Balaklava is a small sleepy town on the Crimea peninsula in Ukraine.
Perched on the edge of the city of Sevastopol is the small harbor town of Balaklava. This quaint sleepy town has an interesting history and well worth a visit if you are in the Crimea.
The town is overlooked by the remains of a Genoese fortress and gives you a flavour of the history of this well protected bay on the Black Sea. The Genoese used the port as a staging place for their lucrative trade in slaves and goods, up until the Ottoman Empire took control of it in 1475. In the 1850s the harbor was filled with British troops and ships during the Crimean Wars, and noted in history for the ill fated "Charge of the Light Brigade" which took place 4 km outside the town.
There are over 50 monuments in the town dedicated to the exploits of soldiers during the Crimean War, Great Patriotic War (Second World War) and the Russian Civil War.
In 1956 Balaklava passed from Soviet control to Ukrainian, but the Soviets built a submarine base into one of the hillsides, and turned the town into one of the most secret of locations during the Cold War era. In 1991 the base was closed and the last submarine left in 1996.
There is now a small museum housed in the old ammunition room of the submarine base, with plans to build a larger museum and exhibit a submarine. Entry is 20UAH, but may only be possible with a Russian-language guided tour; there are a lot of explanatory signs, but all in Russian and Ukrainian only. Maybe someone will write an English-language guide.
Balaklava is just waking up to its tourist potential and new hotels and restaurants are opening up. Balaklava is a mixture of luxury yachts moored next to expensive hotels and empty derelict factories and buildings dotted on the edge of the waterfront. As with the rest of the Ukraine it is slowly playing catch up after years of Soviet domination, but its potential is there to be seen. Various ships of the Ukrainian navy are based in the bay.
There is a bus service from Sevastopol: take a number 9 marshrutka from the '5 km' bus interchange, which you can reach by a number 12 or 20 marshrutka from central Sevastopol.
You can walk to most of the sites in the town - but from one side of the harbor to the other side is quite a trek. Maybe in summer you could catch a lift on a boat.
Balaklava Naval Museum
The great views of the Black Sea from the remains of the Genoese fortress.
There is a World War Two German fortress further up in the hills by the sea: just follow the paths that lead up from the Genoese fortress, taking ones that lead upwards, and aim for the Orthodox cross that you can see on the top of one of the hills. There are various trenches, there's a cast-iron sentry's tower which overhangs the cliff, and lots of huge concrete fortifications which might be exciting to explore if you have a friend and several flashlights. No signage at all.
If you take a path that contours round the cliff beyond the Genoese fortress, you can get down to a small sandy beach.
Walk up to towers of Cembalo and beyond, it is a steep climb so be warned. - the countryside is beautiful, really quiet, there are lots of vineyards
Take a walk around the town but remember there are few signs to show you where any of the tourist attractions are!
Try to find all 50 of the war monuments!
Take a trip ouside the town (about 4 km) to the site of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Not really much to see but a few memorials, as the 'Valley of Death' is now a vineyard.
Cafe Argo does quite nice Georgian food pretty cheaply (50UAH a head for two courses with beer); the menu is in Russian only (and an English translation would probably just give the equally-incomprehensible Georgian names of the dishes), but the food was good, and locals will give you good advice if you appear baffled and ask them what to eat.
There are various places along the waterfront which will serve you coffee and cake during the day, and beer and small food at night
There is a quite expensive fish restaurant next to the 'Golden Symbol' yacht club. The food however, is excellent and the atmosphere is very welcoming, plus lovely views of the harbor.
The 'piratical pub', in a yacht club on the side of the bay with the submarine base, has cheap beer (5UAH for a half-litre) and a range of reasonable pub food.
Listrigon Motel is very central (it's a circle of red-roofed little joined-up apartments which you can see from anywhere on the waterfront). They have a variety of tours, with a good English-speaking guide.
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Take a bus to Sevastopol, a busy bustling city with some nice shops and lots of war memorials.