Yevpatoria, a city of some 100,000 on the west coast of Crimea, is a popular summer beach resort, a major Black Sea port, a transportation hub and an important industrial center. The National Space Agency of Ukraine also has ground control and tracking facilities here (though it launches from sites in Kazakhstan or Russia).

While in Ukraine, I visited Yevpatoria twice – once at the height of the summer season when the beaches and nearby promenade were wall-to-wall with people; and once in April before the start of the season when the city was more sedate. The photos here come from the April visit.

Although not as well known as Crimea's flagship resort, Yalta, the beaches in Yevpatoria are (in my humble opinion) much better. First, they are sand, rather than the stones found along the southern coast. Second, they are larger. And finally, if you travel a bit to the east of Yevpatoria, you can find large beaches with very few people on them. Though the latter are covered with small pebbles, instead of sand, they are still much easier on the feet than the beaches of Yalta.

Although evidence of prehistoric settlements reaching back millennia have been unearthed, the first recorded settlement of the area was by Greek colonists who named their village Kerkinitis. The present name of the city, however, derives from King Mithridates VI of Pontus (132-63 BCE), whose surname was "Eupator", thus giving rise to the name "Eupatoria", one of the city's many names (see "A Note About Spelling", below). From the 7th to 10th centuries CE, the area was controlled by Khazars, a Turkic people from central Asia who later converted to Judaism. In succeeding centuries, it was controlled by Crimean Tatars or the Ottoman Empire. In 1783, the area (like the rest of Crimea) fell into Russian hands and was absorbed into the empire where it remained, except for a brief occupation by British, French and Turkish troops during the Crimean War (1854-1856), until the 20th century when it was absorbed into the Soviet Union.

Yevpatoria today reflects the various cultures that influenced it over the centuries. One the principal landmarks in the city is the Khan Mosque (also known as the Dzhuma-Dzhami, which means "Friday Mosque"), built in the mid-16th century. It is the largest mosque in Crimea and was designed by the famous Ottoman architect Sinan (1489-1588), who also designed the monumental Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul, the Mehmed-paša Sokolovič (Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic) bridge in Višegrad, Bosnia and many other structures throughout the Ottoman empire.

Within sight of the Khan Mosque is the St. Nicholas Cathedral, built in 1893 and beautifully restored after Ukraine's independence in 1991. Like most Orthodox churches in Ukraine, the interior of Cathedral is lavishly decorated with religious paintings and icons, gilded sculptures and other ornate objects. Not far away is the more modest, but still interesting, Church of St. Elijah, built in the early part of the 20th century. Its small interior is also lavishly decorated.

One also finds in Yevpatoria reminders of the Soviet days, including a prominent statue of Vladimir Lenin and a military memorial along one of the main boulevards. The Lenin statue is rather unique. Most statues portray Lenin in some dramatic pose, often gesturing as if giving orders, making a speech, or pointing the way to the future. He often also has something – important plans, no doubt – in one of his hands. The Lenin in Yevpatoria, however, has neither. He is just standing there, looking stern to be sure, but not really doing anything. (Despite Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Lenin statues remain common in the Russia-leaning areas of the country, such as Crimea and eastern Ukraine. In western Ukraine, which didn't come under Soviet domination until after WWII, many of the statues have been removed.

A Note About Spelling: There seems to be particular confusion concerning the transliteration of the Ukrainian (Євпаторія) or the Russian (Евпатория) name of this city into Latin letters. A strict transliteration would be "Evpatoria". But this spelling does not reflect the fact that the Russian "Е" when stressed (as here) is pronounced as if it begins with an English "Y" (or a German "J") sound. Thus, many transliterations opt for "Yevpatoria" to more accurately indicate the pronunciation. Then, there is also "Yevpatoriya" and "Eupatoria". In any event, the Crimean city of Yevpatoria (the transliteration I have adopted) is the same as Evpatoria, Yevpatoriya and Eupatoria. Now that we have that straight, I might add that in Crimean Tatar, the name of the city is "Kezlev" (or maybe it's "Gezlev"; or is it "Gözleve")!