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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Yoga Madness in Crimea, Ukraine - Page 4

Written by Antonina Okinina
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It was the end of the June when I packed my knapsack to leave for Crimea, Ukraine. The knapsack was about to burst open because of my sleeping-bag, tent, and a percussion drum (I still don’t understand what evil forces made me pack it). It was my fiancé who told me we had a chance to get into an annual international conference of ‘YOGA’ magazine.

But let’s concentrate on things you’d see as a prudent tourist traveling in the dry season. The first thing that amused me was that the length of “horrible” Auzun-Yzen was parched (by the way, it’s only several meters wide). I was walking on the reddish river’s bottom covered with small and giant dents – the evidence of the mighty spring flow. Sometimes dents were full with stagnant water. Numerous lizards were scattering away from my feet. canyon

The other unexpected thing was the amount of tourist groups. Apparently, four years ago it was hard to meet anyone in the canyon- now it stays crowded from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the summertime. There is also an open-air snack bar, but again, only in summer. There you can find a small range of dishes of Tatar cuisine and, of course, homemade Crimea wine (it’s worth tasting). The meals were cooked, served and sold by four Tatars from the nearest village – Sokolinoe (“Falcon’s”). Those four people served the whole enormous crowd and it was painful to look into their exhausted eyes. One Tatar woman told me that they had no time to walk home after work- so they always spent their nights in the canyon, in the open-air - a nervous experience.

People who visit the Grand Canyon of Crimea desire not only to enjoy the scenery but also to try the “baths of youth”: giant dents in the bottom of the canyon where the Auzun-Yzen runs even in summer. The Auzun-Yzen is supplied not only by rain water and water from melted snow, but by lots of underground springs. In summer, they become the only source of water and the river looks a little strange – like a broken curve.


The baths flow is supplied by underground springs and is very calm but very cold. The temperature in the baths never grows higher than 9-11° C which means that normal human beings can’t stand bathing there more than several seconds. I made myself dive for ten seconds and when I got out of the water, I felt like my limbs were broken – I could hardly feel them!

The first wish you naturally have in the “bath” is to scream, so during the daytime in the summer the canyon is full of screams. The biggest and the most popular “bath of youth” can be found near the snack bar. Tourists waiting for their turn to dive into three-meter-deep dent usually muster up their courage by drinking homemade wine. As for me, I ignored the popular “bath” and saved my wine for the night (oh, and it didn’t help me, by the way). I went deeper to the further part of the Great canyon and had a quiet, private bath. Without witnesses and without a swimsuit – ah, complete unity with nature!


viewThen it struck me that I’d heard the view from the top of the canyon was thrilling. Neither I nor my companion knew which paths that would lead us to the top. In short, we had to perform free 200-meter climbing all along the cliff to see the scenery and take photos. I wouldn’t recommend you to do the same – it’s better to find someone who knows the path, which is also not an easy task, but safer.

The first experience of walking through the canyon wasn’t really carefree because of the boulder that fell right in front of me when I was passing through the deserted part of the canyon. I ran back in panic and decided to put off the trip.

It was time to look for a place to sleep. We found a tourist stand near the spring and pitched a tent. It was hardly over 8 p.m. but we were already in our sleeping bags. After hiking and climbing, I felt awfully tired but I couldn’t sleep because of the sounds. The sounds of the canyon are also amusing. It’s hard to say where they come from. It seems they are reverberated dozens of times in the narrow “crack” of the canyon, so it’s like they come from everywhere.


In the quiet of the night the spring sounded tremendous, as if it was all around the tent. The draft was coming through the canyon, making the trees crunch. But the most awful sound was the sound of the little stones falling from the cliffs onto our tent. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad if I didn’t see the huge piece of rock (our tent was a meter away from it) that came off some time ago. The night was a nail biting experience. However, when I woke up, I was glad I experienced it and happy to be alive.


The Grand Canyon of Crimea is a place that may scare some, but not enough to prevent them from coming back. As soon as I get the chance, I will visit again.

©Antonina Okinina

(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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