For the second part of our trip, my mom and I flew from Kiev down to Sinferopol (on the Crimean Pennisula) - where were picked up by Natasha and lovingly transported to Alushta. Alushta is a really sweet little city on the coast of the Black Sea, and Alushta is the Sister City of our city (Santa Cruz). The whole reason for our trip was the 25th anniversary of the relationship between Alushta and Santa Cruz. The Sister Cities group in Alushta made our trip so wonderful! We had their loving support, translation services, insights, and friendship with us every day. It was such a delight!
Luckily I had my Clif Bars and hummus packs to get a little protein in, but I really don't want to complain. I was very touched by the gracious and loving effort that was made to accommodate my diet - in a place that is truly not used to having vegans waltz in and ask for a meal! A couple of days they gave me meat with my otherwise vegan breakfast, which was slightly confusing...
One of the real highlights of traveling with the Sister Cities program was that we got to really meet people and get to know them. Here I am with my wonderful new pal, Olga. We really hit it off. She is only 25, but her English is So Great. I was totally impressed, and also so grateful for her excellent translation services! Plus, she is just awesome and I am so happy to have a new friend in the world!
Olga was especially sweet about bringing me little goodies. One day she brought me a wonderful little loaf of bread with prunes and apricots in it, which was so delicious (and completely eaten before I could photograph it!) - and another day she brought me these gorgeous and delightful cherries FROM HER OWN TREE. Oh, to have a cherry tree! These cherries were so delicious, and I was so very touched that she would share them with me. If I had a cherry tree, I would be hoarding all the cherries to myself like a greedy little pig... but not Olga. :)
Unbeknownst to us, our whole group had lost track of us and had grown a bit worried. Sorry, Olga! My mom and I were happily standing in line with our big bottle of water, enjoying the cultural moment, when Olga came running up and said "THERE you are!!" Oops! So, we abandoned our water and headed upstairs to a private luncheon...
Right after than we went to *another* foodie event - featuring traditional Ukrainian food. There weren't a ton of options for me, but I didn't mind because there were three varieties of vareniki (dumplings) that were vegan. My Ukrainian pals checked for me that the dough was vegan, and it was! There were two savory varieties - stuffed with cabbage or potato - and then topped with caramelized onions, and then a sweet variety stuffed with sour cherries. YUMMY Town! I can't wait to give it a go at making these for myself at home. (sorry the pictures are so lame, but rest assured that the vareniki are NOT lame!
Finally a few travel pics, for those who are interested:Me, with my feet in the Black Sea - which was pretty darned cold when we were there!
Sunset over the Black Sea (complete with jumping dolphins, which I'm sure you can't see)
Sweet little feral kitty at our hotel
The mountains where we went on our horseback ride
A beautiful wildflower
Children's choir in traditional dress (one of MANY amazing performances we experienced!)
Big love and gratitude to Natasha, Olga and Larissa for all the love they gave us, and for the amazing visit they organized for us!!