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WE FELL IN THE VARYNYKY

5 September 2013

I was up at 3 a.m., but then able to get back to sleep for another hour.  I was finally up for the day at 4, so I was there at about 5 when the sun started to peek out from below the clouds over the Black Sea.

We were going to be cruising most of the day, with arrival in Sevastopol not expected until 3, but the crew had a full day planned for us anyway.  First there was breakfast and my after breakfast nap, I woke up in time to drag myself up the 2 flights of stairs to the sky bar for Alla's talk on Ukraine, Part 2 -- the history after the fall of the Soviet Union.

It's fascinating to think what happens when you are suddenly on your own with no government backing you.  That's what happened in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.  Ukraine had 19 prime ministers in 20 years and there are 35 political parties, which sometimes leads to fistfights.  Seems to me that if our Congress adopted the same business instead of all this "my esteemed colleague" nonsense, we might actually get some stuff done.

Alla talked about how there is no "tourism industry" per se in the country yet and they don't really know what to do with tourists, which is why there is such a paucity, for example, of places where you can buy postcards, and most cheap little tsa tskes seem to be sold by women setting up tables at places of interest, though since Viking has the only tour buses I have seen in most places where we've been, I don't know how much of a living that can make!

After the history lesson came the cooking class.  Frederick, the hotel manager, and the kitchen's sous chef (I don't remember her name) showed us how to make varynyky, which are Ukrainian ravioli or won ton, filled with meats or veggies or fruits.  Today they were filled with potato mixed with pork fat, pork and onions.

They invited some folks from the audience to come up and help roll out and then cut the dough, and to fill them with the pre-made filling.  Midway through the process, they offered vodka to the pair, which seemed to help the performance of a man in the group.

More passengers came up to help fold the varynyky and when they were all folded and ready to be boiled, Frederick opened the warmer and there was a room size portion of varynyky so we could all have a taste.  We gathered around the table and they started passing them out, two each, with a dollop of sour cream.  That's when a moderate sized swell passed under the ship (we were still on the Black Sea at the time) and we all lurched in various directions so we did, sort of, fall into the varynyky.  But not to worry, we still got our tastes and they were delicious.

Following the demonstration and samples, it was time for lunch because we hadn't eaten in ... oh.... 5 minutes.  Then it was time to get ready for our day's tour, which was a tour of the city of Sevastopol (have I mentioned that it is pronounced sevasTOpol?)  That's when I discovered that my cane was missing.  I knew it was on the ship because I took a picture of the stairs yesterday and my cane is seen leaning against them...and I hadn't been off the ship.  I didn't think anybody would STEAL an old lady's cheap cane, but it just was gone.  Both Walt and I checked the room twice and I asked at the front desk if anybody had turned one in.  Nope.

Fortunately, I can  go without it.  It just makes it easier if I use it, so I limped along behind everyone touring the city.  Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine and under Soviet rule it was very hush hush...nobody could visit.  Now it is becoming a tourist town, and the home base of the Ukrainian Navy.  The Russians also rent space here, as it is a strategically important naval port.  There are, for example, two Russian submarines moored here.

Their lease is up in 2045 and they are expected to renew.

But our tour actually started at St. Valdimir's Cathedral on the top of Sevastopol. 

From here there is a sweeping view of the port, the ubiquitous statue of Lenin,

and a bunch of ladies wearing several dozen aprons, hoping you'll buy one. 

The tourist trade has not yet perfected its technique!  No post cards, a few magnets, and all these hand made aprons.  Later in the afternoon, when we returned to the ship, there were two more tables of goods to buy, sold by the same multi-aproned ladies (I suspect someone called them and let them know when we would be arriving so they could race down the hill and give us one more shot at buying their wares!)

We stopped on the "promenade" where this building seemed quite popular with the tourists.

and we saw some hearty gentlemen braving the waters of the sea to go for a swim.

I was upset by people trying to shove pigeons or rodents into your hands so you could pay them to take your photo.  The animals did not look happy and I wondered if there was a special kind of pigeon, or if they had cut those fancy designs into the feathers.

There was an optional excursion to Chersonese, an ancient Greek colony, founded on the Crimean peninsula some 2,500 years ago. Some call it the Ukrainian Pompeii or the Russian Troy.  Char and I opted out, as it would involve a lot of walking and, especially without my cane, I wasn't eager to do lots of uneven ground.  Instead we came back to the ship and I took my nap.  (I'm calling this my second childhood tour, since it seems all I do is sleep, nap, and pee...and have one wakeful cycle after which I am cranky and need to nap again!).

There was a small "snack" served when the group returned from Chersonese, with promise of a big dinner when those of us who were attending a concert returned from the theater.  I declined the "snack," not feeling hungry, but boarded the bus for the concert of music and dance by the Ukrainian Military Band.  It was similar to a concert we saw in Russia 4 years ago, but just fabulous.  A small group, conducted alternately by a man and a woman, with gorgeous voices, fantastic dancers, and some pretty spectacular soloists..

We came back to the ship for "dinner," but I only had soup and a kind of spinach Benedict.

Before we left, I had done some laundry and left the undies rolled in a towel on the bathroom sink.  When we got back, the maid had cleaned the bathroom, and removed all the wet towels...and my underwear! I knew I could probably get them back, and it was terribly embarrassing having to describe my ragged granny panties which were purchased about 11 years ago and look like rejects for dust cloths.  The maid did bring them back, neatly packed in a plastic bag, still wet (probably in a bag so she didn't have to touch them!).  She said "I'm so sorry" so many times that I finally decided she was expressing her regret, not that the undies had ended up in with the towels, but that I would have to admit to wearing such ugly underwear.  But at least I got them back.

I tried to write this entry last night, but I was so sleepy I simply could not keep my eyes open.  I even tried lying down on the couch here in the library for a brief nap, but decided that was pretty silly, so I just went to bed.  I knew that I was not going on the two tours today and would have the entire day free to do whatever I wanted.  And I have now done just that!

PHOTO OF THE DAY

This is the statue that greets you coming into Sevastopol.
Alla says there are some 60 military monuments like this around Sevastopol.
Grim visage of war each of them!

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