Every year Melitopol has a large "Melitopol Day" festival in the middle of September, usually on a Sunday. This year, the main streets were shut down and filled with food vendors, performers, and presentations from local businesses and cultural groups. I was the most thrilled to meet representatives of some of Melitopol's minority groups, such as Tatars, Greeks, and Jews.
The "Stone Grave" or "Rocky Mound" ("Kamena Mohyla" in Ukrainian) is the most famous attraction in the entire region. This natural rock formation was formed millions of years ago, creating what appeared to be one enormous "stone grave." Later, early humans used the mound as a religious site, sacrificing animals atop one of the central stones. Today, visitors are free to climb all over the mound, like an enormous stone jungle-jim. You can crawl through sandy caves underneath or picnic in the scenic grassy fields around it. Be sure to ask someone where the cave paintings are. They're hidden in little crannies and caves and can be rather hard to find, but, because these "paintings" were actually carved into the rocks themselves, are still very impressively well-preserved.
Right now, almost all information at the museum is in Ukrainian only. I found this website if you want to read about its history in English:
They're currently in the process of people a fancy new museum and visitor's center, so hopefully they will start making information more availbale and the site more easily accessed.
This is really not a bad little museum. There is a changing art exhibit on the first floor, and upstairs are exhibits about Melitopol's history, with several rooms focusing on the Second World War. The tributes to Melitopol's fallen soldiers are especially moving. There is no entrace fee, but I felt compelled to buy a pamphlet and give them a small donation, which they seemed to really appreciate. Apparently they're desperate to do some clean-up and renovation, but just don't have the money.
Just like Moscow, Melitopol has its own Gorky Park. Sure, ours is a lot smaller and not quite so fancy, but it's still the most popular place for Melitopolians to spend a Sunday afternoon. It's a nice place to sit by a fountain, drink a beer, chat with the locals, throw nuts to the squirrels. There's also a stadium, running track, basketball court, children's parks, "zoo corner," and even a ping-pong stadium.
"Zoo Corner" is the closest thing Melitopol has to a zoo, and it's pretty far from a zoo. Inside this colorfully painted building, you'll pay 20 cents to play with several rabbits, guinea pigs, pigeons, chickens, and a single miserable looking goat. The animals at least seem well fed, and it probably doesn't seem as disturbingly surreal to them as it does to me to be living in piles of broken old children's toys.
Okay, it isn't much of an amusement park, but it's the best that Melitopol has to offer. They do re-paint it bright colors every spring, so it always has a fresh and energetic look, even if the rides are more than a little dilapidated. Most people just like to hang out on the benches near the rides as they swig from their beers. But watching the occasional young child clap with glee as she finally gets her mom to fork over a few griven for that tiny merry-go-round is priceless. Most rides are about $1, and they seem fairly safe, if a bit shakey. Though the saddest part of the park is the empty pit of ash where the bumper cars used to be -- they mysteriously burned to the ground a few months ago.