Part Five & Conclusion - Crimea - by co-Cruise Leader, Rudy P. Friesen
WEDNESDAY, 2 OCTOBER 1996 - ODESSA/CRIMEA
For most of the tour members, this would be the day that they would leave the Ukraine, returning to western Europe. They would fly from Odessa, directly to Frankfurt or Vienna, overnight there and then either fly home or stay on in Germany or Austria for an extended holiday.
However, 36 of the tour members had signed on for the Crimea extension. I was one of those. We were to be the first ones to leave the ship and so breakfast for us was at 7:30 a.m. Soon our suitcases had been loaded onto our bus and we were on our way to the Odessa Airport. Again this year the bus was a shiny new Mercedes.
We soon arrived at the airport, went through security and boarded the airplane, a Russian built, 40 passenger Antanov 20, owned by Crimea Air, a small private charter airline. After a flight of about one hour we landed at the Simpferopol Airport. Eventually our bus arrived. After loading our suitcases, we boarded the bus for the 100 km. drive to Yalta. It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at the Oreanda Hotel. After checking in, we had our lunch.
The hotel was quite good and in a great location, at the end of the waterfront promenade and next to Primorsky Park. After a brief rest, I went for a walk along the promenade. I bumped into some of the other tour members, doing the same thing. After buying some bottled water, I returned to the hotel for supper at 8 p.m.
After supper several of us got together on one of the balconies to share our impressions of the journey completed and our expectations for the days ahead. We also shared the fresh figs, apples, and pears that had been purchased during the walk along the promenade. We could see and hear the Black Sea below. It was a beautiful evening.
THURSDAY, 3 OCTOBER 1996, YALTA/SIMPFEROPOL
Breakfast was at 8 a.m. The itinerary called for a sightseeing tour of Yalta and surrounding area, with local tour guide Maya Memenko. This was to include the Livadia Palace where the Yalta Conference took place in 1944, the Chekhov House and Museum, the Vorontsov Palace and Gardens and a visit to the Massandra winery for some wine tasting.
However, I had decided that, if at all possible, I would visit the archives in Simpferopol. Prior to the Revolution, Simpferopol was the capital of the Province of Taurida and the location of the provincial government Building Department that had to approve all building projects in Taurida, which included the Molotschna Colony. I had previously obtained copies of drawings of several Molotschna building projects and was interested to see if there were more in the archives.
I had expressed this interest to Marina the evening before, indicating that I would need an interpreter and a driver. She had immediately contacted Maya. Immediately after breakfast Marina informed me that the arrangements had been made. What a contrast to the earlier years of the Soviet Union when these kinds of arrangements would take months and even then you were never sure if they would actually take place.
My interpreter, Olga, met me in the hotel lobby. The driver had not arrived yet. After several attempts to contact him, she suggested we not wait. So we went out the front door of the hotel, negotiated a rate with a taxi driver, and by 9:30 a.m. we were on our way to Simpferopol. During the trip Olga provided me with information about the area. Yalta has a population of 68,000 whereas greater Yalta which stretches some 72 km along the southern coast, has a population of 160,000. A semicircle of mountains protects the area from the north winds, while the sea gives it warmth in winter and freshness in summer. The air is particularly healthy since the Crimean pines purify the air. This air is particularly good for respiratory problems and people suffering from various diseases come to the numerous sanatoriums and clinics here to restore their health.
A trolley bus line, constructed in the late 1960's, runs from Yalta to the Simpferopol Airport, a length of 100 km. In summer, buses run every 10 minutes. The cost is one Hryvna 80 Kopiyky (approx. $1.30 Can.), and less for shorter distances.
The terrain is quite mountainous and the road quite winding. It climbs up to the Ungar Pass which is 752 m. above sea level. The highest mountain in the Crimea, Raman Kosh, is 1545 m above sea level. She also pointed out Dimerchi Mountain and the village of Kutusovka, named after the 29 year old Kutusov who beat the Turks at this location in 1774, but lost an eye in the battle.
