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What’s So Special About Crimea? Almost Everything.

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea—The seductive voice of the late French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg played as background. “Je t’aime.. moi non plus.” And waiters in long white aprons drifted among the tables at the La Brasserie café. Looking at the exaggerated 19th century Parisian interior, nobody would have guessed Sevastopol’s tragic past and turbulent present. 

Several wars and conflicts have left this strategic Black Sea port in ashes, pushing waves of terrified people away from the sandy beaches and green hills of the Crimean peninsula as refugees and exiles. Today, almost five years after Russia took this land from Ukraine, one sees articles in the Western press starting to tout Crimea as a tourist destination, even as sanctions against Russia keep it isolated economically. Some residents say life in this city has come to seem “a parallel universe.”