Thursday, July 22, 2010

BLACK SEA PART 9: YALTA, UKRAINE--THE VORONTSOV PALACE

One of the books I took along on our trip was Franklin and Winston, by Jon Meacham. It is a fascinating look into the friendship that developed between Roosevelt and Churchill during the War years. I was particularly moved by Churchill's unshakable love for Roosevelt, who, at times, was a pretty fickle friend.

I was very excited about our stop in Yalta--again, a place I've read much about. According to our guide, Yalta is the summer capital of Ukraine, and where the tsars used to live during the summer. Many of the Soviet leaders have spent time there as well, and it was in Yalta that Mikhail Gorbachev was seized during the 1991 coup. Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright, lived in Yalta for the last four or five years of his life, and there is an annual Chekhov Festival in the area. Many other famous Russians have frequented Yalta, including the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and the author Maxim Gorky.

Wikipedia claims that only 7% of tourists to Yalta are foreigners, and that the rest are Ukrainians and Russians. If that is the case, I am honored to have been part of that small percentage.

Our day began at the Vorontsov Palace, built for Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, one of Russia's wealthiest men of the 19th century. Half is built in a Tudor style, and half is modeled after the Alhambra.
Of course, it also includes the ubiquitous monument to American capitalism:

This shot kind of reminded me of one of our wedding day photos--you know the one everybody gets in front of the Temple doors?

The stone used to built the Palace, taken from the Crimean Mountains (seen here from the front of the Palace), is twice as hard as granite.

Here is the beautiful view of the Black Sea from the back of the Palace. What an ideal spot.

The ceilings inside were very ornate and each room was different. The designs are made not of wood or even paint, but of papier mache.


This lamp seemed to be a combination of Gothic and Art Deco styles:

What was MOST interesting to me about the Palace was that Winston Churchill and his daughter stayed here for at least two nights during the Yalta Conference in 1945, and they spent another five nights on a British battleship in the harbor.
A picture of Winston. I wish I'd taken time to get a better one!

Yalta had been chosen for the Big Three confab by Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's aide. Roosevelt and Churchill wanted to meet in a neutral place (our guide mentioned Malta), but Stalin had a deep phobia of flying. During his life, he only flew once--to Tehran for the initial meeting with Churchill and Roosevelt in 1943. Anyway, the meeting site this time had to be in a place Stalin could reach by train, and so Yalta was chosen.

Question: If Churchill stayed here at the Vorontsov Palace, and Roosevelt was not very far away in the Livadia Palace (where the conferences were held), where did Stalin stay?

In the "back yard," an accomplished violinist was playing classical tunes for the tourists and hoping to earn a little bit of cash in return for her efforts. Her talent added to both the ambiance of the grounds and my enjoyment of them.
This photo of the back of the building gives a good view of the Moorish architecture:

A closer view of the dome at the top of the stairs:

STUNNING.

There are four awesome lions guarding the back entrance to the Palace. They seem worthy companions for Churchill, who was often compared to a lion. In fact, in 1954 Churchill said: "I have never accepted what many people have kindly said; namely, that I inspired the Nation. It was the Nation and the race dwelling around the globe that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar."
He kind of LOOKS like Winston, don't you think?

I am developing a great love for Churchill, and for his amazing command of the English language. He is climbing my Hero Ladder and is somewhere near the top with Atticus Finch.

As we left Vorontsov Palace for Yalta, I wondered what was going through Churchill's mind as he was transported past the same scenery we saw:

And I wondered what he would think of some of the newer scenery. But then, this outdoor beer and produce market could almost be timeless:

Our last view before reaching the Livadia Palace was of the Swallow's Nest Castle, built in 1912. There could hardly be a more romantic setting, and yet it has never been lived in. Currently, it is being used as a restaurant.

NEXT: Livadia Palace and the Yalta Conference
UPCOMING: The Great Sweetened Condensed Milk Challenge

5 comments:

  1. Interesting, but what is up with the little blue boxes? They kind of look like radation detectors? You didn't go to Chernobyl did you? JK :)

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  2. Beautiful! I love the palace/restaurant. If you had annoying guest overstaying their welcome, you could just invite them to step out onto your back veranda.

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  3. Chris, we should go there with Dave, shouldn't we? John, those were the transmitters for our headsets. The guide knew it would be crowded, so we were each equipped with one of those so we could hear what she had to tell us.

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  4. What a beautiful place! I really like that you are telling the history of each place. It makes it so interesting. How lucky someone was playing music. I always find music adds just the right touch to experiencing a place.

    I briefly looked for where Stalin stayed, but could not find it. It will bug me, so I am going to keep looking.
    Can't wait to hear more about Yalta.

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