I noticed numerous people selling onions along the side of the road, unusual looking flat red onions. Olga explained that they are unique to Yalta and can be seen in 19th C. paintings. They are sweet onions, commonly used in salads.
By 11:15 we had arrived at the Archives in Simpferopol. Since I had not made an appointment before hand, I was uncertain as to whether we would be able to get in. Olga explained the purpose of our visit to the guard at the door. He let her call the Director of the Archives, Lyudwila Gurbova, who consented to meet with us. We found our way to her office. After Olga outlined my interests to her, she explained the Archives' policy. In order for me to have access to the Archives, I would have to submit a letter requesting permission to work in the reading hall of the Archives, describing the theme and purpose of my work, and where the information is to be used. This letter would have to be submitted either by the organization that had sent me or by the hotel where I was staying. She suggested I go back to the hotel in Yalta, get a letter from there, and then return the next day. I tried to explain that this was not possible since there was not enough time for me to spend another day to come back. But she could not change the policy of the Archives.
Fortunately I had some paper with my firm name on it. I pointed to the name, explaining that it was the organization that had sent me and that I was that organization. I further proposed to prepare a letter of request on that paper and sign it. I also gave her a copy of my book, to further explain the theme of my work.
She finally agreed to accept my letter and then showed us to the reading hall. I had brought the drawings of the Spat Zentralschule that Dmitry Meshkov had given me in Dnepropetrovsk. So I asked to see the original drawings of this project. One of the ladies working in the reading hall soon brought me a large file which included the Spat Zentralschule documents. It also included documents of numerous other building projects from throughout the Taurida Province, in Mennonite villages, Tatar villages, and others.
The documents I studied most closely included: Spat Zentralschule - drawings from 1911, application for approval to build from Nikolai Wall and Johann Hiebert, who were responsible for its construction, and approval from the Taurida Building Department for construction to proceed.
Spat village school - documents including application signed by Wall and Hiebert, end of construction dated June 28, 1911 elementary school built of stone dated June 29, 1911 and application of August 2, 1911 for opening ceremony to be held August 31, 1911.
Gnadenfeld Zentralschule - documents including an application from the Inspector of Public Schools, Odessa Department of Education, Government of Taurida, Melitopol - Berdjansk region, dated March 13, 1911, to the Taurida Building Department, advising that on December 17, 1910 the staff of the Gnadenfeld Volost decided to rebuild and enlarge the building of the Gnadenfeld Zentralschule and to allocate 9,000 Rubles toward the construction. The Building Department Protocol, dated March 23, 1911, found the project technically satisfactory, subject to certain changes being made: 1) Considering the need for more light in the additional classrooms, they are to be enlarged to 1 arshin 12 vershok by 3 arshin; 2) the windows of the two classrooms opposite the students area should be closed or draped; 3) the number of students should be calculated at 0.375 Sashen floor space per student; 4) according to a law passed in 1900, a firewall (Brandmauer) is to be built where indicated with red ink on the drawings.
Tiege village school - application to the Taurida Building Department for approval to build an elementary school in Tiege, submitted December 19, 1911, and signed by Kornelius K. Töws, representing the Tiege village council. The Building Department Protocol, dated December 31, 1911, approved the project, and directed that one copy of the drawings be sent to the Berdjansk Police Department, to be passed on to K. Töws and that he is to be advised that upon completion of construction the Construction Department is to be notified so that an inspector can confirm the safety and stability of the building. The Construction Department architect, A. Sawinitsch certified the completed building in a document dated July 22, 1912 and submitted to the village representatives, Kornelius K. Töws and Peter P. Löpp.
I then requested photocopies of the Gnadenfeld Zentralschule and Tiege village school documents. (The Gnadenfeld documents were subsequently translated for me by Mrs. Agatha Schmidt, Kitchener, Ontario, and the Tiege documents were translated by Mr. Gerhard Götz, Germany).
