Black Sea Cruise: Feodosiya, Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula

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Black Sea Cruise: Feodosiya, Ukraine on the Crimean Peninsula

The first of 4 ports we were to visit on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine was Feodosiya or Theodosiya. The ancient Greek name for the Crimean Peninsula was Chersonesos Taurike – the Taurian Peninsula. The Taurians, whose origin is unknown, were an ethnic group inhabiting this area. They were first mentioned by Herodotus in his Histories, written in the 5th century BC, in the context of the war between the Greeks and the Persians.

This peninsula on the North coast of the Black Sea was conquered by many different tribes over the centuries. Just to mention a few (most of whose names I had never heard of until now), there were the Cimmerians, Greeks, Scythians, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Khazars, Turks, Tatars, and Mongols. Even Venetians and later the Genoese, at times ruled parts of Crimea.  It is now an autonomous parliamentary republic within Ukraine with its capital at Simferopol.

As we were not scheduled to arrive in port till lunchtime, the excursions were scheduled for the afternoon. Both Carol and I decided to take advantage of the morning to work on problem areas in our dance with Robert, and to watch each other’s lessons. For me, this was a different dynamic, having a fellow student observing and commenting when asked for observations. No “sugar-coating” allowed!

After comments from non-dancing fellow travelers on board who would say things such as “you dance so well, are you professionals”, getting more accurate observations like “You are looking down, you’re slumping, or falling backwards,” is a very humbling reality check.

 My favorite conjunction of compliment meeting reality is when someone will say to me “you move so beautifully on the dance floor ” just after a lesson when Robert has been repeatedly emphasizing, “You have to stand up more and you really have to MOVE!” No illusions of dance grandeur allowed here!

Switching from dance to food, always a favorite topic on a cruise ship, and one I will review in detail in a later post, we went for an early lunch. We have been having a light lunch on the Terrace deck most days. The extensive buffet is inside the Terrace Café but on the deck they usually feature some selection on a trolley and then a hot dish, usually pasta or such on the adjacent bar. The feature this day was a charcuterie selection, which we supplemented with grilled vegetables from the buffet. I resisted the bread although their artisan breads have been wonderful.

On this day of our cruise we arrived in Feodosiya around noon. Modern Feodosiya (the Ukrainian name) or Theodosia (Greek) is the third iteration of a city founded around 600 BC or 2500 years ago by the Greeks.

 Feodosiya was in ancient times called Kaffa. Founded by Greek colonists from Miletus in 6th century BC, It was destroyed by the Huns in the 4th century AD and was governed at times by Khazars, the Byzantine Empire, and the Kipchaks and conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century. Later in the 13th century the city was ruled by the Republic of Venice but eventually the Genoese beat the Venetians and the city fell under the rule of Genoa. This historical note adds an extra fillip of interest for me as I fly into Genoa from Istanbul after this Black Sea cruise and then spend a few days in Venice.

Today Feodosiya is a commercial and naval port as well as a resort city. Much of the population is ethnically Russian and Russian is spoken as much as Ukrainian. It has great beaches, mineral springs and mud baths, and spa resorts are an important industry.

We began our tour in the natural history room of the Museum of Antiquities, founded in 1811, though it was housed in other places before its present location. Here we saw dioramas of geographic locations near Theodosia painted by artists from Moscow. What looks like a damaged floor was actually a map of the area painted on the floor.We wandered through rooms housing various artifacts and archeological objects from the many tribes that had inhabited the area over time.

Our excursion took us next to the home of Feodosiya’s favorite son, the battle and seascape artist, Hovhannes Aivazovsky. His home is now an art gallery devoted to his works, and containing more than 400 of his paintings that he bequeathed to the city on his death. Many of the works on display are massive paintings featuring stormy seas.  

Several feature moonlight and the reflection of the moonlight on water. Photography was not allowed in the  museum but here are examples of his paintings that I found on line. I think these are in the museum in Feodosiya but many works of his are on display in museums elsewhere. In 2012 a painting of a View of Constantinople and the Bosphorus sold for $5.2 million dollars!

Aivazovsky was a major benefactor to the city, giving back in many different ways, for the help he had received as a youth that enabled him to develop and grow his talent. His grave is a prominent feature in the town.

As we drove towards the sea where the 13th century Genoese (who beat out the Venetians for control of this area) built a fortress, we noticed a network of yellow aboveground pipes. These supply natural gas to the houses and buildings.

Near the fortress we visited 4 different small churches. At the first one, which is still a functional church, there was a monument to Armenians who were killed in this area.

The third church contained some beautiful frescoes, which unfortunately were damaged during the Turkish and the Soviet eras. Muslims object to depiction of images but I don't know what happened during the Soviet era. If you look carefully at the pictures (click and they will expand), you will see that the faces were destroyed.  I suppose that's where the word "defaced" originated? The interior is under restoration and should look beautiful when fully restored.

The last church we visited is known for its amazing acoustics. There we were treated by a professional singer, Nina from Moscow, who sang Ava Maria, and another song in Ukrainian. Click on the link to hear her exquisite voice.

By the time we got back to the ship it was around 6:30. Time to meet for dinner in the Marco Polo Restaurant, and later dance to the Odyssey trio and Blue Velvet playing a Latin set.