Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wonderful Experiences as an Academic Tourist in Yalta, Ukraine

Last week I spent 4 nights at the Hotel Yalta in Crimea, Ukraine. The Hotel Yalta is a 1,000 room hotel complex dating to the Soviet era with the Black Sea on one side of it and the Crimean Mountains behind. I was at the hotel to take part in the 3rd Yalta Conference on Optimization (which will be the subject of a future blogpost, so do stay tuned).

The Yalta hotel is an hour and a half from the Simferopol airport.

Yalta is famous for, among other reasons, the Yalta Conference, which is sometimes referred to as the Crimea Conference, which took place back in 1945.

I was very lucky that, upon checking in, at about 10PM last Saturday, I received a key to Room 986, which was actually a suite with a living room and a bedroom, each with a hall upon entry and a balcony, with majestic views (see above). There were multiple doors, which were heavy, and which helped to block out hallway noise, so one could get much-needed sleep.

The hotel and town, which was a walk down a windy, narrow path, were both filled with tourists, speaking, primarily, Russian, with some conversing in Ukrainian. The "academic" tourists, typically, conversed in English, although several of us were non-native speakers of English and had origins (or heritage) from this part of the world.

I enjoyed the spirit of the people that I saw and encountered in Yalta. Many were there with their families and it is common (Yalta is sometimes called the Honolulu of this part of Europe) to see people strolling everywhere in their bathing suits (with women often wearing sarongs as coverups). The beaches are filled not with soft sand but rather with large rocks (this is not the Jersey Shore or Cape Cod or Florida) and the folks plant their towels to mark their spots. There are restaurants that line the beaches and small kiosks with souvenirs (although I did not find anything worthwhile to purchase).

Fruit stands where water can also be bought (necessary in the heat here) can be found on the path from the hotel to the town and the peaches and plums were exquisite. I washed the fresh fruit with bottled water and avoided drinking the tap water, which I hear comes from the Dnieper River with chlorine added to it.

The hotel provided a breakfast buffet on the 16th floor, which is not air-conditioned, but I ate outside on the balcony and enjoyed the seagulls and spectacular views. During our conference banquet in the same location (I will write about it soon) we had fans to help us cool off.

Staying at this hotel and walking around the town and boardwalk were quite the experiences. The organizers of the conference gave us "free" time in the afternoon to explore, which was very much appreciated.

Being able to speak both Ukrainian and Russian definitely helped and added to my comfort level.

The photos featured above, which I took last week in Yalta, speak for themselves, so enjoy!