Yalta's air – an invigorating blend of sea and pine forest sprinkled with mountain chill – has always been its main asset. Back in the 19th century, doctors in St Petersburg had one remedy for poor-lunged aristocrats: Yalta. That's how the Russian royal family and other dignitaries, such as playwright Anton Chekhov, ended up here. Old parts of Yalta are still full of modest and not-so-modest former dachas (holiday homes) of the tsarist-era intelligentsia, while the coast around the city is dotted with the luxurious palaces of the aristocracy. But back in 1913 a Russian travel guide remarked that Yalta was a long way from the Riviera in terms of comforts and civilization. The latest Russian takeover of Crimea has made that gap even wider, but a very happy-looking granite Lenin seems pleased when babushkas gather at sunset to dance the waltz and polka on the plaza that still bears his name.
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