During our two-week stay on the Black Sea coast, Herb and I took just one trip away from the Kazantip area (while Gaurav and Jose flew off to spend a few days in Istanbul):
A ~40km bikeride to the nearest proper city, Yevpatoria.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not many people come to Kazantip to go biking through long, empty roads in the Ukraininan countryside – so finding rentals was actually quite a challenge.
But after numerous inquiries and proxy-phonecalls, we finally located a shop in Yevpatoria that was willing to drive a couple of bikes out to us.
This worked out nicely, because it let us make the trip one-way and return them right at our destination.
The ride itself was largely uneventful, save for just a few interesting spots.
For example, because we were more or less skirting the coast, every once in awhile we’d happen by an isolated little private beach.
Usually these weren’t much more than a parking lot, a few souvenir shops, and a path to the sand – but they did provide convenient “refueling stations” to get a bit of shade and stock up on water along the way.
Aside from those, the most obvious highlight of the ride was the Yevpatoria RT-70 radio telescope.
It’s one of the largest single-dish radio telescopes ever built, constructed during the Soviet era for conducting deep space experiments.
Sitting quietly in the middle of nowhere, one would hardly expect that it’s one of only two in the world capable of transmitting precisely-aimed messages to extraterrestrial civilizations.
(Not sure how true that really is, but I did read it in a few different places. Check out the Wikipedia article here).
As we continued along the main road to the city, we also found ourselves passing through large stretches of watermelon “farms.”
So we stopped by one for a taste. The woman told us to help ourselves and didn’t even want to let us pay – though of course we insisted.
Maybe she was hoping we’d think it was so delicious that we’d buy a few for ourselves 😛
We reached Yevpatoria at about 5pm, and not a moment too soon: Herb was having constant problems with his bike.
First, one of the pedals snapped off. I offered to swap as I’m pretty used to crappy equipment…but then a pedal snapped off the other bike as well.
And as if that wasn’t enough, literally just two kilometers from the end he got a flat tire. D’oh! But we were so close that we decided to just finish off on foot.
The rest of the day we spent wandering the city itself, as I was happy to find Yevpatoria way nicer and more interesting than expected.
It had a beautiful old town district,
Plenty of tourist attractions,
A bustling central shopping boulevard and several pleasant squares,
A carnival-like waterfront promenade,
And loads of fantastic Tatar cuisine. We wrapped up our day with a dinner in the Lonely Planet’s top-recommended restaurant (the menu helpfully translated by a nearby Latvian tourist), then caught a cab back home to Popovka.
Note: These posts are behind realtime; the above took place on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011.