before you go … SEVASTOPOL

The World, Re-booted®
Sevastopol, Ukraine

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Located on the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea, Sevastopol (se-ves-TO-pul) has from its 18th century beginnings been a crucial naval port. During the Crimean War (1853-1856) touched off by the Russian desire to expand their presence in the Black Sea and eventually, hopefully, to gain control of Istanbul (then known as Constantinople), the result of the war was Sevastopol was leveled. The Russians lost as the British, French and Italians piled on depriving them of islands in the Dnieper River and reducing – not expanding – the Russian Black Sea presence. Some here refer to the Crimean War as World War 0; they can make a pretty good case for calling it just that.

Until 1996 the city was closed. A top-secret submarine basin was carved out of rock underground from 1953 to 1961 to service the Soviet submarines during the Cold War, including arming the nuclear weapons the sub carried. The base is located a short drive from Sevastopol in Balaklava. The sub old base is adjacent to an affluent yacht basin and is a must-see/

At the end of the Cold War in 1991, Russia just walked away and for 15 years the once top secret facility stood open and was heavily looted. Now it is a stunning museum with artifacts from the Cold War being rapidly reassembled. Buy a ticket and put on a winter coat and step inside. Welcome back to the Cold War.

Sevastopol is also the site of one of the most famous battles in history. The charge of the light brigade during the Crimean War was immortalized in the poem (“theirs not to reason why; theirs but to do and die …”) Visitors can stand on a hill in the same spot the British commander stood on to watch his troops be slaughtered. It’s a regular cottage industry.

Fortunately, Sevastopol, a city of harbours and hills, is used to being leveled. Less than a dozen buildings in the city survived the Nazi onslaught in the early part of World War II (1939-1945) so almost dates from 1945 although it doesn’t look that new.

This is still a navy town and when the fleet is in it can get rowdy. We spent a night in port in Sevastopol next to the “White People” barge which is a party boat and where, at 3 am, the party was still going strong. The Ukrainians, now an independent country, want the Russians to leave, but the Russian submarines are still based here and their departure has been pushed back from 2017 to 2050. You and the Ukrainians are getting the idea: The Rooskies are not going home.

Also not to be missed:
The nearby opulent Khan’s Palace that Catherine the Great grabbed once she conquered in the area in the late 1700s. Is nearby. Most of the palace buildings are gone, but enough remains to be worth a visit of a few hours. Among the must-sees that remain are the harem and the cultured gardens.

Photo: St Vladimir’s Church, a Sevastopol classic.

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