I had discussed what I would have for breakfast as my Hostess did not speak English, which E said fro me was lucky as she liked to talk, so he said eggs on toast, I said yes, I got toast IN eggs, (turns out this is a popular local dish) OK it all ended up in the same place.

We drove all around Simferopol seeing the European side and the Tartar side, then went out to a ancient site up a steep hill side to see a series of houses carved out of the rocks, it was easier going down than up!!

Saw some beautiful flowers in the market place, do not think I have seen so many loose flowers in one place, roses were from Holland and cost $2.83 each, when the Ukrainian roses arrived on the market they were only 94c

Interesting even though the have very little money that flowers have always played an important part of their life.

I got rid of some heavy photo books I brought in for a young artist, (Alexia) so now I will be able to travel lighter….. a little….I think I still carry too much overseas with me!….perhaps next time I may travel lighter!

Alexia does paintings that she sends to Canada, like a lot of artists that I know she is unconformable selling direct to the public.

A little about Alexia, she is a attractive lady with a very bubbly personality, lives by herself, found her mother a husband, is in the process of finding husbands for all of her friends including my landlady, wears running shoes (Nike's style) all the time with jeans and a warm top with a jacket that she proudly tells me she got for $10, and the main feature is its large pockets.

Sasha is also a abbreviation of her full name and I told her that is a pretty name but she loves Alexia because it could be boy or girl, I tell her she is dressed like a boy and told her that is bad because penguins sometimes do not know if they are courting a boy penguin or a girl penguin, since then she has been calling her self penguin. NO she does not want to get married as it would restrict her too much, she likes being able to drop everything and go on a drive with E to the other end of the country to collect someone. She says no man would let me do that!

We all went out to dinner to a rather nice restaurant where they had live music, a lot of the men there looked a little on the shady side, but I guess they are the only ones with money.

Still no luck getting a computer connection to the Xtra email so still working thro the internet cafe.

Tuesday 22
We drove to Sevastopol via the scenic route and my understanding was that we would go direct to my apartment that I was to have for the next two days, so I was in my Khakis, NO, E told me he had arranged for the owner to be there early afternoon, I had a appointment to see a person and that was not going to happen dressed the way I was! So E said he would stop at a Tatar friends house and I could change there, which I did.

Sasha arrived later in the day and we collected her and she was with us till Friday 2 pm.

My Landlady called me Vanasha which is a sweeter name for Ivan, she was short and plump and charged $25 a day for her apartment, in advance, however as I was leaving, I asked someone else that rented appartments, what would the charge be and they said $25 a day, I said what would a month cost and he told me ….if we deal with each other $300 for 30 days, as E gets kickback ( it is E's cousin that is running a business that charges a commission) on above and to go thro him she would have to charge me more, that opens ones eyes a lot and somehow you do not look at them the same way after that, with all of the information about how he is saving me money!

However I do not think I could get it cheaper anywhere else, but that is still no help! (this is a involved country with the thinking and corruption at all levels)

Went for a` walk around the ruins of a ancient city called Chersoneses, like most ancient cities it was right on the ocean and by any standards it must have been impressive.

Now I would be less than human and certainly not male if I failed to mention the ladies of the Crimea, one that will remain in my memory for as long as I have a memory is a beautifully slim tall lady in a beautiful light blue trouser suit with a matching ankle length coat of exactly the same colour of course all set off with high heel shoes, she was striding along with her coat open and flowing behind her and I was too dumbfounded to take a photo.

Was this the only one, not on your nellie, of course there were a few plump ones after McDonalds are here and doing well, and there were some ugly ones, but most were well dressed, slim ladies that had learnt to apply makeup and make themselves look pretty & feminine. There were many wearing mini skirts, beautiful black stockings, high heals, all set off with a ankle length black coat, remembering it is early spring and still inclined to be cold.

Considering how little money they receive it could be they are so slim because they spend all of their money on clothes and nothing on food and taken to the west they may quickly blend in with the rest of the western ladies, but that is being cynical !

In case I have every single men drooling at the mouth E told me that a large percentage are single and would like to find a husband in the west. Why, because many see no future for themselves in their country and while they love their country, their country cannot pay them well or look after them when they get old.

