Neighbourhood names like Chumka (Plague) and Quarantine are not exactly romantic, but they hark back to the city's illustrious past. Founded by the Greeks in 6th century BC under its current name, it was rebranded Kaffa by the Genovese who took over the city in 13th century AD, turning it into a meeting point for caravans from the Orient and European merchants. Mutual interest in silk and slaves brought together people of all nationalities, notably Armenians, who left a significant imprint on the city.
Kaffa's fortress, still partly intact, protected it from plundering nomad armies, but not the biological weapon used by the Mongols during one of the sieges. They started catapulting bodies of people who died from bubonic plaque, which was devastating their camp. It is believed that the fleeing Genovese subsequently brought the disease to Europe, which led to the worst epidemics in the continent's history.
Imperial Russians built opulent sea-facing palazzos that they modestly called dachas. Some of them survived the Soviet period and still soar above the myriad of tacky souvenir stands and fast-food joints, which look like flotsam washed ashore by a recent storm, and seem destined to be swept away by the next one.