View of the port of Kerch from Mithridates Hill, with the Edelweis Hotel in the foreground (photo: Cornucopia)
The Kerch Peninsula and the Cimmerian Bosphorus
Less visited and a little out of the way at the far eastern end of Crimea, Kerch's strategic location on the strait linking the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and dividing Crimea from the Caucasus has made it very attractive to invaders and passers-by alike. The strait was formerly known as the Cimmerian Bosphorus and there is much of archaeological value. Mount Mithridadates in the centre is named after Pompey's great adversary, Mithridates VI, king of the Pontus, who famously committed suicide there after the Romans defeated him.
On a grey day, Kerch is very grey, and you might wonder why you journeyed all this way. But stay a few days, and even the grey reveals its charms… an excellent restaurant (the Fishka), a pristine hotel with a glorious view (the Eidelweis), heroic castles, a fabulous food market, and endless tumuli – the burial mounds of the Scythians. And when the sun bursts out... this is the Bosphorus indeed – without the traffic.
Head for Arabat, a lonely Ottoman fortress guarding an extraordinary spit, then for Kazantip to swim off the white-seashell sands of the endless Tatar Beach. And take your watercolours, too. The vistas of steppe and sea are quite breathtaking.