I was told of one pretty lady whose husband, in Soviet times used to make his wife get up early, go and stand in a queue (line), in the heavy frost for 6 hours to get some eggs while he played space invaders, ignoring the cries of their baby.

Well if I carry on talking of how these ladies look like this, I will probably be banned from a whole list of countries.

Went out to dinner with a American X 767 captain (Pilot) and his lady friend, he had been married four times before and had thought he was coming to Sevastopol to collect I assume No 5 however things were no going well in any area and quite frankly he was a good copy of a ugly American!

Wednesday 24
Went to the Panorama where they had the Crimean war painted onto a circular room and guns, cannons, dirt, huts, hills, broken wood, cannon balls, the works blending in with the painting and unless you looked very closely you could not see where one started and one finished.

About this time E received a phone call to say the American & Lady had broken up he had told his driver to take her to collect her suitcase from the apartment and take her to the bus depot, would not even let the driver take her home 15 minutes away, E asked me if he could go and pick her up as he had taken her thro to Kiev the day before I arrive to meet the American that she had been writing to for a year. I said OK! So we had a car full !

The lady was Irena, she is an intensive care nurse and she works a 14 hour day five days a week, works in a shop in the other two days, has a 16 year old daughter, never has a day off and can not make ends meet thro lack of income, evidently this situation is normal if you work for the government. She was to start work at 7am the next day and work till past 7pm that night and was faced with that for the foreseeable future. E told me she could get much more money if she became a cleaner at a hotel. And to think that NZ has a shortage of nurses at what would seem to her a very high pay. She talks of a girl friend in the USA on a high wage ($6 per hour, minimum wage).

Life is TOUGH here if you are an ordinary person trying to lead a decent life.

Later we went to Balaclava, the location of "The charge of the light brigade" it is interesting seeing history from the other side.

Then on to a cold war Submarine Pen carved into a hill side going right thro a hill so a sub could go in one end, be repaired and out the other. Evidently they had a massive staff, massive lot of machinery, and at Perestroika when everything turned to custard, there was no navy, there was no pay for the workers and no jobs all of the gear at the Sub Pen was stripped by the out of works workers and never seen again, by the way if you know anyone that wants a Sub, hardly used drop me a line.

Thursday 25
Reasonably early the next day we drove to Yalta, we checked out accommodation at a location E knew and he came out and said it was full and we would go for a walk, it was funny that the lady who owned the apartment when she saw us arrive back came out to speak to E , but it probably was to say good bye!

We stayed at another location that he knew for the normal sum of $25.

My Second battery on the D60 went flat after 248 photos (124) I have marked this battery Two. It looks like I get exactly the same number of photos as with the last battery.

Friday 26
Left Yalta went to Massandra winery which was established in 1894 and they still have some bottles from that decade, they say that the last bottle they sold fetched over 50mill, not sure of what currency but what ever it was it would do me!

We joined the tour put on for a city official, they all paid nothing but we paid 40 Hryvnia each which I guess paid for the wine we tasted at the end. They had one very nice Red made from the Cabernet Grape which was very dry and one White that was almost as dry and all the rest were sweeter by varying degrees.

Then we headed for Sudak over a windy road, not bad by NZ standards and were by the sea a lot of the time, not much to photograph, all the scenery was hazy and the driver could not understand how that would make a difference.

Hotel for the night was going to cost 50 Hryvnia (UAH) with NO hot water so I said NO, so we headed off to another town that made wine, ( almost all of the flat land is sown in grapes) down a on exit road, saw a friend of E's who had a apartment right at the limit I set of $25, the area we were driving into was no worse than the others I had stayed at but I thought "Why am I doing this?" E said do you not want to walk around the rocks on the sea shore…. NO…. do you want to see the Genoa Castle…. NO…… I am here to photograph people and again I said it looks like I am here a month to early!

So we headed back to Simferopol and the old widow (yes 8 years younger than I)

On the way we stopped for dinner and I had Salmon & Chips & water for 17UAH, the Salmon was in a batter but it was going to take 10 minuets LESS time to supply and that makes a difference here.

To date 291 photos, I am not getting to the areas suitable for the photography I need, may have to steer E away from his friends.

