Today is our last day in Crimea. Overall we spent more than a week and went to several places around Alupka, the town we stay at. The place we went the most times to is Vorontsovsky Palace and park around it which is just 10 minutes by foot from our house. We would usually stroll around the park enjoying the views. On one of the days we took a tour of the palace (40 grivnas per person) but it turned out a complete waste of time and money. It took the guide about 30 minutes to walk us through all the rooms and spit out enormous amount of dry facts about the place none of which we remembered by the time the tour was over.
The one fact about the palace that I did memorize is that it literally has two faces. The Northern side is built in western style while the Southern side (pictured above) carries distinct Eastern elements like “There is no Conqueror, except Allah.” engraved above the entrance. This fact symbolizes multicultural nature of Russian Empire of 19th century.
A complete opposite of the failed Vorontsovsky tour was the tour we took in Foros which was free and given by a guy who wrote a book about the place and also has a website about it. The tour took 3 hours and was one of the best tours I have ever been to. Besides learning a lot of facts about the place, the guide also offered many fun stories from the past. One of them was about Gagarin, the world’s first spaceman. He was in Foros in 1961 and twice nearly got himself killed due to his own careless acts. This angered a lot Khruschov, the head of the state back at that time, since Gagarin was supposed to come in person to the 22nd Communist party conference and instead was being treated in intensive care with multiple head fractures.
Among other things, we were told what the biggest predator in Crimea is (fox), how to make a juniper tincture or how covering a lake bottom with a plastic film can kill trees around it (that’s what the current park owner did). The 3 hours went really fast and everyone got a signed book at the end, we bought two. :-)
Another remarkable place on the south Crimea sea shore is Yalta Zoo. We went there with kids and spent half a day going from cage to cage studying the animals. Yalta Zoo is beautifully located on a slope of a hill, split into several levels connected with many stone stairs. By its compact size it reminds me a large petting zoo in the US (you can buy food and feed the animals as you go) but the kinds of animals it has are more like those you would see in a normal zoo - tigers, ostriches and bears (several kinds).
Adjacent to the zoo is “Polyana Skazok”, a place full of sculptures depicting various fairy tale characters. You could visit the two places in one day, we however had small kids and opted to separate the trips since kids got pretty tired after several hours walking around the zoo.
I mentioned in my first blog post that Crimea has magnificent nature and warm climate which is said to have helped many people in the past recover from deadly diseases. Crimea is facing a huge problem however, people run it down at an increasing speed. Wherever you go you can find trash on the streets and in the water. Both of our kids got sick from some sort of stomach poisoning (I suspect dirty sea water). I personally witnessed several barbarian acts by tourists. In one instance several young men and women placed beer cans on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea and shot them down with a BB gun. Unless the locals and the government bring everyone’s attention to the problem and urgently act the once beautiful land will soon turn into a big waste yard.