Thursday, July 12, 2012


Our one week cruise experience.

Why is it called the "black" sea? Because in overcast weather it really is black!We saw it,- blue on sunny days, black when the sun went down! Apparently it can also turn nasty in winter with huge stormy waves on which many old seafarers down through the ages foundered on its now .Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian coastlines.

Leaving the port of Istanbul through the Bosphorus on a moonlit beautiful summer's evening under colourfully flashing lit-up bridges on our luxury Silverseas cruise-liner was just magic. We only had one day at sea before we berthed in our first port, Yalta in the Ukraine. It was the first of the 3 Ukrainian ports which formerly were part of the Soviet Union, but now returned to Ukrainian sovereignty. They have rich ancient and more recent histories. First they were the playground of the Czars and their wealthy cohorts. Then they were used as health retreats due to the mild climate and beautiful beaches. Many wars were fought over them as it was the Russians' access to the Mediterranean.

 In Sevastopol, the Crimean War is documented in a huge panorama artistic depiction in a special round building built for the purpose early in the 20th century,- nearly destroyed in the second WW, but now completely restored. In Yalta, the famous conference between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill when they divided up Europe on the eve of the fall of Nazism, was held in the summer palace of one of the Czars and is open for inspection, as are some of the other palaces on the hillside of this now popular resort. Odessa used to be the home of the Soviet fleet and their submarines in underground tunnels,- which are now also open for inspection. Odessa had a large and very famous proportion of the early Jewish and Yiddsh writers and early Zionist activists. It was a popular 19th and 20th century retreat for the Soviet literati of their day.

My main interest was the Romanian port of Costant(z)a from where I left with my parents on the boat of the same name on New Year's day 1948. I couldn't remember much about it, but I knew of the nearby resort of Mamaia, the playground of royalty and the rich. We drove there by taxi and by the looks of the huge hotel developments and the full beaches, there is a large middle class in Romania which can enjoy themselves at this Black Sea resort,- as in the other ones we visited.

The Bulgarian port of Nessebur has an ancient part which is UNESCO Heritage listed and is very quaint and pictureque,- full of tourist shops and markets,- obviously also a very popular tourist destination for Bulgarians enjoying and extensive coastline and what looked like beautiful sandy beaches. Large hotels seemed to line the foreshore.

N.B.The Black Sea Ports are obviously not suitable for larger cruise liners and not many seem to include many Black Sea cruises as part of their itineraries around the Mediterranean. Our brief one-week cruise flying in and out of Istanbul from Tel Aviv as a 2hr side trip from Israel was a terrific experience and very easy to organize at reasonable cost.. El Al and theri partners fly to many destinations which we do not need to include in an Australian fare.

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