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Balaklava, Crimea, Russia

Balaklava is a small seaside town, former military base and tourist paradise. Old gentlemen sit with hats in the harbour, hold their fishing rods into the turquoise water and call out to each other from time to time. The people here are beautiful, like the landscape they are masterpieces of time. In the harbour are yachts from America, Europe and Russia. As usual, the rich of this earth know exactly where it's worth living. The coast is mountainous and rugged. The land in this part of Crimea falls in cliffs into the blue sea. Yellow dry grass dances with cornflowers in the evening sun and the crickets sing their evening song.

Balaklava, Crimea, Russia

During the second world war, this bay was a unique underground submarine harbour. A long tunnel connects the open sea with the bay in a semi-circle. Nowadays it's a museum. Just like for the ferry that would have gotten me to my sleeping place comfortably, I'm too late for a visit. I'm tired and glad not to have to decide whether I want to see it or not. I walk past the museum and follow the road winding up the mountain until I stand on the edge of the cliffs. The sweat runs down my spine and drops from my nose. My head is bright red and my blouse soaked. Nothing can keep me from climbing down the cliffs to sink into the fresh water. After a thorough exploration of the territory, I find a small staircase. I am glad not to have to climb in my state, and I am ok with losing the solitude I had craved for the past weeks.

Once downstairs, I take off my backpack, take off my hiking boots, and let my feet breathe. They are soft from the sweat and swollen from the hardships of my journey. I am at a stony beach. The pebbles push mercilessly into my soft feet. Painful. With cautious steps, I fight my way over the pebbles and reach the water. My clothes are wet, so I decide to go into the water with them. Overnight they'll dry, and if they don't then maybe they'll smell better.

Beach Vasili, Crimea, Russia

Nothing is more heavenly than sinking into the water after an exhausting day. Nothing. With my head towards the open sea, I can blend out the activity on the beach. I can dive, hear the clicks of colliding stones on the ground and open my eyes.

Finally, alone.

The sea seems boundless, the ground disappears in the dark, and no fish are visible, far or wide. Not for the first time, I ask myself whether there are sharks here. I push the thought aside and try to relax. I did it. I've arrived for today. If I didn't have to breathe, I would stay down here. I relish the nothingness, allow my body to drift, just feeling weightless for a bit longer. Too soon my body surfaces.

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