Of all of Crimea’s palaces, the one that belonged to Count Vorontsov – the hero of Napoleonic wars and later the governor-general of Crimea – is probably the most peculiar and magnificent. I say “probably” because it’s the only major Yalta / Alupka palace that I got to visit, as my pre-purchased excursions to Massandra and Livadiya palaces got rained out. Nevertheless, I’ve seen pictures ;).
Vorontsovsky is a study in contrasts – or maybe identity issues. On the outside it is part Tudor castle (Vorontsov was at mostly raised and educated in England), part Moorish palace (a nod to the Ottoman Empire’s influence on the Crimean Peninsula). On the inside it is all posh and fashionable 19th-century continental European summer home. The grounds are famous for the decades and millions in silver they took to complete, and the six different marble lion statues that line the steps to the Palace’s southern terrace. Two of the lions – those at the of the stairs top – are standing, the next two are reclining, and the bottom two are laying down, with the most famous one being the sleeping lion.
Fun historical fact: Vorontsovsky Palace is where Winston Churchill stayed toward the end of World War Two while he, Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin worked out who is going to rule which part of the world (AKA the Yalta Conference, held at the aforementioned Livadiya Palace). As the Conference was wrapping up, Churchill, who was fond of booze, cigars, and naps, wanted to take the sleeping lion with him. That lion was pretty much Churchill’s spirit animal, so Churchill asked Stalin if he could have the statue as a souvenir of sorts. I guess he thought the Soviet leader would be in a generous mood after negotiating half of Europe into USSR’s zone of influence. As if. The way the story goes, Stalin made a crude joke at the request (which I wont re-tell, as, first of all, the joke would be lost in translation, and would require a visualization anyway), and the lion stayed in the USSR. A small victory to cap off the big one.