A city of about 344,000, Simferopol (Сімферополь in Ukrainian, Симферополь in Russian) is the capital and the major business and transportation hub of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
Although Simferopol is not much of a tourist destination in and of itself, many travelers pass through the city – or at least the train station – on their way to other places in Crimea. But the city itself is pleasant enough and not at all a bad place to live (as I discovered during my two years in residence).
Simferopol is best appreciated on foot. The city has some wonderful parks. The largest is named after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (the first person to reach outer space and the first to orbit the earth) and becomes a lively place in fine weather. Another, more quiet park, runs along the banks of the Salgir River that slices through the city. In addition, much of the central shopping area is closed to vehicles, allowing pedestrians a chance to appreciate the many renovated buildings.
The area where Simferopol now lies was once the site of the Scythian town of Neapolis, which flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE. Little remains today of the ancient structures except some stone foundations and one restored building. Unfortunately, while the archeological site is a pleasant place for a walk – and offers views of the modern city below – there is no historical information at the site and too much litter left behind by local picnickers.
Like many cities in Ukraine, Simferopol also unfortunately has more than its share of dreary, Soviet-era apartment blocks. Then, surprisingly, the very next street can look like something from a small village.
In October 2004, Simferopol was also the proud host of a salo festival. Be sure to check out the photos from this unusual event in the pop-up slide show below.
The "Gangster" Cemetery: Like many Ukrainian cemeteries, Abdal (Абдал) Cemetery in Simferopol includes tombstones engraved with portraits of the deceased, often depicting their profession. There are, for example, military veterans adorned with medals and an apparent professor at work in his library. But this cemetery also has a newer area featuring life size portraits of men who died in their 20s or 30s during the mid-1990s, when a newly independent Ukraine experienced a rash of killings by rival organized crime gangs. (12 Photos) [Preview This Slide Show]
Salo Festival: Salo (сало) is a much revered food in Ukraine. It can best be described as the white, fatty part of bacon that many people in the U.S. try to avoid eating. Ukrainians, however, eat salo both raw and cooked. There are even festivals devoted to salo, such as this one that took place in Simferopol in October 2004. It featured a giant, open-faced sandwich covered with salo, TV personalities and many adoring fans of salo. (12 Photos) [Preview This Slide Show]