The Russian annexation of Crimea has transformed Kerch in a big way. What used to be a distant backwater is now the main transport hub connecting Crimea to the Russian mainland. Overcrowded ferries bring hordes of Russian holidaymakers across the narrow straits of Kerch, with lines of cars stretching for kilometres and waiting time sometimes measured in days rather than hours. Nearby, a giant bridge is being built to overcome the transport conundrum.
Village-like and shabby, Kerch is in fact Crimea's oldest city. As the ancient Greek colony of Panticapaeum it was the capital of the Bosporan Kingdom from the 5th to 2nd centuries BC. It used to have a strong Italian community until WWII, but that community left with the retreating Axis troops. Today Kerch is a mecca for archaeologists, who arrive in droves each year hoping to unearth Greek and Scythian treasures.