While I waited for the photocopies, I looked through a directory of documents which identified the archive file numbers for numerous building application documents. I noted the following:
Naster applying to construct a mill in Hamberg Berdjansk region, 1900/1906.
Application for construction of cannery on Falz-Fein's estate, 1902.
D.G. Reimer, a mill on estate Prevolye, Dneprovski region, 1904.
J.A. Penner, Muntau, a starch factory, 1905 (and again in 1908/09).
J. Rempel, a mill in Jelano - Michaelovka, 1905/06.
Klassen and Plett, a mill in Chernigowka, Berdjansk region, 1905/07.
K. Toews, a brick factory in Tiege, 1908.
J. Wiens, B. Peters, and P. Unrau, a mill in Spat, 1908.
Unrau, Bekker, Kasper and Dyck, a mill in Karassan, 1908.
J.J. Neufeld, a mill with a gas generator in Waldheim, 1909.
H. Becker, a mill in Franzthal, 1909.
Huebner, a brick factory in Alexanderkrone, 1909.
K.H. Warkentin, a hospital in Waldheim, 1911.
J.J. Goertzen, a brick factory in Waldheim, 1910.
Construction and repair of Mennonite Prayerhouses in Halbstadt and Tiege, 1910/11.
Berman and Wall, a mill with gas generator in Novo-Gregorjewka, 1911.
Application by K.K. Unrau to have the sewage pipes of the Neufeld brewery in Halbstadt closed off, because they are dumping sewage into the Molotschna River, 1911.
Neufeld and Dyck, electrical plant with oil engine in Halbstadt and Muntau, 1910/12.
Bergen, Mantler, Wiens, Friesen, and Siemens, a mill in Nelgovka, Ekaterinsk Railway Terminal, 1910/12.
F. & J. Wall, reconstruction of hospital building on the property of F. Wall, Muntau, 1910/11.
Martens, installation of oil engine in his mill, Neukirch, 1910/11.
Hildebrandt, installation of kerosene engine in wheel shop, Neukirch, 1910/12.
By this time it was 4:00 pm. I finally received the photocopies that I requested. Soon we were on our way back to Yalta, arriving at the hotel at 5:45 pm. I thanked Olga for her invaluable assistance and then said good bye to her.
The others soon returned as well and at 7:00 pm we had supper. This gave me an opportunity to hear about the day's tour and to share my experience with the others. This brought to an end, a very successful and rewarding day for me.
FRIDAY, 4 OCTOBER 1996, YALTA/SEVASTAPOL
Breakfast was at 7:30. By 8:30 we were on our way to Balaklava and Sevastapol, located on the west coast of the Crimea. As we travelled, our tour guide, Maya, explained that the Yalta-Sevastapol Highway was built in the 1970's at a cost of 1 million Rubles per kilometre. It is still in very good condition.
As we passed Alupka she explained that the name comes from Alup - fox hole. Alupka is one of the 12 settlements that make up greater Yalta. She also pointed out the 1233 m high Mt. Ai-Petri (St. Peter's) that dominates the town. We soon passed through the 165 m long tunnel through Dragon Mountain and then stopped to view the Foros Church, built atop a mountain in 1892 to commemorate a train crash that occurred in 1888. Many people were killed in this accident but the Czar's family, which was also on board, was not hurt.
As we approached Sevastapol, Maya explained that the city was closed until recently, because of its military importance. This fortress and navel port was built by Catherine the Great as a base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, after Russia annexed the Crimea in 1783. Today the Fleet, which has been divided between Ukraine and Russia, is still located here. There is still a checkpoint with soldiers armed with machine guns. But not everyone is checked. We were not. We did, however, stop to pick up a local tour guide, Zolya.
