From atop the bluffs overlooking the mouth of Balaklava's harbor, I watched the crewmen of a small green fishing boat guide their slow craft into the channel. They take their time, but soon they are past the marker buoys and making a course toward the company of more colorful little boats bobbing listlessly in the gentle water along the quayside.
Already very warm in April, Balaklava exudes much of the charm of a small Mediterranean fishing village. Fishermen, dock workers, and naval personnel frequent the cafes that dot the waterfront. The surrounding countryside reminds one of scenes from an Italian holiday brochure—nearby Aya Point jutting deeply into the clear waters of the Black Sea, the ruins of a 15th-century Genoan castle sprawled out across the green hills above the harbor, the stucco-covered block dwellings joined by narrow village streets. These were not images of one of the most closely guarded secrets of the former Soviet empire.