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Black Sea Memories by Theo Steel

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Our cruise started from Istanbul and that is on our list to return to - the Hagia Sophia and the markets around are fabulous as is the Topkapi Palace. We have still to see a lot more there and will probably return for a break for a few days, the NC short break programme there looks stunning! We were lucky to be berthed on the south side of the inlet close to the Topkapi Palace and walked along the quay to Sirkeci station, the historic terminal of the orient Express. Its 1860's Gothic and now more famous for cats, a restaurant and dervish shows. Since we went the East side of the Bosphorus has been linked by a Metro tunnel which is very well used. There is an equally good station on the Asian side (Hydrapassa) which links to the rest of Turkey. Istanbul is now a metropolis of 13m and has a modern face to complement the very historic core. If the ship is berthed on the N side of the Galartsky river then no doubt there are other attractions. 

There are now 3 bridges over the Bosphorus narrows; the departure through the Bosphorous is spectacular with a whole series of waterside palaces as well as elegant houses on the cliffs. It’s a spectacular departure. Look out for Ataturks act moored on the west bank, a gift from the nation in the 1930's

 Our cruise went clockwise and the first port of call was Nessbur which  is linked to the mainland by a causeway. There are over 40 churches on the island which are now either ruins or converted to craft shops. It was a fascinating walk, limestone and red tiles!

The next port of call was Odessa where we moored at the terminal under the 192 Potemkin steps of Eisenstein Soviet film fame. They are worth climbing to get to the very Parisian Boulevards or to take in the view of the harbour. The City Hall and Opera House are not far away. The Opera production, actually a ballet, was good and appropriately was Tales of the Vienna Woods - in a theatre designed by Fellner and Welner Viennese architects. There are two cathedrals and many Museums which remind us that Ukraine was rich in the 19th Century. The grid City core has been restored in most part and like St Petersburg is an outward facing entrepôt with strong links to the US in particular. Odessa is one of 13 hero cities of the Soviet Union - a reminder that the Germans had a brief sojourn as far as east as the sea of Azov during the second world war.

 Sochi is a fascinating resort with good weather; we landed by tender into a magnificent Stalin era terminal and had a good tour taking in the mud baths and Stalin's summer dacha which was notable for its security arrangements - very tight! It was being prepared for the 2014 winter Olympics and looked smart and wealthy.

 Batumi was a very enjoyable surprise . The botanical gardens are superb and have a huge range of plants from every latitude; the Gornio fortress is impressive but a walk around the City centre was most illuminating. There are a lot of fun buildings and modern leisure facilities as well as a functioning city centre. The lunch, excellent red wines included, and dancing was spectacular and looks to be featured on the itinerary.

 From Trabzon we went out into the mountains to the Sumela Monastery which was a hard climb but worth the effort and also visited Ataturk's summer palace, a spectacular art nouveau creation which is featured in a current TV advert.

 

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