This was the day of the final of the European championship, Germany v Spain and as a Spanish resident it was a match I wanted to see. The championship had already won me a bottle of beer from the Russia-Spain match, a bet with our security man, so we planned a little excursion that would allow us to be back at our Simferopol hotel in time for the match.
Olga had seen what looked like a large and promising lake in the southwestern corner of Crimea and this was to be our destination that day. On the map a road was indicated that would take us to our destination and we found the detour we wanted, roughly halfway between Simferopol and Sevastopol quite easily.
The terrain was fascinating, folded rock crops pushed upward, a few hundred feet off the prairie land we were driving through and the further we traveled the more dramatic the landscape became. We had been traveling for a couple of hours and stopped at a roadside cafe, it turned out to be quite a find. It was idyllic. The eating places were scattered around a cherry orchard, a selection from their own desert, very friendly goats, sheep, cats and dogs roaming around and the food was excellent.
After satiating our appetite, we headed to a nearby lake, it looked very attractive, but time was passing and we were halfway to the huge lake that we had seen on the map. The lake had no name, but we came across a road sign to a town that was in the right direction and we took the detour, about 300 meters later we came across a no-entry sign. Bewildered, we continued and the asphalt turned to stone and gravel. The intrepid adventures that we are we continue, going up and up through a beautiful forest of larch, birch and fir trees. This was turning into a Dakar Rally type adventure.
We were passing a lot of traffic in the opposite direction, cars, motorcycles and minivans (here they pass like buses), so we were sure we were on the right track. At about 6 klms we made it to the top and started our decent and finally captured the lake site we were looking for. Soon we came across a small closed lake and checked it out. It was a small, crowded and paid entrance; We lost it and continued to the great lake.
Very soon it became clear that the road did not go to the lake, but circumnavigated it at a distance of 1-2 klm. We finally found someone to ask for directions to the lake. It turned out that he was one of the many guards surrounding the lake to make sure no one got near. Yes, it was closed, out of bounds, out of bounds. This was a truly spectacular lake, surrounded by spectacular mountains, but like so many other things in this country, it was closed to human appreciation.
We were disappointed when we retraced our steps and, wanting to swim (it was a hot day), we decided to stop at the small lake that we had passed before. As we got closer we saw another fenced lake so check it out. It’s for kids only, the doorman told us. I looked at Olga and Olga looked at me! This place in the middle of nowhere had saunas and hot tubs … and is it for kids? Well, Olga is from this country, but she was just as puzzled as I was.
We had only one hope, the lake that we had discarded earlier, when we got closer, we discovered that it had closed. Was it 5 p.m. on a hot summer day? We saw a lot of cars parked a little ahead and, upon checking, we discovered another way to enter, sans money. It was hot, we were hot, so we put towels in hand. It seemed fine, we found a good place to sit and quickly went to the lake. It was great and I was about to reach the other side, when when I turned I saw Olga surrounded by boys, she attracts them!
Well I mentally perked up on Arnold Schwarzenegger proportions and purposefully swam towards Olga, well it seemed to work and they drifted away, well with the exception of one guy and when I got close (he was waist deep) it was clear he was so drunk like a skunk. It was also clear when I got close to him that he was not firing at full blast. Great, I thought I had to deal with a drunken idiot in town, with 5 companions nearby.
I suggested to Olga that she move away from the lake shore and this worked. He splashed his way back to his companions. Then I was admonished by Olga, who told me that she was quite capable of taking care of herself and that she would tell me if she needed help. Wow, sometimes it’s hard being a boy ………
Well we went to our hotel to watch the football game, we commanded the reception area and by chance we saw the game with a small group of Germans, Americans, Russians and Ukrainians ….. International ….. Good , incredibly Spain won. It has been a long time for Spain, but it was well deserved … A great finale to a great day. “Long live Spain”.