OK, just tring to show off again. If it isn't working don't worry. This is the last port which has Russian as a language. For me the fun continued. The tourists had a better time today too. This country isn't as uptight about tourists despite being part of the Soviet Union not too long ago. In fact, they just barely tolerate the Russians these day. Apparently they didn't like being under the boot heel of the USSR much. Imagine that.
So, what did I do today? Well, after breakfast I went for a haircut. I had no excursion planned and the hair cutters are so busy that they often make you wait two weeks for an appointment. So when I stopped by yesterday afternoon after my run (the scale is there and it is close to where I run) and they offered me an appointment this morning I didn't hesitate. Chances are I would have just been a slug-a-bed if I didn't have to get up for the appointment so it was a good reason to get up at a reasonable hour.
After the haircut I went walkabout as the Aussies say. I hit the tender at about 9:30 AM. I wanted to just walk and see the local area and I knew there was a thing called the Panoramic Museum not too far to walk that I might try to find. I stopped into a small store looking for candy. I needed to replenish my Werther's supply. They had something similar (nothing is a good as a Werther's of course) and I bought several bags as well as a bottle of Coke. I got a half-liter bottle for 3.4 Gravnya (the local currency equivalent to about $.20 US). So for about $.70 I had a 16 oz bottle of Coke. Pretty sad when you have to go to the Ukraine to get Coke for a reasonable price. I guess I'll save it for a special occasion.
Moving on...literally and figuratively. I walked along the shore more or less and discovered a souvenir stand next to a dolphinarium. There were some shipmates trying to negotiate with the stand owner but they weren't getting anywhere. I did my best and it was good enough to let them know that the price was too high for them. I then bought a couple things for myself. Actually they were more of a Russian type souvenir but we didn't see a souvenir stand where I was in Sochi. Some of the other tours apparently did go by some stands.
Sevastopol is quite unique. It was apparently founded or at least largely developed for defense purposes. It is on the Crimean Peninsula and that is strategic territory for the Russians because it is on the Black Sea. There are still Russian Navy ships here at anchor. Now they pay rent. In exchange they apparently give the Ukraine a break on oil prices. Because of this history (the Crimean War should ring a bell...how about "The Charge of the Light Brigade") there are many, many (over 2000 I understand) war memorials and monuments in the city. They are very proud of their courage. The Panoramic Museum is a tribute to the siege of 349 days in the Crimean war where they held off French, British, Sardinian and Turkish troops.
After wandering the waterfront a bit I turned uphill and set out for the Museum. It was farther than I thought but after stopping a uniformed guy on the street and asking directions I got there. I even understood his answer (mostly)! More fun with Russian. I love this stuff! Of course, if our maps had been any good I might not have needed to ask but what the heck. Just another chance to try to speak the language. I wonder where the brain stores all that junk you think you have forgotten. Sometimes words just pop up that you need. Other times not so much....
One of the monuments I saw on the way was a lot of plaques for dead servicemen. I felt kind of strange when I realized (word puzzle solved) that it was a monument to the dead from the Afgan war. You may remember that we were supplying and supporting the Afgans in that one. It is weird standing in your former enemy's country looking at a memorial to his war dead you helped create. Of course we're all playing nice now and the people here seem genuinely friendly but it just caught me by surprise when I translated the word(s) which helped me realize what I was looking at. On the other hand after a war is over many countries honor each other's fallen. We heard some beautiful words spoken by Ataturk after a gazillion Australian and New Zealand soldiers were killed in a place called Galipolli (sp? Sorry if this is wrong Ron, don't have time to check it right now). Just google ANZAC and Ataturk and you should be able to find it. If you are sentimental it will moisten your eyes. (The incident took place during WWI.)
The Panoramic Museum was slightly amazing. I understand there is one in Atlanta GA which is similar. A huge mural of the height of the battle during the siege of Sevastopol is hung against the inside of the exterior wall of a cylindrical display building. There are props which are placed in front of the mural and indirect lighting which makes the scene look real. I understand the one in Atlanta (no doubt commemorating some battle there - Sherman's march to the sea perhaps) actually moves but this one hangs there and you walk around. They have audio guides here but I walked up to the entrance (after buying my ticket) just as one of the ship's tours was entering so I just hung with them. Got to visit with the tourists and the guide was pretty good. I was glad I had made the effort to find the museum. I even bought a DVD from the souvenir desk on the way out. It isn't too bad. It is in somewhat accented English but it covers the history and Panoramic Museum well and shows some of the behind the scenes stuff that the tour didn't cover. Only 30 Gravna! What a bargain. (For you currency conversion impaired...that is 30 x .20 = $6)
On the way down the hill from the Museum I stopped at a drink stand. I love this country. They sell beer at drink stands in Museum parks! Had a Obalon dark. Awesome. No, make that AWESOME! That long walk back toward the ship seemed much shorter than it was. I still don't know what the alcohol content is (I have the bottle) but I wasn't half finished when I began to feel a buzz. Of course I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. Hmmm. Not too bright. Apparently my sense of direction was not too impaired because I took a slightly different path back toward the ship (I did this on purpose to see more monuments, etc. The map wasn't totally useless) and got there with no problem. Of course, I did photograph one monument that I had already photographed early in the day without realizing it until I looked at my pictures later. I saw some shipmates and asked which way the tender dock was and they pointed about 50 yards to my right. I was there and didn't realize it. Better to be lucky than good right?
So, before going to the tender and back to the ship I decided I needed to eat something in Sevastopol. I looked around and there was a snack booth. They had coffee and baked pastries with all sorts of stuff in them. I was trying to tell the attendant that I would like to try any of the pastries (I had already ordered my coffee black) when a friendly Ukrainian came up and (probably to get me out of the way so she could order, but she smiled nicely and seemed to care) said to me, "English?" I said yes and she asked me what I wanted and she explained to the attendant. I had perhaps the greatest cup of coffee I've ever had (yes, I was still a little buzzed and pretty hungry by now - it was like 2:30 PM) and a good meat filled pastry.
A great adventure! I then tendered back to the ship and hung up my clothes to dry out. Did I mention it was drizzling slightly off and on throughout my 4-5 hour walk? Never enough to make me put up my umbrella but enough to slowly seep into my parka (I was never cold. Had gloves too if I needed them. The temperature was so cold on the way back that you could see your breath. I tried to take a picture of myself in front of one of the many monuments I saw on the return trip but all I succeeded in doing was taking a pic of me with my mouth open. Duh. Trust me, you could see your breath. Honest, I wasn't that buzzed!)
Had time to help Jack and Anita with the internet in the afternoon before dinner. The show at 8 was mediocre. A flautist named Tara Wilkinson. Perhaps she'll improve. She is young.