It is easy to understand why the Russians are lamenting the loss of Sevastopol more than any other chunk of their vast empire. Orderly and clean as the deck of a ship, with whitewashed neoclassical buildings surrounding a cerulean bay, it has everything most Russian cities badly lack.
Not that the loss is complete – an agreement hastily signed by President Yanukovych stipulates that Sevastopol will remain the base of the Russian Black Sea fleet for another 25 years. Most locals are linked to the navy in one way or another and maintain a strong allegiance to Russia. This results in a peculiar cultural microclimate, similar to Gibraltar.
A favourite playground for military history fans, Sevastopol is also attractive to those with no interest in weapons and uniforms. Simply put, it is the most pleasant Crimean city – civilised, easy-going, but largely bypassed by the recreational mayhem of Crimea's southern and eastern coasts.