Thursday, August 28, 2008

UA - Sudak

This day began with an earlier than early morning. Today’s excursion to Sudak was to leave at 6:30 in the morning, which meant waking up even earlier to ensure enough time for breakfast and walking to town. Would you know it, just as we were about to leave, we get a phone call: no seats. Sound familiar?

These trips were being arranged by a woman located just downhill from the Simeiz bus loop. On the west side of the loop, one road heads uphill; and right on the same corner another road heads downhill. The excursions were arranged by the woman just a 30 second walk or so down this roadway, along its right side. That’s two cancellations in a row, and this time no alternative was offered.

Svitlana and I made the best of the morning: we grabbed breakfast at the same buffet we’d previously gotten dinner; and we decided to go climb up the mountain located just beside the beach. It was up here that she pointed me to where she and Anastasia had been going to the beach, and it was here that I learned that it was a nude beach. With that, I can’t deny that a whole array of hormonally-induced thoughts flowed through my head, with the foremost thought being “why didn’t I decide to stick around town to go with them?!” Nudity aside, the view from this peak was pretty, and it was neat to look down upon the morning swimmers below. Among the clear water, they looked like little bugs skimming about.

After a little bit of lounging about back at the apartment, I decided that I’d make my own way to Sudak. Boosted from my success with reaching Livadia and Yalta, I decided I was ready for a longer trek. As I was boarding the marshrutka, the look on Svitlana’s face was priceless: the look of a mother about to send her firstborn off to the first day of school – utter dread and worry that she’d never see me again. The door shut just as I said “I’ll be fine” and I was on my way to Yalta.

In Yalta, I did a quick scan of the buses to see if there was anything for Sudak. Nada. However, there were plenty to Simferopol, which has far more buses that run to Sudak than there are in Yalta. I walked up to a driver and – using Russian – learned that I needed to get a ticket in the office; I couldn’t just pay on the bus.

Into the office I went, where I joined a queue that lasted for an hour. I’m amazed that in a country where you queue so regularly, the people here don’t seem to know how to organize a queue. When I reached the counter, I – again in Russian – managed to obtain the times for the next buses to both Sudak and Simferopol; and then proceeded to book a ticket for the next bus to Simferopol. I was on a roll.

The bus to Simferopol was simultaneously hot and uncomfortable. Granted, those both tend to go hand in hand. I had an assigned seat for the perfect spot – that lone seat that’s both aisle and window at the same time; but there was a woman there and I thought I’d be nice and let her be. Bah to kindness! My left leg can’t sit still well ever since my fall back at Kamyanets-Podilsky, so cramming myself into a toasty window seat was not the best idea.

Arriving at Simferopol, I immediately got onto a bus for Sudak & paid right there at the bus. I took back and center so that I’d have the aisle as extra leg space. The ventilation was, initially, great; but then the women on my right closed her window and the guy on my left pulled his curtain across it. Those curtains catch the wind far too well.

When the bus driver called out Sudak and most of the people disembarked, I looked out the windows at all the signs reading Sudak and still found myself wondering “is this Sudak?” It feels like the bus station is in the middle of nowhere. Indeed, it is located a bit north of town. Taking to the same concept I used in Yalta, I looked at the mountains and decided to move away from them.

My idea worked again: I soon arrived at town and could periodically espy the sea between the buildings. I was in Sudak looking for its Genovese Fortress, and figured I’d be able to see the fortress from town. That theory also worked: when I got to town, I saw the fortress perched up on a cliff; and then I just walked directly toward it and was there soon enough.

As with Kamyanets-Podilsky and Chufut-Kale, the Sudak Fortress is free reign: wander where you want; climb what you want; and don’t fall. There are some great views all around the fortress is a good mix of preservation and ruin. One of the buildings on the site has some photos showing both destruction and restoration efforts.

It’s possible to climb the peak to the top tower, but I ultimately wussed out of this climb. I was carrying a bottle of water in one hand and trying not to lose my shirt with the other, which I’d taken off early on to bear the heat of climbing about; and the breeze was constantly attempting to whisk it away from me. Had I brought my 5-10s, I most certainly would have made an attempt on this climb. Even with my current hiking shoes, I’m sure I could’ve done it had my hands been free. This just gives me a good reason to return to Sudak.

I did a quick walk along the waterfront – nothing spectacular. It’s actually a lot like Yalta: lots of pay beaches, crowds on the beach which weren’t worth people-watching, but crowds walking the waterfront which made sitting at a bench with a drink more-than-justified.

Returning to the bus station, I finally gave in and, for the first time, paid to use the toilet. However, my specific rule is that I don’t like to pay for things I can just as easily do without paying. So in countries where it’s socially acceptable to be in public: why pay? This is why I once peed right on the side of the building of pay toilets.

A couple days ago I described one of the less-tasteful anecdotes, noting I still had one more; and here is that second one. This time, however, I dearly had to do something that is not socially acceptable to do in public; and all I can say is that one hryvnia was well worth what I did in there. This was also my first time using a squat toilet – that is, basically a hole in the ground. All I can say is that it was actually quite nice. Basically you don’t have to touch anything and gravity does all the work for you.

I sat at the bus station for an hour and a half. I immediately bought a ticket for the bus directly to Yalta, opting not to go by way of Simferopol (for which I could’ve left right away). That route took far too long and was way too uncomfortable. The direct route would take me along pretty coastline and was much shorter, though the rarity of such buses is what made me sit around for an hour and a half. It actually wasn’t so bad: I watched two dogs playing nearby, and that managed to keep me entertained for about an hour.

Leaving Sudak at 19:30, I arrived back in Yalta at 22:10 (about an hour and 20 minutes sooner than what was shown on Sudak’s timetable). Svitlana was correct: earlier she said that a trip to Sudak was an all-day affair, and right now I was appreciating the truth to that statement. When I walked down the stairs to the marshrutka stops, I noted that there was a big “22:00” on the bus stop signs. Considering there was no one else waiting and the bays were unusually empty, I could only assume that the word before the “22:00” means that service stopped at that time. I saw one other person start waiting at the Simeiz stop… but she soon got up and walked away from the station completely. So I had no marshrutka back to Simeiz.

I headed up to the office and asked – in Russian– whether or not there were any more buses. Nyet. No marshrutka? Nyet. So I have to take a taxi? Nyet. Now that last one confused me, as I knew there had to be a taxi stand right around here (the next day I noted that it’s along the side of the bus station). I suspect the woman thought I was referring to the marshrutkas again when I asked about taxis, as the marshrutka are considered a form of taxi.

For the next 30 minutes or so, I would stand alongside the marshrutka bays watching people walk up only to leave soon after. I’d also periodically run back up to the regular bus bays to scan for a bus to Simeiz, even though I was under the impression that there were no more left. I couldn’t spot any on the time table, though Yalta’s time table is a bit convoluted.

I was eyeing a couple waiting at the Simeiz marshrutka stop for several minutes, when all of a sudden I heard a woman yelling at them from the stairs up to the bus bays. The couple got up and started heading toward the stairs, so I turned to do another scan of the buses. There is was: a bus to Simeiz. Not just that, but actually the same bus and even the same driver that took us from Simferopol to Simeiz on our very first day in Crimea. My ride home had arrived. I walked back into the apartment at about midnight: another navigational success story.

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