Before heading towards the centre of Sevastapol, we first took a side trip to Balaklava. This was the main site of the Crimean War, a war that saw Russia fighting against Britain, Turkey and France over the Bosphorus and the Dardenelles. The war lasted from 1854 to 1856 when a peace treaty was signed in Paris. October 13, 1854 was a particularly important date in the war, a day when a very large number of people were killed here. Florence Nightingale was here in Balaklava in 1854 carrying out her work among the wounded soldiers, and the English poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson immortalized the battle here in his poem, "Charge of the Light Brigade".
After a walking tour of the harbor area, we returned to our bus and headed for Sevastapol, a picturesque city with white limestone buildings located along broad tree-lined streets. Almost completely destroyed during World War II, It is now a city of over 400,000 people, an industrial centre with large ship docks. Fishing and winemaking are also important industries. There are some 1800 monuments in the region, and 700 of those commemorate the Crimean War.
Our first stop was the Panoramic Museum, where a 360° panorama depicts the defence of Sevastapol, in particular, the events of June 5, 1855. It is said to be one of the largest panoramas in the world. Originally painted in Bavaria by the artist, Rubo, and his students, it was opened in 1905. It was heavily damaged during World War II, then copied and re-opened in 1956 in the same building. The building which was specifically design for the panorama, allows natural light through it's roof, in order to high-light the display.
The tour guide noted that the first Russian nurse, Daria Mikhailova (Dasha), had begun her work during the Crimean War. She died in 1910. Also Leo Tolstoy had fought in the 4th Bastion.
From the museum, we drove to Nakemov Square, at the city centre, along side the water. After a brief walking tour we again boarded our bus, which took us to the Castle Restaurant where we had our lunch: Solyanka soup, cutlet, and fried potatoes. Nearby we noted that a Lenin monument still stood in its place.
We then headed to the church of St. Vladimir, built in 1888 in the Byzantine style with columns of Italian marble. Four Generals are buried here. We entered the church and had the opportunity to appreciate its interior, although a wedding ceremony was in progress.
From here we headed to Chersonesus, an old Greek settlement dating back more than 2000 years. The remains of a theatre can be seen. It was constructed in the 3rd Century B.C. and could accommodate 2500 people. It was used for 700 years, until it was destroyed by the Christians in the 4th Century A.D.
At one time the town was surrounded by a 4m thick wall. The people began to make their own coins as early as the 4th Century B.C. and traded with other cities such as Alexandria (Egypt), Rome, and Athens.
Archeological excavations of this important site began in the late 1800's but the most important work has been carried out in the last decade with the help of American and Canadian Universities. The remains of the settlement give an indication of its layout including a Greek street dating back to the 3rd Century B.C., as well as a building specifically designed for wine making.
Apparently, a war with the Scythians lasted over 200 years, during which time the settlement sought help from the Romans. It is said that Roman soldiers protected the city. In the 3rd Century A.D., the Goths, fighting tribes from the north, attacked the settlement and in the 4th Century A.D., it became a Christian city.
As we toured the grounds, we were shown a large mosaic. Although a reconstruction, it gave an indication of what the floors of the early basilicas would have been like.
Nearby we saw a large church building, St. Vladimir. Built in the 19th Century in the Byzantine style, it is a copy of one in Istanbul dating from 536, and is located on the site of an earlier church by the same name. It is said that St. Vladimir was baptized on this site in 988. Although the present church was damaged during World War II, a small portion of it is still used for services. In fact as we approached it, the bells began to ring, announcing a church service.
Our visit to Chersonesus came to an end. We boarded our bus and headed back to Yalta. The scenery was quite picturesque with its rolling hills and vineyards. Before reaching Yalta we made one brief stop. Some distance from the highway, near the shore of the Black Sea, Maya pointed out a very large and unique residence. She explained that it had been built by Gorbachev as his dacha, but now it belongs to the Ukrainian Government.
Soon we arrived back at our hotel, had our supper, and retired for the night.
SATURDAY, 5 OCTOBER 1996, YALTA/MENNONITE VILLAGES
Breakfast was at 7:00 and by 8:00 we were on our way to the Mennonite villages of Spat, Menlertchick, Tchongraw and Karassan.
