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Khan Palace, Bakhchisaray, Crimea, Russia

After three weeks, I finally get a two-day break. Two of my colleagues bring the children back to Moscow, two more stay in the camp with me. Apart from us, two girls remain for the second round. Since they mostly long for sleep and good food, I sneak out on my own. At half past seven in the morning, I'm standing at the bus stop. I want to see more of this place.

On one of the rear benches of the minibus, I bounce over endless asphalt roads. The bus throws up a cloud of dust that lingers in the landscape even though the bus has long since gone. There is no air conditioning, the windows are closed, only the roof hatches are open, and from time to time a light breeze strokes my cheeks. The sweat drips from my forehead and runs down my spine. I wonder, not for the first time, why I am doing this to myself?

Bakhchisaray, Crimea, Russia

I arrive in the middle of the island in Bakhchisaray. It's a small town where the Crimean Tartars ruled their Empire from and one of the few still existing palaces. Since I didn't find a timetable for the Marshrutkas, I decided to walk. On Yandex (Russian Google), the route from the bus station to the village centre didn't look too far. As I am walking along an asphalted dusty road, the sun shines without mercy and shade is a rare commodity. It's 40 degrees in the shade, and I am carrying my 6kg backpack on the shoulders. I have only the essential stuff in it. I even left my tent in the camp because the weather forecast promised the sun would shine. My goal is to see as much as possible. I cannot let myself be defeated by the merciless sun or my now thoroughly soaked back. Putting one step in front of the other, I eventually arrive at a high-voltage power station and an army base that is peacefully quiet in the midday heat. I decide to use a shortcut suggested by Google maps. From experiences in Italy, I know that Google sometimes sends people through the gardens of strangers and across fields or meadows for a short cut. The path proposed by Yandex will make me walk a 2km detour. No thanks. I decide to live dangerously and turn onto a small dirt trail, right behind the barracks of the army base. After all, how dangerous can a criminal or a dog be at 40 degrees in the shade and shortly after lunch?

The palace is an oasis. Behind the walls, it's much more pleasant than on the streets. The big trees provide valuable shadows, and the water fountains cool the air. The thick walls of the small old houses keep the cold, and the wooden shutters allow the light breeze to enter the rooms. The long curtains move gracefully in the wind, and through the windows, one sees a collection of small gardens. The gardens are filled with red roses. Everything is being renovated. What I like about this place, is that I can feel the culture. The authenticity is palpable in all corners. It's the first place in Russia, next to the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, where I can feel the history. My eye wanders over the architecture and finds inspiration and stories without the help of signs or guides. Thus I find an answer to my question. This is why I'm doing this to myself.

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