A Trip on the World’s Longest Trolleybus Line


Can a few coins buy an unforgettable experience? Yes, when you purchase a ticket on the world’s longest trolleybus line. The trolleybus travels about 60 miles [95 km], from Simferopol, in the center of the Crimean Peninsula of southern Ukraine, to Yalta, on the sunny northern shore of the Black Sea. Why not join us for a fascinating trip?

AT THE Simferopol Transportation offices, we meet Slavnyi Giorgi Mihailovich​—Mr. Slavnyi, for short. He has worked here since 1959, and he certainly knows his business. Mr. Slavnyi first escorts us through the transportation museum, where photographs of the men and women who built this trolley line are on display. “A trolleybus requires much more than just a paved road,” he explains. “Construction workers erected hundreds of towers to hold many kilometers of overhead electric cable. Engineers designed power stations to provide the electricity.”

“Why use electric trolleybuses over such a long mountainous route instead of gasoline-driven buses?” we inquire.

“Trolleybuses are cleaner than gasoline-engine buses,” he says. “We were protecting our heritage of pristine mountains and unblemished shorelines.”

“But could a few buses really do that much harm?” we ask.

“A few buses!” he retorts. “Why, in their heyday several years ago, during the summer season, trolleybuses left every two to three minutes and made a total of 400 trips per day.”

With that fact in mind, we are eager to start our trip.

The Journey Begins

The Simferopol Central Station is our departure point. Dozens of electric cables overhead sketch a silvery maze. We locate the cashier’s booth and purchase our tickets. Then we hop aboard the No. 52 trolleybus. We’re off!

After 18 miles [29 km], we begin climbing through the mountains. Soon we are in the cold shadows of towering natural skyscrapers. Steep slopes, covered in evergreens and hardwoods, reach downward to meet snow-covered valleys. Upon reaching the summit, we quickly catch our breath for the equally spectacular descent. Before us a serpentine road drops to the horizon. The powerful brakes of the trolleybus  check our gathering speed. Our driver brings us safely through!

At the bottom we enter the town of Alushta, turn right, and navigate south along the coastal road. To the left of our cruiser is the Black Sea. To the right, the majestic Crimean Mountains form a protective flank.

A little farther up the road, on the outskirts of the village of Pushkino, we spot Bear Mountain. As the local residents explain the legend, a giant bear turned to stone while trying to gulp down the Black Sea. Its head, they say, is still underwater taking a long drink. I ask myself, ‘Why don’t the villagers say that the bear fell into the water because he imbibed too much wine? After all, we have passed many fields of grapes.’ This is wine country and home to the Massandra Vineyard, winner of international competitions.

Next, in the village of Nikita, we step off the trolleybus at the Nikitskyi Botanical Garden. The garden is truly international, containing thousands of plants from all over the world. With our knowledgeable guide Tamara, we enjoy the aroma of large evergreens near the entrance. “These are cedars of Lebanon,” she explains.  “Solomon constructed his temple with these stately trees.” Our guide is correct, for the Bible reports that cedars were used extensively in that monumental building project undertaken by Solomon.​—1 Kings 5:6-18.

Meandering down well-traveled gravel paths, we notice a bed of thorny bushes. “Roses,” Tamara declares. “The garden has 200 varieties and is in full bloom in late May and early June.” Later we stand before an unpretentious bush about eight feet [2.5 m] tall. “This is the iron tree,” Tamara tells us, clearly pleased with the specimen. “The resilient wood, a metal substitute, can be hammered like a steel nail. It even sinks in water.” A trolleybus soon comes along, and we are happy to sit down again and rest our tired legs during the short ride into Yalta, the trolley’s final stop. Many remember Yalta primarily because of the historic World War II conference held at the Livadia Palace in 1945. At this conference the heads of the three principal Allied States met to plan the final attack on and occupation of Nazi Germany.

Return Trip

Evening approaches, and it is time to board a trolleybus for the return trip home. Along the road children sell assorted flower bouquets. Impulsively exiting to make a purchase, we are instantly surrounded by a group of eager entrepreneurs. “What are those pearly white flowers?” I ask Yana, a sandy-haired 15-year-old girl. “Snowdrops,” she answers proudly. Nodding toward the hill across the road, she adds: “We gather them on that slope early in the morning as the line of snow begins to melt.”

Soon we are on the trolleybus again, bouncing along as we reach the end of our journey. Like children who have finished a ride on a roller coaster for the first time, we want to go back and do it all over again!

[Maps on page 22, 23]

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Black Sea


↓ Chatyr-Dag Mountain



↓ Bear Mountain


↓ Massandra



Ai Petri Mountain


[Picture on page 22, 23]

Ai Petri Mountain

[Pictures on page 23]

Vorontsov Palace, Alupka

[Picture on page 23]

Marble Cave, Chatyr-Dag Mountain

[Picture on page 23]

Bear Mountain

[Picture on page 24]

‘Swallow’s Nest’ Castle, Yalta

[Picture on page 24]

Massandra wine cellar, Yalta, with bottles of sherry from 1775

[Picture on page 24]

Uchansu Waterfalls, Yalta, at a height of over 320 feet, the highest in the Crimea

[Picture on page 24]

Historic Livadia Palace, Yalta