The Livadia Palace in Yalta. Photograph:( WION )
Apart from Black Sea beaches and mountains, Crimea is famous for its palaces including this Lavidia Palace in Yalta.
The recent tensions between Russia and Ukraine near the Crimean peninsula has hit a number of industries there. One major victim of rising disturbances across the Black Sea is the tourism industry.
George is one of very few English speaking people in Crimea. He is a guide and had learnt English for this profession, but now his language skill is getting wasted.
While rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia have kept foreign tourists away, the winter season is also leading to less domestic tourists now venturing out for leisure or travel.
"Politics is bad in every country. It is bad in India, it is bad in Crimea also," said George.
Crimea has been witnessing a steady fall in number of tourists visiting the peninsula since its annexation by Russia in 2014. Moscow claims 5.5 million tourists visited Crimea in 2016 as compared to 6.1 million in 2012 when Ukraine controlled the peninsula, though the numbers are contested by the Ukrainian government. The latest stand-off has further led to decline in the number of foreign tourists, however, Russia maintains that the number is rising.
Apart from Black Sea beaches and mountains, Crimea is famous for its palaces including this Livadia Palace in Yalta. This summer palace was designed in the Italian style and ended up being the last residence built for the Russian imperial family, the Romanovs. In 1861, Tsar Alexander II bought land in Livadia and had the grand palace built there as a gift to his wife. It was the site of many significant events, such as the Yalta Conference, where leaders of the allied forces met in 1945.
The Vorontsov Palace in Alupka is also very popular among tourists. It is a historic palace situated at the foot of the Crimean mountains near the town of Alupka. The Vorontsov Palace is one of the oldest and largest palaces in Crimea and is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Crimea's southern coast. Also, Hitler wanted this palace for himself during the Second World War so the German army didn't touch the palace during their assault.
But visiting these places is not easy, especially for foreign tourists as foreign-registered SIM cards don't work in Crimea. The economy works only on cash as foreign cards are not accepted by machines. There is also the ban imposed by Kiev on foreigners entering Crimea through its border with Ukraine and the sanction imposed by the European Union which bans importing goods from Crimea and prohibits EU members to invest there or provide tourism services.
Till the time the tensions between Ukraine and Russia die down and these the logistic problems for foreign tourists are solved, getting back the days of the sun shining bright on tourism industry in Crimea will remain a dream.