As we left Yalta, we passed by Massandra, the adjacent settlement. As we continued on, Maya pointed out Bear Mountain, which is the eastern boundary of greater Yalta. The mountain appears like a bear dipping down into the sea. We continued on past Alushta, another seaside resort, a settlement dating back some 1500 years. We headed toward Simpferopol on the 1400 km. long Yalta - Moscow Highway.
We soon passed through Simpferopol and continued north, eventually arriving in the former Mennonite village of Spat (now Gwardejskoje). We stopped in front of the former Zentralschule. With the drawings of the building in hand, I went around the back and entered the building through one of the original doors. The other entrance door appeared to have been closed in and changed to a window. The interior seemed to have been substantially rebuilt since the layout did not match the drawings. The building is now used as a community library.
The area around the former Zentralschule was a hive of activity. It was Saturday morning and the streets had been transformed into an open-air market. Some of the tour members wandered around the market. Others went looking for other Mennonite buildings. I walked down the side street adjacent to the Zentralschule, across the Salgir River, where I noticed several buildings that may have been former Mennonite buildings. But I couldn't confirm that they were.
We eventually returned to our bus and headed north to the former Mennonite village of Menlertchick, approximately 6 km. away.
We stopped at the north end of the village where we soon identified the Peter Kornelsen house which was of particular importance to tour member Helen Kornelsen. As we walked along the village street, we were confronted by a man who turned out to be the director of the collective farm. He was very concerned about our intentions, suspecting that we planned to steal some secrets about his hog operation. When Maya explained who we were and what we were interested in, he became friendly.
I showed him a map of Menlertchick which indicated a village well at the north end of the street along with the house of the well keeper, Sharkov. I asked him whether the well was still there. No, he responded, but the granddaughter of the well keeper still lives in the village. He insisted that we all follow him to her house. Unfortunately she was not at home, but her daughter-in-law showed us several old photos with the original well keeper's wife, Mrs. Sharkova, on them. She had passed away only two years ago.
We identified a number of Mennonite houses along both sides of the street. After photographing them, we again boarded our bus and headed toward the Yalta-Moscow Highway. We headed north on the highway, eventually stopping along the side of the road to have our bag lunches that the hotel had provided us with. We had also bought some watermelons in Spat, and so were well prepared for a roadside feast.
After lunch we continued along the highway, eventually turning off toward the east, to the former village of Tchongraw. As we approached Tchongraw, we could make out the faint outline far to the south, of Chatadar, the tent mountain. It was just as Marina Unger's Aunt had described it to her.
When we entered Tchongraw, we soon identified the former Gerhardt Wiens residence. It is set well back from the street and is still in good condition. It now houses the municipal administration.
The Tchongraw Bible School was originally located across the street from the Wiens residence. Although the building no longer exists, it is said that the front steps of the present building are still the original Bible School steps.
We continued on down the village street, identifying and photographing several Mennonite houses. We then turned around at the south end of the village and headed north to Karassan, some 10 km away.
When we arrived in the former village of Karassan (Rownoje), we were soon able to identify the former Mennonite Church building, even though it has been substantially altered over the years.
Behind the church, we found the former Karassan Zentralschule and the hospital. Both buildings are still used for their intended purpose. After spending some time photographing these fine old buildings built of local limestone, we headed south down the village street, to catch up with the rest of the group. Tour members Vern and Esther Dyck from Winnipeg had gone to search for his grandfather's farm. They were able to identify the yard, but unfortunately none of the buildings were left. It was now a park area.
Another tour member, Mary Bergen, from Abbotsford, who could still speak Russian, struck up a conversation with a local lady. What the lady told her was very disturbing. It seems that not all residents of these villages work for the local collective farm, and those that don't, have no access to a plot of land for growing vegetables. This lady had no food for the winter and was afraid that she would starve. It was difficult for us to understand.
We headed south on the Yalta-Moscow Highway, through Simpferopol, and eventually arrived back at our hotel. After supper we soon retired for the night.
