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It was just given back to the public recently, but Aimone, my son-in-law, had long known it as a Romanesque ruin through which he enjoyed taking strolls, as the palace is surrounded by a sumptuous park with water features, an island and a dock marked by marble sphinxes. In fact, the tsarina Catherine II the Great had wanted a residence in the vicinity of Moscow. She had elected a Russian architect that had imagined a style like no other. One can find in it byzantine and Tudor influences, but also a bit of Hansel and Gretel’s house. It could have been a palace made of gingerbread or other sweets. It was never finished, never inhabited, long abandoned.

Recently, no one really knows why, it was completed; it was restored with an unprecedented lavishness: marble, elevators, golden bronzes. After an odd entrance through a glass cage, one descends to a basement as sumptuous as the metro of Moscow, crosses kilometres before taking a tiny elevator – although there are four enormous staircases – and emerges in opulent gold and white rooms. What municipality had that much money to practically throw outside and to redo with such luxury this abandoned dwelling? Regardless, it has quite its charm, and the park behind the wall from which forests of skyscrapers stick out in the distance is rather seducing and inviting for a Romanesque promenade.

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by  Prince Michael of Greece