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September 18, 2002

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Yalta is a city that seems to rise within a park. Trees shade every road and corner. The beaches are pebbly strips of land, broken up by concrete slab piers. A long Black Sea promenade supports a summer fair atmosphere; amusement park rides, candy stalls (outnumbered 5 to 1 by beer stalls), and cartoonists, photographers, and other boardwalk businesses. One of our favorite authors, Anton Chekhov, spent his last years in Yalta. We visited his small dacha on the town's outskirts. The beaches, streams, and streets have that 'lived-in' aspect; don't look to close or you'll see the trash underneath the charm. Since Yalta is one of Ukraine's major ports, we tried to buy a boat ticket to Russia - the only long distance cruise goes to Istanbul a few times per week. The Russian recession has hurt many businesses and transportation links in Ukraine; we'll have to find another way to reach Russia.
A gondola carries us over the center of town. It provides the best views of Yalta and people's living rooms along the way.
Yalta is more park than town. Aristocrats including Russia's last Tsar, Nicholas II, built lavish homes along the coast. Yalta was the place to be seen if you were a high-society Russian.
Chekov's study where he wrote The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters. In this house he entertained other Russian notables such as Tolstoy and Gorky. Rachmaninov played on the downstairs piano.