David has an Eastern European vacation and has some R&R in an off-beat kind of way.
On Crimea's southern coast is Yalta, a narrow, cypress-covered strip. Its position is perfect, sitting between the Crimean Mountains and the Black Sea, sheltered from north winds, with temperatures which dip just below freezing in winter and are several degrees warmer than those of Kiev in summer. Swimmers enjoy pleasant sea temperatures from June to October and towards the end, bathe while taking in the snow-covered peaks above.
The main tourist beaches offer jet-skiing, yachting, speed boating, sea fishing, paragliding, microlite aircraft flights and gentle sea cruises along the coast.
The Naberezhna Lenina is a vehicle-free waterfront promenade with jetties, pebbly beaches, food bars, art markets and lots of palm trees. Along the bay is a chairlift which goes to Darsan, a temple-like lookout above.
Sanitoria are still prevalent and a major reason for so many visitors. Polyana Skazok at the foot of the mountains, surrounded by pine forests, just three kilometres from Yalta, boasts medicinal air from the sea and mountains.
A cable car from the centre of town climbs above the lights of Yalta and ships at sea and is magical. At the top is a semi-open-air nightclub, as well as an enormous statue of Poseidon.
Yalta is within Ukraine, the traditional crossroads between the Baltic and Black Seas, the fringe between Europe and Central Asia. It has been settled since ancient times, with tradition going back to Kyivan Rus, one of Europe's most powerful kingdoms in the 10th century.
The Ukraine was highly desired by the Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Tatar and Turkish empires, which led to it becoming a battleground. Between the 14th and 19th centuries, its boundaries fluctuated during wars and broken alliances. It was subjected to serfdom and its culture forcibly suppressed.
Ukraine's darkest period was in the 1930s, when more than six million of its people were starved to death by Stalin, who then chose it as a major battleground in WWII.
Today, Ukraine remains a vast borderland between east and west. Despite some continuing hardships, the people proudly preserve their identities and nurture their culture.
Kiev is the capital city of Ukraine and is considered the mother city for all eastern Slavic peoples. It is steeped in history. The city's old areas stand on wooded hills above the west bank of the Dnipro River.
Lviv in the west is a city of beautiful European elegance and the soul of Ukrainian patriotism. It has backwater villages with picket-fenced houses, ponds of paddling ducks and horse-drawn carts loping across the countryside.
Odessa is Ukraine's gateway to the Black Sea, which is very deep but less salty than most oceans. It's a busy, industrial city with polluted waters, but an enticing holiday centre where people flock to enjoy its beaches. It is dear to Russian and Ukrainian hearts. Alexander Pushkin lived there in exile during the 1820s.
Crimea is linked to the Ukraine mainland by just the Perekop Isthmus. Crimea lies in the Black Sea. After many centuries of belonging to a variety of people, Russia gained control of it in the late 18th century. Tsar Alexander II had his summer palace in Livadia and prior to the revolution, the coast was sprinkled with aristocratic estates. Artistic figures such as Tolstoy, Chekhov and Rachmaninov spent much time there.
Crimea was a most desirable leisure place in the 1860s, when Russia's imperial family built a summer house there. It boasts 517km of clean, pebbly beaches, which attracted millions each year for their warmth and beauty, the sea and mountain air, many hoping for cures to a variety of illnesses, particularly tuberculosis.
Catherine the Great decided the Crimean coast would be a useful asset for the growing Russian empire and soon the shores were dotted with dachas. Everyone who was anyone in St Petersburg soon had their little spot on Crimea's olive tree-lined slopes.
In February, 1945, the halls of the Italian Renaissance-style Livadia Palace became extremely important to world history. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin met there to discuss Europe's postwar intentions of re-establishing nations conquered and destroyed by Germany. The most important decisions made were kept secret until the end of WWII and the complete text not disclosed until 1947.
Now tourists from the world over go to the Palace to hear Vladimir Hromchenko playing the 4600-pipe organ, Ukraine's largest.
Since independence, visitor numbers have declined, but Yalta is still popular when the cherry blossoms burst open, while elsewhere Ukraine is still grey and wintry.
Crimea is an autonomous republic within Ukraine and is busily re-inventing itself. It passes its own laws while remaining subject to the national laws of Ukraine. Private enterprise is healthy, shops are well-stocked and there are plenty of good restaurants. Transport and accommodation are cheaper than the Mediterranean equivalent, the weather is better and sightseeing quite amazing. The road along the coast from Feodosia to Sevastopol is one of the world's most beautiful drives. Much of the drive gives views across the sea from mountains sloping to the shoreline.
1½-hour flight from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
Contal Travel and Intours-Kiev have seven-day 'Best of the Ukraine' tours, including accommodation, breakfast and transfers from $1195.
Austrian Airlines, formerly Lauda, flies daily to Kiev, with Aerosvit Airlines transfers to Yalta. Prices to Kiev start at $2049 ex Perth, $2159 ex Melbourne, $2179 ex Sydney, $2309 ex Adelaide and Hobart and $2339 ex Brisbane, per person.
Please note prices are valid at time of filming.
40 Roma Street, Brisbane 4000
Ph: (07) 3236 2929, Fax: (07) 3236 firstname.lastname@example.org
12 Hospitalna Street
01023 Kiev Ukraine
Ph: 380 44 235 3051
Fax: 380 44 234 email@example.com
Austrian Airlines (formerly Lauda)
Level 2, 1 York Street, Sydney 2000
Ph: (02) 9251 6155 1800 642 438www.austrianairlines.com