The actual summer is almost over, but you should not lose hopes for chilling at the seaside. The most amazing time is just ahead – the heat has dropped, prices are down, tickets – available, and most importantly – the sea is still warm, and a beach is less crowded. Plan your vacation for late August-early September and will make the right choice. And we will tell you about a beautiful and cosy place “for locals”.
90 kilometres southwest of Odesa, bypassing a number of swarming beaches of Chornomorsk, Hrybovka, Zatoka – and you find yourself on a deserted coast with soft white sand, under steep 30-meter shores of colourful clay, in the lost world of silence, sun, and azure waves. Here you can shoot a movie about Robinson, or sunbathe topless.
Two hours by car separate the Kurortne town from Odesa. Just 100 UAH for a bus ticket – and you no longer belong to civilization, instead you own kilometres of beach and sea straight to the horizon.
The name of the settlement speaks for itself – Kurortne (direct translation from Ukrainian is resort – translator’s note) from both sides is washed by the sea and Budaki Lagoon, known for their healing mud – excellent conditions for recreation and recovery.
Check in – there are plenty of options where you can stay: from budget bungalows for 150-170 hryvnias per person (in September – from 100!) to luxury guesthouses with a swimming pool and an indoor area – and straight to the beach!
Some prefer “uncivilized” vacation – to live in a tent or just on the beach.
Two hundred meters away from the stairs, we literally appear on a desert island. There is no one as far as the eye can see, except for some tanned nudist in a red cap may pass by. “Don’t take pictures of me,” he warns us.
“Please do not destroy, people live here until October” – the inscription on the plate urges not to break personal boundaries and pay respect to the household. Yes, this fenced with dry reed beach area appears to be camping ground for some hippie hermits.
Sand castles, improvised gazebos made of branches, amazing coastal terrain with caves, bird nests, quirky landslide islands – we’ve named this beach Namibia.
Martyn the teenager and harmless grass-snake are the inhabitants of this enchanted country. Both of them don’t bite!
On the clay slopes, there are inscriptions made of shells – Vinnytsia, Brovary, Chernivtsi, Khodoriv, Korsun, Warsaw, Kyiv, etc. – you can explore the geography of tourists.
The sun is getting higher, and we must seek salvation from it. We’re going back to Kurortne. After overcoming long stairs – the best cardio exercise by the way! – we find ourselves on a plateau.
A local told us that the construction of stairs was funded by the community – the owners of recreation centres and private houses raised money for the construction of several staircases down to the sea. They also take care of the beach, and they encourage visitors to do the same. The order is in a place where people don’t litter.
Young acacia trees were planted on the very edge of the shore, hoping that the trees would somehow keep the shore from a landslide.
Cars, vans, tents are located in a field, not far from a steep descent to the sea. It is clean here – a fence made of plastic wrap was created for garbage so that it is not blown away by the wind and it is regularly taken out. Camping aficionados keep their campsite in nice and clean.
Nearby a bird of prey is hanging in the air, without paying attention to humans. He looks for mice and lizards: suddenly he falls from the sky like an arrow, folding his red wings and snatches prey from the yellow grass.
Next to the campsite, there is Budaki Lighthouse, founded in 1851. Budaki is the Romanian name of the village, it means “corner”. The name Kurortne appeared on the map in 1945.
Once upon a time, there was a small fishing village. But in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the coast of Odesa was actively explored, scientists discovered healing properties of muds of the Budaki Lagoon.
Since then, Budaki and Budaki-Kordon (now Kurortne and Prymorske villages, which is actually one administrative unit) have become popular resorts. Lesya Ukrainka, however, did not visit this place – she was staying at a nearby resort – Burnas, now Lebedivka. Just like the king of Romania Michael together with his family, and Josef Pilsudski.
According to the Odesa historian, Heorhii Berber, in 1904 Armenian merchants’ family of Yeryemyeyev from Akkerman bought Budaki in order to develop its recreational potential. Later this part of Bessarabia became under Romanian rule. In 1920-30, Budaki and Budaki-Kordon had become one of the favourite balneotherapy resorts of Romanians.
After examining the deserted beaches, relieving the tension and restoring our mental equilibrium, we resume our wandering around the resort town. The high plateau descends smoothly into the sand spit – a narrow stretch of land that divides the Budaki Lagoon and the sea. This is how the Budaki spit looked like in the 1930s.
This way it looks around a hundred year later.
Here the descent to the sea is steep, and there are many more people. On the spit there are recreation centres, hotels, camping sites, bars, and even a small marketplace – they sell sheets, blankets, swimwear, hats, and other stuff. On the shore of the lagoon, people cover themselves in black mud and sunbathe. It is advisable to consult with your doctor beforehand about how to do the mud applications and whether you should do it at all.
Above the lagoon, there is the village of Prymorske. White letters stand near the Romantyka lodge – some kind of local Hollywood.
Every year thousands of people come to Kurortne to have some rest and improve their health condition. The vast majority of them are citizens of Ukraine and Moldova. After the annexation of Crimea, the number of tourists has sharply increased. Now there are more tourists from Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Romania.
The village has almost everything you need – in local restaurants you can eat a cheap and tasty meal. A large portion of Uzbek pilaf costs 50 hryvnias, business lunch – 80, pizza – 80 and more. The products are local, all the meals are delicious and fresh because tourists have a good appetite so there’s nothing left for tomorrow. If you are staying with the owners, you can cook your own food.
Signs with a marker written “Sushi” are hanging on the trees. Arrows point in different directions, often towards some bushes, likewise with the pharmacy pointers.
If you don’t want to wander around the village looking for Japanese food, you can simply order it by phone. However, we found a pharmacy, even a few of them. At the market or at some households you can buy brynza cheese, honey, tomatoes, eggs, milk, and of course, Bessarabian wine! (from 30 to 65 hryvnias per litre).
If of a sudden you want entertainment, you can take a trip to the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi fortress and the Shabo Wine Culture Center – they are just 50 km from Kurortne. Shuttle buses run regularly, and you can also book an individual bus for a group. All the information is hanging on the streets or you can ask locals – people are very welcoming and talkative here. In addition, in one way or another most of them are involved in the resort business – they will advise you their friends and relatives as the best service providers. You can also hitchhike, and if you are lucky, even ride a popular local transport – a motoblock.
The only thing is that we couldn’t find a single ATM in the entire Kurortne. However, you can handle it. An authentic man in a skullcap (next to a bar that looks like a boat) proposes to cash the card with only 5 per cent interest. The mechanism is as follows – a person transfers a certain sum to the “banker’s” card, and he gives you cash, keeping his interest. The same way you can pay in stores (because there are no terminals) – just make a transfer via internet banking to the card of seller or owner.
So, either bring more cash with you or don’t be tempted by delicious ice cream, churchkhela, magnets, seashell necklaces, and other resort necessities.
After all, your goal is to save your family’s budget from upheavals, and most importantly – to maximize the input of sun, energy, and positivity till the next summer!
Text by Daria Harmyder
Photo by Kel Ra