I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Ukraine (5)


Back in the Ukraine


With a view of Margate.




I suppose to some yacht owners, Margate is a name conjuring up romantic associations of far away places.  But to moor alongside the nameplate this morning as we arrived in Yalta was enough to bring a smile to our faces.




Trying to decipher the exclamation on the back of the coach seat, we found ourselves distracted by the interior decor of the vehicle.




Two deep pelmets of brightly coloured nylon fabric, box pleated around the whole coach, including the windscreen created more than a little comment from our fellow travellers.




The tropical design of palm trees and straw huts seemed altogether out of place, too.  But we were on our way to Livadiya Palace, the summer residence of the last Tsar and his family, so we had better things to think about.








Of course, this was also the site of the famous Yalta Conference, so ears were pricked as the commentary told the story of this fascinating place.




It’s a beautiful building, very personal to the royal family, even though they visited only four times.




The ceiling of the ballroom, where the treaty was signed was superb – the architect had decided that chandeliers would spoil the design, so the lighting comes from above an architrave and is very effective.  With doors on both sides, there is a through breeze and the whole room is wonderfully light and airy.




In the next room, the chandelier had been brought from Murano and the red, white and blue colours were just enough to give it personality.  The room itself had dark red walls and was otherwise rather dreary.




Whereas the downstairs rooms were laid out as for the Yalta Conference of 1945, the upstairs rooms were furnished as for the Royal Family.  I really loved the personal details, the family photographs which were everywhere, because Kodak had given the family one of the first cameras.




Here were mementos of happy family occasions, of holidays and visits to the country.




One corridor was full of such photographs, such as this charming one of a young prince.










Sad to think that they would experience such a dreadful fate just a short time afterwards.




Shopping opportunities followed, for berioska dolls and musical boxes amongst other things.





More shopping opportunities by the viewpoint of the Swallows Nest, too.  Known locally as Lastochkino Gnezdo, it’s the symbol of Yalta.




Final stop was at the Vorontsovsky Palace, where the British Delegation to the Yalta Conference were hosted, including Winston Churchill.  I loved the four huge lions who were posed in front of the entrance, in particular this sleepy one.  Any child who tried to hug or climb aboard the marble beasts received a sharp blast on a whistle from the man whose sole responsibility appeared to be to keep an eye out for such miscreants.




Much of the time, he was distracted by other things and the children got away with it.  Perhaps not because he was intrigued by the knitting/crochet, though?


But then again…






A visit to Sevastopol wouldn’t be complete without a visit to see these chaps.




Quite amazing, their singing of Russian romantic favourites held our attention until the dancers came on stage and took our breath away.  Their personality shone through – they smiled, winked and laughed as they leapt six feet high, around and around the stage.




When the girls came on, we could only reflect that they looked like no Russian stewardesses we’ve ever seen…

Totally captivating, we all left the theatre humming ka-lin-ka!



The Sevastopol Panorama




The last stop on our morning tour was the Sevastopol Panorama.  I’ve blogged before about panoramic paintings, having been introduced to this marvellous art form by Marieke when we were in The Hague last year.  On hearing we were to visit this particular one, we kept our fingers crossed that it wouldn’t disappoint.




We were delighted to find it was an absolute stunner, not only in the actual artwork but in the component features which make visiting a panorama special.  There was the long corridor, the dark spiral staircase leading to the observation platform, the canopy over the overhead window and the central lookout from where the full 360 scene could be viewed.




The scene itself was not a pretty one, being a day in the Crimean War when Sevastopol came under seige.  But the subject matter aside, the blend between the canvas and the foreground was almost invisible, so cleverly had the visual effect been managed.




See how, in the photo above, there are “real” sacks and baskets in the foreground, blending with the painted ones immediately behind the soldiers?








It was pointed out to us that those depicted are real people, some of whom are identifiable.  At this particular viewpoint, our guide was careful to state clearly that Florence Nightingale was not the only nurse on the battlefield!  She named this particular one – sorry, can’t remember the name, though.




Our guide Tatyana also named this water carrier, another famous female figure in Ukrainian history.  These small vignettes brought the whole thing to life and we could have stood for hours peering into the details.




The place was overwhelmed with visitors, each group allotted a place on a tightly controlled schedule.  Tatyana had told us earlier that our time was 11.40am and when it looked like we might be stuck in traffic, she’d got a bit fidgety.  Clearly there was no room for manoeuvre – another group was hot on our heels and we were close on the tail of the bunch in front of us.




Suffice to say that in spite of the horrendous subject matter, we thought the whole thing terrific and a masterpiece of its kind.