SUNDAY, 6 OCTOBER 1996, YALTA/BAKHCHISARAI
This was to be the last day of the tour. Breakfast was at 8:00 am and by 9:00 am we were on our way again, heading west on the Yalta-Simpferopol Highway. It was Sunday morning, so we had a Bible reading, from Genesis 126 and Psalm 19, and then sang "How Great Thou Art", as we enjoyed the view of the Black Sea.
We eventually turned off the Highway, and soon passed through the town of Inkarman, where the limestone known as Inkarman stone comes from. Soon we were at Bakhchisarai which means "a palace in orchards", a small town that for centuries served as the capital of the Crimean Khannat (Tatar Moslem state).
Here we stopped at the palace of the last Tatar Khan. It was constructed in 1519 by Ukrainian and Russian captives, destroyed later by fire, and then rebuilt in 1787. At the entrance to the palace were numerous vendors. Several of us bought locally made baklava (fried dough with honey) from one of the old ladies.
We then toured the many rooms of the palace, including the diva, a room with marble floors, tiled walls, and a marble fountain. This was considered to be the most important room since it originally contained the Khan's throne.
There was also a small mosque, built in the 18th Century, and used by the Khan for praying on weekdays. Five times a day he and his subjects would kneel down facing Mecca.
The most impressive part of the palace was the fountain courtyard, with its golden fountain dating from the 17th Century, and the Fountain of Tears, built in memory of the last Khan's lost love, by Persian architect, Omar, in 1864. The drops of water that come out of this fountain resemble tears. When Alexander Pushkin saw this fountain, he was so impressed that he placed two roses on it and later wrote the poem: "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai". As a reminder of this event, two roses are always kept on the fountain.
After viewing many of the other rooms in the palace, we returned to our bus, and started are journey back to Yalta. We stopped to buy some watermelons and then found a rest stop along the highway where we had our lunch.
We then continued on toward Yalta, stopping one more time at an observation point overlooking the City of Yalta. This was an opportune time to take a group photo. From here we followed the winding highway down into Yalta, returning to the hotel by late afternoon.
This gave me time to walk along the waterfront promenade once more, to pick up a few last minute souvenirs. I then returned to the hotel in time for supper. After supper I returned to my room to pack my suitcase, after which a number of the tour members got together on one of the balconies, for one last visit. Soon it was time to retire for the night.
MONDAY, 7 OCTOBER 1996, YALTA/SIMPFEROPOL/FRANKFURT
After an early breakfast, we loaded our suitcases onto the bus and headed for the Simpferopol Airport. Our Crimea Air charter flight left at 10:00 am, arriving in Odessa at 11:30 am.
A layover of several hours at the Odessa Airport gave us an opportunity to have a snack. Soon it was time to say goodbye to our American tour members. They would leave Odessa a little later, flying Austrian Airlines to Vienna, where they would stay overnight. We, the Canadian tour members, would fly Lufthansa to Frankfurt. But before we could board our flight, we had to clear Ukrainian Customs. The Customs officer decided to inspect my suitcase, and soon found the old book that had once belonged to the Chortitza Church. He also found a small icon that I had purchased in Odessa. He called over his supervisor who inspected the items. "Big problem", she repeated several times in English. I became quite concerned, but finally asked her how big the problem was. "Ten dollars", she announced. I paid her the money, repacked my suitcase, and made my way to the departure lounge.
Soon we were able to board our flight to Frankfurt, where we overnighted at the Astron Hotel in Frankfurt-Raunheim. After an evening of visiting with friends from Mannheim, I went to bed, looking forward to returning home.
TUESDAY, 8 OCTOBER 1996, FRANKFURT/HOME
After a wonderful continental breakfast, we returned to the Frankfurt Airport for our Lufthansa flight to Toronto. Here we said goodbye to several more of the tour members and then flew home to Winnipeg, bringing to an end another very successful trip.
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