We were not sure what to expect from the Black Sea countries, but in summary, Bulgaria and Ukraine seem to be progressing well and Romania being the poorest of the lot with depressingly derelict areas. The procedures for boarder control have maintained a strong soviet mentality and have been ridiculous in some cases. The worst involve having an army vehicle with four armed personnel in military fatigues and weapons screech to a halt by our dock before our lines go ashore, and having several officers (about 10) board the boat to inspect the vessel and documents, to whom we have to provide more than 30 documents, each signed and stamped. Many documents are not translated and some stopovers involved significant fees. In contrast, other stops have involved a friendly visit by only two officers who ask a few basic questions and tell us to have a nice stay... and no fees!
The delta of Danube river in Romania was great and we enjoyed the chance to have a tour around the area in a small boat to see the natural beauty and wildlife, but Ukraine has been the most interesting overall. The highlights include the history, 19th century buildings, and trendy people, restaurants and cafes of Odessa; and the WW2 soviet submarine base in Balaclava, Crimean coast. The narrow winding bay in Balaclava is surrounded by high cliffs, and is now used as a yacht marina and a popular holiday spot. The sub-base is located inside a very large hill and there are two entrances into it, located on the sides of the cliff.... James Bond style.
We are looking forward to exploring more of Crimea, a side trip to Moscow, and then going back to Istanbul by the end of July.
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