Magazine article Sunset

Biking the Crimean Coast

Magazine article Sunset

Biking the Crimean Coast

Article excerpt

On guided two-week trips, you explore vineyards, historic villages, and more

Any type of travel in the former Soviet Union is bound to be an adventure. But joining a cycling trek boosts your chances of experiencing the positive side of the unexpected in this rapidly changing part of the world.

Two-wheel travel offers closer contact with the people and the land than any bus tour--whether it's coming across a villager who asks you to pass along a message to relatives in Chicago, laughing with schoolchildren anxious to try out their English, or simply pedaling along a lightly traveled road on a balmy day.

Cycling tours for foreigners are still a fairly new phenomenon in Russia and neighboring republics. Some of the pioneer companies no longer operate here because of the political instability. But others consider the unique rewards well worth the risks.

In 1990, I joined one of the first groups of Westerners to bike the Crimean coast. The southeastern littoral of the Black Sea peninsula, now part of Ukraine, has a mild climate that earned it the nickname "the Soviet Riviera" and made it popular with vacationing Soviet citizens (including former leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was on holiday there during August's ill-fated coup).

As an American whose impression of the climate here was formed by the seemingly endless winters of Doctor Zhivago, I was amazed to find myself in a place that reminded me of northern California's wine country, with its vineyard-covered hillsides. …

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