Crimea: August 2013.

This is me, at the Swallow's Nest, the castle on the rock, near Yalta, Crimea, August 2013.

This is me, at the Swallow’s Nest, the castle on the rock, near Yalta, Crimea, August 2013

When I drink my weekend coffee, I always select a different mug from my collection, from the various places I’ve been to on my travels. Yesterday, I picked one from the spectacular castle in Yalta, Crimea, the Swallow’s Nest, perched on a rock above the sea. “Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine” is written around the top of the mug, and I’m left wondering whether that will become a collector’s item.

The Swallow's Nest, near Yalta, Crimea.

The Swallow’s Nest, near Yalta, Crimea.

At the time of writing, the situation in Crimea is increasingly tense, with the UK’s Foreign Office advising all British nationals to leave. I consider myself lucky to have managed to see this beautiful part of the world in August 2013. Crimea has a striking combination of sea and mountains. Continue reading

Crimean Journey, Part 2: Alupka Palace, Mountains and the Swallow’s Nest

The park in Alupka, which I walked through to reach the palace.

The park in Alupka, which I walked through to reach the palace.

Alupka Palace, commissioned by the anglophile Count Vorontsov in the nineteenth century, has many features which resemble an English country house. Churchill, and the British delegation must have felt at home here at the wartime conference in February 1945.

Alupka Palace, commissioned by the anglophile Count Vorontsov in the nineteenth century, has many features which resemble an English country house. Churchill, and the British delegation must have felt at home here during the wartime conference in February 1945.

After a night in the guesthouse, I headed out early to try to find a place for breakfast, and had a strange meal of pastries in a self service restaurant. After breakfast, I made my way fairly easily downhill, along a little path, to the Alupka Palace, built in the nineteenth century. My Russian phrase book again proved vital, as I was able to ask a couple of times whether I was heading in the right direction for the dvaryets (palace).

My main interest in the palace was that this is where Churchill and the British delegation stayed, during the February 1945 Yalta conference. Continue reading

Crimean Journey Part 3: Yalta Conference, the Romanovs and the Church on the Rock

Livadia Palace, built in 1911 for the Romanovs and the location for the February 1945 Yalta Conference.

Livadia Palace, built in 1911 for the Romanovs and the location for the February 1945 Yalta Conference.

The gardens of Livadia Palace.

The gardens of Livadia Palace.

My third day in Crimea began with a ride on the crowded minibus 115, which took me from near to my guesthouse in Alupka to the Livadia Palace. The palace was built for Tsar Nicholas II as the Russian royal family’s summer residence and completed in 1911. The royal family loved Crimea and appreciated its fresh air. The palace was also the setting for the February 1945 wartime conference, Continue reading

Crimean Journey Part 4: Sevastopol and the Charge of the Light Brigade

The Charge of the Light Brigade took place in this valley. Lord Raghan watched the disaster unfold from here.

The Charge of the Light Brigade took place in this valley. Lord Raghan watched the disaster unfold from here.

Sevastopol's sea front.

Sevastopol’s sea front.

My fourth day in Crimea began again at the bus stop for the 115 minibus, only this time I was heading in the opposite direction, away from Yalta. With some help from the English speaking owner of the guesthouse, who I had spoken to on the phone, I had found a way to get to Sevastopol, avoiding going into Yalta and back again. Continue reading

Villas of the Brenta

Villa Foscari, Malcontenta

Villa Foscari, Malcontenta

Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, many of Venice’s wealthy families acquired land on the banks of the river Brenta, which flows from Trentino and joins the sea near to the Venetian lagoon. There are around a hundred villas, a few of which are open to the public.

Two of the most impressive are Palladio’s Villa Foscari at Malcontenta, and the large eighteenth century Villa Pisani at Stra. Continue reading

Palladio’s Vicenza

Palladio's Basilica in Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza

Palladio’s Basilica in Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza

The tower in Piazza dei Signori

The tower in Piazza dei Signori

Vicenza appeals from the moment you step off the train. When you walk out of the station, your first experience is to cross a pleasant green park which separates the station from the historic centre. I arrived in the early evening, and checked into Hotel Campo Marzio (www.campomarzio.com ), just across the park about 5- 10 minutes walk from the station, and about 3 minutes walk from the start of Corso Palladio, the main road which runs through the historic centre. Continue reading

Visiting the Palladio villas around Vicenza

La Rotonda

La Rotonda

It’s good to plan on being in Vicenza on a Saturday or a Wednesday between mid March and the end of November, because then you can visit the interior of both the main Palladio villas on the outskirts of Vicenza- Valmarana and La Rotonda, With careful planning, the villas can be combined with the Basilica of Monte Berico. Continue reading