Prior to being annexed by Russia in 2014, Crimea had already been a part of the Russian Empire. In 1783, Crimea became Catherine the Great’s main acquisition after the end of the Russo-Turkish war.
The empress sought to contrast Crimea with Saint Petersburg, the great city founded by her predecessor, Emperor Peter the Great.
After Ottoman rule in Crimea, the Russian Empire demonstrated the continuation of the Byzantine Empire. Thus, Catherine changed the Tatar names to Greek names, for example, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Feodosiya, and so on.
Today, Crimea is once again filled with its former resort life. The peninsula is connected to Russia by a new bridge that is almost 20 kilometres long. Crimea’s outdated Soviet sanatoriums and hotels mainly attract those who are nostalgic for the USSR, but the peninsula’s cultural heritage is of interest to everyone no matter which side they take in the debate about which country Crimea belongs to.
After five centuries of Ottoman rule, Crimea became part of the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great travelled to Crimea and made the Russian south a trendy destination. Here, in a favourable climate, in the scenic landscape of the mountains and the sea, the empire’s leading aristocratic families—the Vorontsovs, the Yusupovs, and finally, the Romanovs themselves—had magnificent palaces built for themselves and the villas of merchants and rich industrialists were constructed nearby.
In Yalta, Crimea’s main resort city, you can visit the house that the writer Anton Chekhov built after having sold the copyright to all his works, including his existing and unwritten works. Stroll through the rooms of the famous White Dacha. It was here that Chekhov wrote the plays Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard and the story The Lady with the Dog. Then relax quietly on a bench in the garden planted by the writer himself.
This old Tatar town amidst the mountains is an hour’s drive from Sevastopol and its intermixture of cultures is characteristic of Crimea. Visit the magnificent palace of the Crimean Khan and an ancient mosque. Walk up the narrow side street to Rustam’s house and stop in for a cup of coffee along with the traditional kurabie (a type of shortbread cookie). Rustam will tell you about the deportation of the Tatars during the Second World War and their subsequent return to their native land. He will also show you a traditional Tatar shower built right into a closet.
Since 2007, the young and talented sommelier and winemaker Pavel Shvets has been setting up the boldest experiments on a mere 10 hectares of land. He produces world-class wine without using chemical fertilizers and sulphur and his vineyard relies solely on manual labour. After tasting the biodynamic wines, stay for dinner in the panoramic Cyclops restaurant while admiring the spectacular views of the Crimean Mountains.
For short trips, it’s most convenient to travel to Crimea by plane – it’s just a 2-hour flight from Moscow to Simferopol.
The Crimean bridge will be open for train transportation starting in 2019.
The climate of Crimea’s southern coast is the same as in Nice, Cannes, or Sanremo. The best time to see Crimea’s cultural attractions is during the off-season period: from September until early December or from March until the beginning of May. During this period, the weather in Crimea is typically sunny, warm, and dry, but there aren’t very many tourists at this time.
According to Russian laws, Crimea is considered to be the territory of the Russian Federation. At Simferopol Airport, there are no additional document checks because when you fly from Moscow you do not cross over the state border. You can use rubles to make payments in Crimea. However, due to sanctions, international credit cards do not work.