Because Herb, Gaurav and Jose had to get home for work, we only had time for one quick tourism stopover on our way back to Kiev after Kazantip. We decided to spend it in Bakhchysaray, almost universally described as the jewel of the Crimean peninsula:
“A world away from the glitz and noise of the resort towns on the coast, the former capital of the Crimean Khanate is an absolute must-see on any trip to the peninsula. With three stellar attractions: the Khan’s Palace, the still-working Uspensky Monastery built into sheer cliff walls, and the 6th-century cave city of Chufut-Kale, it’s worth doing an overnight trip here, not least because there are some great accommodation options and plenty of chances to taste Crimean Tatar cuisine.” (Lonely Planet)
Sounds good to me! We said goodbye to our hosts and friends at Morskaya 66 and hopped in a minivan there.
Jenn, the solo traveler from SF who we met at Kazantip, also decided to tag along, and even Tanya took a train down from Kiev to meet up.
However, we were all feeling so worn out from the big Kazantip closing party that on our first afternoon there, we barely wanted to move. So after reserving tickets to Kiev for two days later we basically just went out for a long, slow dinner and passed out early.
I must say, just the meal itself almost made the trip to Bakhchysaray worthwhile.
Although I didn’t mind the food at our Popovka guesthouse as much as the other 3 guys, I will admit that it started getting very repetitive. The options were pretty much “meat with bread,” “meat with rice,” “chicken with bread,” and “chicken with rice.” And some kind of pancake-thing. Try eating that for every meal for two weeks! 😛
Day two in Bakhchysaray was the start of the real tourism:
First up was the city’s #1 sight, Khan’s Palace,
And its many museums and gardens.
To be honest, I thought it was “alright.” Worth seeing if you’re already in town, but doesn’t warrant coming all the way just for this.
However, you probably all know that I’m in general not that big on museums – and aside from the structure itself, most of what we saw sat behind glass.
…Plus they charged separate admissions for what seemed like every little corner of the grounds, which was more than slightly annoying.
After the palace and another quick snack…and meal…and snack (we really are a group of fat kids),
We decided to work off the calories by walking all the way to the site of Uspensky Monastery.
I enjoyed this a lot more than the palace – tons of interesting, “local-feeling” stuff to photograph.
Bakhchisaray itself seems to be surrounded by some (pretty spectacular) cliffs,
And the monastery is built right into them.
From here it was just a short walk to the third and final major sight,
The 6th-century cave city of Chufut-Kale.
This was by far my favorite stop of the day – but probably not because of the caves themselves, just because I really like hiking and climbing.
And acting like a kid.
The views were magnificent, the sun was shining, and after 2 weeks of punishing my liver at Kazantip, it felt wonderful to be out in the great outdoors.
By the time we finished up and got back to town it was barely 5pm, but we realized…
…there’s nothing left to do!
Bakhchysaray really is a small place, so despite our efforts – Googling online, checking the guidebooks, even asking Ukrainian locals – we literally couldn’t turn anything else up.
So we headed to a restaurant for some dinner and sheesha, then went back to the hotel and called it a night.
Next stop: Kiev.
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on August 22nd, 2011.