Advantages Scenic fortress, cheap, friendly
Disadvantages Busy in summer, overcrowded beaches, a bit tacky
|Is it worth visiting?|
Sudak is a Ukrainian seaside town on the Crimean peninsula, one that is particularly popular with families and that is refreshingly bereft of the brashness and hustling that make larger resorts such as Odesa and Yalta so unappealing. If I'm honest I have to say that Sudak is little more than a poor man's Blackpool but it does have one feature that makes it stand out - a well-preserved and picturesque Genoese fortress.Sudak doesn't have a train station so you need to come by car or bus. The bus station is situated some ten minutes walk from the centre of town as is usual in Ukrainian towns. You can take a smaller bus from the station to the centre but the walk is quite pleasant.
Sudak does have a couple of conventional hotels but most holiday makers stay in guest houses of varying descriptions that are part of family homes. There are streets and streets of these on the way from the main street to the beach. Some are houses that have purpose built chalet style bungalows built in the garden, some have part of the main house converted into holiday flats. We chose one that was a double bedroom with bathroom facilities shared with one other bedroom that was unoccupied at the time we stayed. The family lived in the main house and we shared with them a semi-covered outdoor kitchen and dining area that had a huge TV and stereo. You may be approached at the bus station and offered accommodation; if not head towards the beach and look out for the signs advertising 'komnaty' (rooms) or 'kvartira' (flat).Sudak is never going to win any awards for beautiful beaches although that's not to say the beaches aren't clean - the beaches are clean, but only first thing in the morning once all the debris from the previous days holiday makers has been dredged up. A series of ugly jetties punctuates the gentle curve of the bay and serves as either places to shelter from the occasional shower or to get some much needed shade from the sun.
For non-Ukrainians (and non-Russians - the Crimea is very much pro-Russian and Russians still like to holiday here) the outdoor market makes a pleasant diversion. Friendly stallholders offered us samples of homemade cheeses and little black berries, almost a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry and unlike anything I've ever seen before. Admittedly there was also lots of the plastic junk that you find in any market but the food section was interesting and the people were charming.For us - well for me anyway - the highlight of Sudak was the fortress. It looks as if most holiday makers visit the fortress simply because it's there and not to learn of its history. Very few people we saw had guidebooks or were part of a guided tour. Most of the female visitors were - as is the Ukrainian way - thoroughly unsuitably dressed for walking at all, let alone climbing the rocks on which the fortress stands. Strictly speaking you aren't meant to climb the rocks at all but not even a pair of wedge heeled espadrilles is going to stop most Ukrainians. There are some good views to be had from the outer walls but the best views are from the spot where the Virgin's Tower once stood and a good head for heights is essential. Himself followed me to the summit where I urged him to hurry to join me to take in the view of the bay but unfortunately he was seized by 'the fear' and suddenly wanted to go back. Even more unfortunately he started to panic and I had to lead him down step by step, pointing out every foothold while I tried (unsuccessfully) not to mock.
Entrance to the fortress is something like 5 Hyrvnia (less than 50 Pence) and is really just to gain entry to the site. We spotted some Ukrainians climbing a steep stony hill and trying to squeeze through some railings to gain entry without paying the admission fee which seemed more of a drunken prank more than anything else as even to Ukrainians this fee is cheap.(I intend to review the fortress separately so will say nothing more about it at this time)
We arrived in Sudak just as the summer season was getting into full swing. Some of the bars and restaurants were still being erected along the pedestrian zone that leads to the beach. Here a funfair with rides and sideshows is combined with places to eat and drink. You can sit down for a full meal or just grab a burger or pizza slice to eat on the hoof. We ate here twice as there aren't many restaurants on the town centre. Prices are reasonable and most restaurants have entertainment - which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you like or what you find amusing. On our second evening we ate at a place serving traditional Ukrainian food accompanied by a Plastique Bertrand lookalike who played cover versions of mainly 1980s songs by the likes of Phil Collins and Sting. Highlights of his set were 'I'm an Alan, I'm a legal Alan, I'm an Alan in New York' and an equally misheard classic by the Police 'Every breast you take'.
One day the heavens opened and we sought sanctuary in one of the bars at in the park where we watched the England match. There Ukrainian fathers drank themselves stupid while their kids squawked for money for the slot machines and the mother's checked their make up in compact mirrors. All that was missing were the knotted handkerchieves and 'kiss me quick' hats.
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