We were told that this is not the original canvas, sadly, but a copy of the one left in pieces following the German seige of Sevastopol in the 1940s.  The Soviet soldiers had tried to rescue the original from a fire, but all that remains are a few fragments.  In spite of this, the current panorama remains a highlight of a visit to the city – deservedly so in our opinion.


Still in Ukraine

We are in Sevastopol today.




Amused to find ourselves moored alongside the Black Sea Fleet, we sat at our breakfast table watching each ships company stand to attention as the 8am reveille was sounded and flags unfurled.  Bells rang out too.  A great way to start the day.




We had a full day of activity planned, starting with this monument right by our ship – a memorial to the scuttled ships of 1854.  Various landmarks were pointed out to us but quickly we were back on the coach and off to Chersoneses.  You’ve guessed it….the Pompeii of Ukraine.




To begin with, we thought it was little more than a collection of dusty mosaics and amphorae.  But, walking out to the coast, we could see it was so much more.




The sea breeze made the rising temperature a little more comfortable and we wandered happily about the site, particularly enjoying the sight of a few local children enjoying themselves diving off what is probably an ancient Greek/Roman pier.  On a warm day, what better place to be?




 As we sailed into the port this morning, we’d seen a fine church standing high on a hill outside the city and it was to St Vladimir’s Cathedral that we came next.




Modern and decorated in a contemporary style, it was another highlight.  Downstairs was a fairly simple church with a modern iconostasis and beautiful murals.  Upstairs was altogether richer with highly decorative patterns on each wall.  Borders were variants on celtic knots and arrangements of different crosses in natural earth colours highlighted with gold.  What I had imagined to be stained glass panels in the windows turned out to be simply etched, which gave the whole place a light and airy feel.

Finally, to the museum, by which time several of our fellow travellers had grumped off to sit in the shade.  They missed some of the best bits!




I have a thing about fragments and love to find designs like this.  There were several such remnants of wall decorations and keeping an eye on the clock (again) we lost no time in recording what we could.




Treasures indeed.  Around the corner, another clever museum designer had done marvels with a few bits and pieces, arranging them in such an attractive way, I thought.





Gorgeous shapes, clearly displayed, perfect to sit and draw.  But no time.




As the good people of Sevastopol went about their daily lives, we drove to see the work of Franz Roubaud, a rather talented Russian artist.




It was so magnificent, it deserves a post of its own.


Ukraine…one more ker-ching




As I stepped out of the shower this morning, I could hear music outside.  There on the quayside a band had arrived and were playing songs from the shows.  Just the thing for 7.30am on a Monday morning!  We dressed quickly and stood on our verandah listening for a few minutes before breakfast.

Welcome to Odessa!




Gettiing off the ship and leaving the port behind, the first sight is the most memorable: The Potemkin Steps.  We climbed to the top, from where we took a look around the city centre.






It’s a fine, leafy city with tree lined boulevards.  The Soviet tradition of encouraging the arts with young people is alive and well and everywhere we walked in this green city, there were groups of youngsters painting very impressive images of local buildings.





Though the city is smart and bustling, the occasional hint of earlier times is evident.  A small, elderly woman tended the dusty earth around the statue of Pushkin.




Quite why this woman was carrying an electric kettle shoulder high along one of the smart streets is a mystery.  A new trend, perhaps?




The Opera House is a fine building.  We were told later that Odessa is built on limestone, with the characteristic caves and fissures we know only too well. (Our garden contained one such cave for several years, until we “dealt with it”)  The Opera House had suffered some subsidence but a nearby glass factory poured molten glass into the cave beneath it, thereby rescuing the structure and providing more secure foundations.




We loved the parks and gardens, which were full of youngsters playing in the sunshine.




We tried to practise reading cyrillic script with little joy, except for the obvious ones.




A few grand houses remain and we were able to visit them in the afternoon.  This ceiling is in the Tolstoy House – a relative of the author, we understand.




The grand interiors were slightly faded, but these mansions are in regular use, for performances and symposia.  There was a piano in every room and we were told that children are encouraged to come and play.




I admired the parquet/marquetry floor, looking closely to check whether those intricate patterns were stencilled or cut in.  They were indeed cut in and each piece perfectly placed.  Remarkable workmanship.




Having paid our respects to the city’s Godmother, Catherine, we went to one more mansion, now used as a literary museum and performance space.




I especially liked the way precious documents and books had been artfully displayed.  So much more attractive than lined up in a glass case.

By this time, we were getting a little overheated and it came as a welcome relief to enter an airconditioned room, glass of champagne in hand, to listen to a group of virtuoso violinists.





Their talent was considerable, the music a fine way to end a great day in Odessa.