Saturday 26
I have discovered I left my 8X magf shaving mirror attached to a glass door at in Yalta, hope it has not fallen off and broken, looks like we go back to Yalta today!

Hour and a half drive both ways and I will have to devise some system not to loose it again, it is funny I thought I might leave it behind somewhere!

Had lunch at a Armenian restaurant, it was interesting to see all the fancy big cars pull in and the people that got out and came in, they have private rooms so that if you feel you are important you can eat by yourself. There was a young lady in high heels overseeing everything and you are greeted OUTSIDE the front door and lead to your table wherever you request it. Boy those girls worked all for 300-500 UAH a month, a small one bedroom flat cost about 250 UAH a month.

Later we went to E's Internet club, and I gave Sasha some tips as to what I would change on E's web site to make it obvious as to what he was selling and that he WAS available for hire.

E was telling me that it cost 30,000 UAH to have a telephone connected and with a disposable income of perhaps 250 a month without spending any money on food on clothes or power etc., that kiddies is ten years to save enough to have a telephone connected, gee you would be pretty thin by then wouldn't you, however I do wonder about that cost!

Sunday 27
Well my landlady always has my breakfast READY by the time I indicate, OK it is almost cold when I get there at that time, but I guess all she needs is a good beating and that would be corrected. She stands by the kitchen door when I open my bedroom door indicating with her hand the set table with the food ready saying "Please, Please" then leaves the room as I enter, and who says the Soviet's had it all wrong! ….by the way she is looking for a husband Sasha tells me and she polishes up quite good looking at one of the photos she showed me.

We drove out into the country today towards some white cliffs, they told me it was were some westerns were made Soviet style, the spot was chosen because it looked like were the westerns in USA were made, perhaps how green is my valley, but I can not recall any others.

Still no luck getting a connection to my emails for a download, only access is via the internet cafe at super slow speed, makes our normal speed look like Jet Stream.

Walked thro a couple of villages, there was not much activity as it was Eastern Easter Sunday, but made some interesting photos of living styles, beautifully kept gardens!

Discovered why the apartment blocks in the old Soviet look so bad, it is because they NEVER spend money on the outside maintaince, which if you are concerned with housing your people and you build out of concrete apart from making them look pretty what is the object of spending money that could be spent on new apartments.

Monday 28
Went for a drive towards Evpatoria, over the flat area of the Crimea, pretty uninteresting and could have stayed at home.

Had a good talk to E tonight about his cousin, his thinking, and many other things, I feel he is basically honest and just his approach that may give you reason to wonder, my talk may have made him rethink some of his actions.

Tuesday 29
Drove thro to Sevastopol and rented a apartment in the centre of town from my fat landlady of my previous visit, she was very pleased to see me again and I received a BIG hug. This time I noticed the beginnings of a moustache and beard. The apartment for the week was $27 a day $189 for the week. Right in the centre of town so it was worth it Zoza is her name and the phone number is 557 6322, the apartment is 541747 her cell phone is 80 67761 2516.

I was here in time for the May day celebrations, many parades, lots of people on the streets walking dress up in their Sunday best, older people wearing their war medals, shops were open though many people had the time off from Easter to May 9th which was another big holiday.

So for the next 4-5 days I just wander around, had E take me to various places and relaxed, must be something wrong with me to be in one place for seven days. I is very cheap to live here if you can get away from being treated like a tourist. There are many beggars in the streets they all have their spots that they return to every day, many from the various wars, one had both legs and one arm missing and he was sitting on a small trolley, went past him on day and saw him crossing the footpath, then heard a bus pull out and when I turned around he was gone so somehow he got himself & his trolley onto the bus.

The telephone I bought in the market place stopped working so E sent it back to the market for a refund, I therefore bought a new phone from one of the phone shops, a Motorola Wap 50 about 700 UAH or about $140, it is one I can use anywhere I can buy a chip then I am on their system, this is something I can not do with Vodafone that are hard wired to their system.

E took me to a night club $1 entry fee, there was disco music, dancers, dance acts, comedian, topless dancer, guess with the body she had she was hated by every woman, admired by every man, ……. Over 50% of the ladies were VERY well dressed, had high stiletto heels and the men were more or less the way men dress most places, not in keeping with the ladies, there was a very mixed age group.

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