Kuban Road Trip - First Night in Anapa
I caught the Aeroexpress train from Paveletskaya to Domodedovo to catch a S7 flight on Tuesday afternoon. Aeroexpress takes from 40 to 50 minutes, with a round trip ticket cost of 620 rubles. The entrance at Paveletskaya is a little seedy, as might be expected around any big city train station, but after a hike downstairs and then along a long corridor, some modern, big red ticket vending machines appeared. I bought tickets with a card, then walked into the Aeroexpress reception hall and back up stairs to the train. The rail car interiors are comfortable with big enough seats and room to stack luggage.
Upon arrival at Domodedovo I got briefly lost; the signage, even if you read Russian is either poor or buried in a mass of advertising. I got Arrivals just before JO came in from long-term parking. S7 check-in is well automated. Passengers can have a boarding pass and seat assignment sent to a mobile device with an embedded QR-Code to the night before.
John said we should try Paprika, an Indian restaurant, at the airport that was good. It was not bad, maybe good, and better than most airport food.
The flight to Anapa took about 2:20. This is a small airport, no gates or ramps, just a walk down boarding stairs to a bus for a 200-meter ride to the small terminal building. Bags are loaded onto a big cart that brings them to an open-air gate where passengers can rummage through to find bags. Baggage tags are checked.
We stayed at the Park Hotel, one of two hotels that had reasonably good recommendations. The other recommendation was Grand Hotel Valentina. Park Hotel is located on the Anapa Bay at the very beginning of the beautiful sand beach that stretches north of Anapa to the crossing to the Crimean Peninsula at Port Kavkaz. In the other direction, the coast becomes cliffs formed by the Caucasus Mountains foothills that begin south of Anapa. From this point all the way to Sochi, the beaches that exist are stone rather than sand.
Vladimir Pukish, PR and Marketing Manager for Fanagoria Winery met us at the hotel. Vladimir is an old friend, and speaks English well. He took us on a pre-dinner tour of Anapa and its environs.
It had been about seven years since I last visited Anapa. I was disappointed, even shocked, at how parts of this former, somewhat quaint and cute beach town had been spoiled by a lack of city planning and control of development. Buildings, big, small and tiny, of every imaginable construction type and style, some flimsy, some stone, some concrete, some brick or timber, appear to have been shoehorned into any available square meter of space. Also, exterior design now does not much matter, especially downtown, because advertising is rampant covering the building and street signs, in a whole rainbow of colors, mostly text, some big, some tiny.
One lovely feature remains – Anapa has a grand promenade that follows the cliffs from along the harbor and a long section of beach. This is where many of the 3 million or so Russian tourists that holiday in Anapa each summer spend their evenings. There is a also small, open-air archeological dig/museum near the Park Hotel, and a small park. Anapa is not a large town, about 50,000 people in the environs, and most of the year, from October to May, it is sleepy except for construction.
I got out of the car by the Hotel Anapa-Okean, a high building overlooking the harbor and small port. One nice feature of this hotel had been the large open plaza in front that was part of the promenade. The promenade exists, but most of the plaza is gone, and another hotel has been stuck on the cliff above the port. It appears that the rooms at Anapa-Okean still have a good view, and that a modern restaurant, La Veranda, occupies the first floor. I did not have time to check to see of Anapa-Okean still has its rooftop restaurant.
John wanted to find the best restaurant in Anapa. If to believe several recommendations, that appears to be Kovcheg (Ark). Kovcheg is located on promenade over the cliffs near the harbor point, an area of Anapa known as Viysokiy Bereg (high coast). Kovcheg is a pleasant looking stone and timber building with a large terrace. It suffered a serious fire last September, but appears to have been reconstructed.
The Kovcheg menu is European, with a fair amount of Caucasian style dishes.
We ordered borscht, which was served in a hollowed out, round loaf of dark bread. Mussels are a popular local shellfish, which John decided to try. We also ordered a mixed meat grill that included lamb, chicken tabaka, and beef. Although the setting and service at Kovcheg were pleasant, the food was disappointing. However, this was a Tuesday night, and off-season. As we left, John commented, “The place was empty. There must be somewhere the locals go, even in the off-season!”. “I’m not so sure”, I answered.
I started a list of places to try next time:
- Grand Hotel Valentina and its restaurant Fresia;
- La Veranda restaurant at the Anapa Okean hotel, which appears to have an Italian chef.
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