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Tavriya, the steppes of Ukraine

 

The word Tavriya is usually used in Ukrainian in reference to the Crimea, but in fact it implies a wider southern geographical area  the Black Sea, the Azov Sea, the Lake of Syvash and the artificial sea of Kakhovka and their shores are all parts of Tavriya. A group of journalists recently went on a tour around Tavriya, courtesy of the National Tourist Organization of Ukraine. They had ample chances to enjoy the gorgeous sights of the Askaniya-Nova Natural Preserve, to walk through the fields of wild flowers, to sunbathe on the beaches of Hola Prystan, to eat the sweetest melons in the world, and to sample fragrant wines and fine cognacs. All of it in one province of Tavriya  Kherson Oblast.

 

Yachting, cognac-tasting, fish soup and a fairy-tale grove

Back in 1952, a new town began to be built in close proximity to a new hydroelectrical power station in the southern riches of the Dnipro River. A layer of sand was removed from an area covering 250,000 square meters and was replaced with the chernozem  black soil. The town was given the name of Nova Kakhovka and fifty years later it became a tourist centre.

It is there that a new entertainment centre, Maxim-marine, will soon be built. It will be made up of a hotel, restaurant, tennis courts, golf course, beaches and moorage for yachts and motor boats. Sailboats and speedboats will be available for rent. The Maxim-marine centre by its very existence will encourage the local residents to go into yachting, a sport that is gaining an ever increasing popularity in Ukraine. Since the centre will be equipped with all the facilities at the cutting edge of technology, international yachting competitions will be held there. The wine lovers will be taken on tours by the sea to Prince Trubetskoys wine cellars.

It is in the land of Khersonshchyna that the Tavriya Cognac Distillery is situated. Its refined cognacs are enjoyed and known not only in Ukraine. The journalists on the tour of Khersonshchyna were invited to try the Tavriya cognacs  Kherson, Tavriya and Imperial, and the tasting ceremony was an unqualified success. Imperial cognac was voted the best.

The journalists were also taken on a pleasure ride on board of a huge catamaran. Among other places they visited were several islands (there are too many of these islands to see all of them  and all of them are gorgeously beautiful). Local tourist companies offer fish tours to these islands, and the journalists did witness great catches of all kinds of fish, crayfish included. Fish soup cooked over the open fire on the beach tastes absolutely great!

Those who prefer to have their meals in an eatery rather than on the beach, are welcome to the Kazkova Dibrova (Fairy-Tale Grove) restaurant which offers delicious dishes of Ukrainian, Russian and Tartar cuisines. Incidentally, it is more than just an eatery  Kazkova Dibrova boasts a sort of a zoo and a meadow studded with sculptures straight from fairy tales.

 

Wines, wild nature and Cossacks

The land of Khersonshchyna is known for its excellent wines. Perlyna stepu (Pearl of the Steppe) white dry wine has been in high demand in Ukraine for several decades now. At the Prince Trubetskoy Wine Facility all kinds of wines are made, but the best are dry and half-dry two to four year-old wines which have something of the steppe smell in them.

Wine and cognac tasting tours are becoming a popular entertainment and there is all the reason to believe that their popularity will grow. Tavriya, Kamyanka and Prince Trubetskoy cognac- and wine-making facilities are encouraging this kind of tourism.

Tourists are also taken to ecologically clean places in the areas of southern Khersonshchyna. Hola Prystan is one of such places. Pristine nature, small, uninhabited green islands, clean beaches are excellent tourist attractions.

Oleshkivski pisky (Oleshkivski Sands) is another of tourist attractions. It is, in fact, a sort of a desert, the biggest desert in Europe, and crossing it may be fun. For more culturally and historically minded people the attraction can lie in the fact that several centuries ago, the Oleshkivska Cossack Sich was situated in the vicinity. The combination of wild nature and the historical site may prove to be luring for tourists with peculiar tastes.

 

Antelopes, zebras, hush and lunches in the steppe

Askaniya-Nova is a major natural preserve which is open now to tourism. Tourists take rides in buggies for a fee of only 15 hryvnyas to watch wild horses, antelopes, zebras and other exotic and not so exotic animals roaming the steppe overgrown with fragrant feather-grass. One of the things that is fully appreciated there is quietness and absence of any disgusting industrial or traffic noises.

The tour of the preserve lasts up to two hours. Longer tours are planned to be introduced with picnics and lunches right in the steppe.

 

Arabatska Strilka is a spit projecting into the sea for 110 kilometres. Its width varies from 300 metres at its narrowest to 7 kilometres at its widest. It is one of the longest spits on the planet. On the east it is washed by the Azov Sea, and on the west by the Syvash Lake, whose water is too salty even for taking a swim in it.

There are all kinds of tall tales and legends about the spit. Archaeologists have yet to search it more thoroughly than they have done so far. A stele with a mysterious sign carved into it, was discovered on the spit some time ago. It tentatively dates to the second or third century B.C.E., and probably was left by the Sarmatians who once inhabited this area.

Ancient Greek amphorae were unearthed in the vicinity of the town Henichesk which in antiquity was a place where merchant ships stopped on their way from west to east, and from east to west. Catacombs and underground passages which are believed to have been dug centuries ago are also to be found in the vicinity of Henichesk. Archaeologists are uncertain about who dug them, when and why.

Curative mud and thermal springs, discovered there over twenty years ago, have not been put to any medicinal therapeutic use yet. Which is a shame, of course. It would surely pay to develop a tourist infrastructure in that area. Western visitors to Arabatska Strilka are impressed by the beauty of the place and express an opinion that the place has a great tourist potential. Investments are welcome  they will help turn Arabatska Strilka into a major tourist attraction, on a par with Cyprus or Turkey.

There are some renovated rest homes functioning in the area, and even though their number is still small, they already attract a growing number of tourists.

Tavriya is a potential tourist Klondike waiting to be invested in and developed.

 

By Volodymyr Tsaruk

Photos by Andriy Cherchenko

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