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  • Backpacking in Crimea

    Mentions of Crimea appear far more often in discussions about the Crimean War, but the name hardly appears when it comes to tourism. Crimea is known to be the place where live war reporting became a widespread practice, but it its still not exactly what you’d call a popular tourist destination.

    The Crimean Peninsula, however, has all the makings of an interesting travel destination: unique geography (Crimea looks like an island linked to the mainland through a narrow natural bridge), diverse beaches and mountain scenery. For a backpacker, Crimea is one of Europe’s best kept secrets, so here’s a short guide to backpacking in Crimea.

    Transport

    You can get practically everywhere in Crimea by minibus or taxi, but many of the locals work as ‘unofficial’ taxi drivers. If you really look like you’re a foreigner (if you’re carrying a backpack, and you’re obviously traveling to somewhere), standing on the side of the road can earn you some cheap rides – some cars will definitely stop and ask if you want a ride, for a small price.

    Roads in Crimea are littered with potholes, so don’t expect a very comfortable ride, especially if you’re in one of those 50’s Soviet types of cars.

    Food

    Crimean food is delicious, but not that easy to digest. However, if your stomach is not that delicate, do try some of the local specialties such as chebureki meat pies (they are sold on the street at stands called cheburechnaya). Kebabs are also easy to find, cheap and filling, especially those cooked over a wood fire.

    Tatar restaurants have great local dishes, and they are generally quite affordable. When it comes to dessert, try the paklava, layers of pastry dipped in honey and nuts – they are often sold on the beach. Pastry shops also sell various delicacies such as trubochki, trumpet shaped pastries filled with meringue and nuts.

    Things to see and do

    photo by Vyacheslav Stepanyuchenko

    Crimea is a paradise for hikers, because there aren’t many tourists and you get all those natural wonders all to yourself. There are few marked trails, but the paths are clearly well-trodden, and you can always ask the locals about some of the better known trails (but you’ll most likely have to arm yourself with a good phrase-book, or learn a bit of Russian before coming to Crimea).

    Some of the places of interest in Crimea include the The Khan’s Palace in Bahkchisaray village, the old seat of Tatar rulers. Chufut Kale Cave City, not far from Bahkchisaray is also an amazing destination, a 6th century town carved into limestone. If you want to see some beaches, visit Gurzuf, a picturesque town that will remind you of the French Riviera.

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