New east travel diaries
Days without sun
Winter comes to a summer resort in Crimea

For Moscow-based photographer Sergey Kostromin the Crimean city of Yalta has always been a special place. It’s a place he’s travelled to numerous times in search of sea and wilderness, and the opportunity to wander through grandiose remains of Soviet-era architecture. He was back in Yalta this January for the first time since the conflict in Ukraine redrafted Crimea as Russian territory. In his photos, shot in the Nikitsky botanical gardens near Yalta, they capture the melancholy beauty of the city in winter.

“The most beautiful thing in Yalta is the combination of the mountains and the sea”

“It was very cold, we were on the way to the botanical garden when it started snowing hard,” says Kostromin. “Apparently snow like that only happens once every five years or so. It melted in a couple of days but I loved seeing the palms in the snow. The most beautiful thing in Yalta is the combination of the mountains and the sea. And I’ve always been attracted by old Soviet architecture: hotels, sanatoriums, even abandoned building sites. I’ve been here many times during different seasons but I prefer winter.”

With its future uncertain and its new life as a Russian resort slowly unfolding, the Yalta captured here is a world in itself, completely free from people. Kostromin’s series evokes the atmosphere of 1980s Russian cult film ASSA in which a strange love story develops in a sleepy resort as the nation moves towards the collapse of the USSR.

On the other hand, the photographer manages to create a unique image of the place — with the grey tones of the sky and deep shadows, the whiteness of snow, the dark glow of the sea and waves crashing on the black rocks. Exotic succulents and cacti add a bizarre final touch.