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What is now a sleepy provincial seaside resort was once the powerhouse of Black Sea, source of tulips and slaves.
The first thing to explore is the long promenade. At the western end is the Aivazovsky Museum, devoted to the great maestro’s seascapes, which can now fetch two million dollars. His mother’s small home behind the museum is now a modest guesthouse. Not far away, Aivazovsky is buried in a grand tomb next to a fine 13th-century Armenian church, which he restored, and a 17th-century Ottoman mosque.
At the eastern end is the Stamboli Dacha, now an underused restaurant. Built in the Moorish style between 1909 and 1914 by a St Petersburg architect, Oscar Wegener, it was a gift from the Karaite tobacco merchant Joseph Stamboli to his wife. With the outbreak of war, Stamboli sold up and moved to Turkey.
Most of the fortress walls and ancient buildings of Geonese Kaffa (Ottoman Kefe) were razed by the Russians in the 18th century. All that is left of the medieval town overlooking the western end of Feodosiya – known since Ottoman times as Quarantine Hill – is five tall Genoese towers and a few churches.
The Genoese divided the city in two in 1316, keeping the old trading station at its core. Parcels of land beyond were rented to Greeks, Armenians, Karaim (Turkic-speaking Jews), even Muslims, who became self-governing communities. Ivan Aivazovsky is buried below the fortress in an old quarter of town that has the feel of a French provincial town. Next to him is a beautiful 11th-century Armenian church, which he paid to have restored. A few yards away stands the old Ottoman mosque, the Mufti Camii, built in 1623.
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