My seocnd trip to Crimea while living in Ukraine was to Yalta to visit a winery, well not just any winery, but the winery that supplied wine to the Tsars.  I took my wife along and our trip down was the most memorable airplane ride of my life.  We were ushered aboard a plane right off of a PanAm 1930’s poster.  We were seated at a small wicker table in wicker chairs.  As we flew down to the resort made famous by meetings of the top leaders of the allied nations during WW II we were served a fine meal.  Ah, the old days of flying!

Our hotel was also right out of a book, elegant shades of the old days with a magnificent room overlooking the Black Sea.  We went directly to the beach which was composed of pebbles, not sand.  The portly Russians holiday makers were strutting around, the men, regardless of girth or age,  in speedo swimsuits, and the ladies, no matter what age or condition, in bikinis.   Always sobering to not know if someone is really wearing a swimsuit when his or her belly bends down below the groin. 

The elegant hotel dining room offered a real feast.  First the obligatory vodka and caviar and the plates of local dishes with chicken Kiev the star of the show.  The whole meal probably cost $3. 

Our trip to the winery was in the evening.   The winery was established near Yalta during the 19th Century on slopes of hills falling down to the sea.  Very ornate buildings housed the traditional wine making appartus.  The main product then, and now, was, and is, champagne.  But Russian champagne is not like the French kind.  It is slightly sweeter and runs in color from pink to bright red.  Nothing like sipping a champagne that looks like burgundy.

Our trip back to Kiev was not so nice.  We were herded aboard a non-discript jet as with most flights today.  Where did our flying “castle” go?

The Crimea and its star resort town Yalta are fine reminders of a by-gone age of vacationing by the sea.  I sure hope the current unrest does not change this.