Gurzuf («mountain valley») is a picturesque Crimean scenery which is situated 16 kilometers to the east of Yalta.
The first written reference about Gurzuf occurs in the writings of the Byzantine writer Procopius (500-562) who lived at the time of the emperor Justinian I (483-565). Procopius writes about the construction of a Byzantine fortress «in the district of Gurzovit».
In the 8th century, the fortress had grown in size and soon was surrounded by a second ring of fortification. Though the fortress was destroyed by Khazars, by the middle of the 12th century it was rebuilt again. The Arab geographer al-ldrisi was able to write about the «flourishing town» of Garzuni. The town was destroyed and changed hands so often that by the end of the 15th century it had become a small village.
At the beginning of the 19thcentury Gurzuf became the property of the Novorossiysk governor-general, the duke de Richelieu (1766-1822).
There was a beautiful house built for him in Gurzuf. It was the only two storeyed house on the Southern coast of the Crimea. In 1820 it was rented by a hero of the Patriotic War of 1812, General Nickolai Rayevsky.
The great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin spent three «the happiest» weeks spent Rayevsky’s house in Gurzuf. Alexander Pushkin adored the beauty of the Crimean nature and he wrote a cycle of poems about Taurida. Later he promised: «My spirit to Yurzuf will fly…»
After the duke de Richelieu’s death in 1822, the Gurzuf estate went to Count Mikhail Vorontsov (1782-18560 , and later, in 1840, Senator Funduklei bought it.
The picturesque scenery of the park is adorned with fountains, which bear beautiful names, like «The Nymph», «Rachel», «The First Love», and «The Muse».
The most impressive of them is «The Goddess of the Night» or «Night Fountain». In the center there is a figure of a woman bearing a torch. This is Nyukta, the Goddess of night.
Next to her you can see her companions — the God of Love Eros and the God of Sleep Morpheus. Atlantes and caryatids support the globe with the band of zodiac signs on which Nyukta stands.
Gurzuf is a famous resort. Its main attraction is the unique «young republic» of Artek, which history began in 1925. It grew from year to year and now it consists of several camps, the Cosmonauts’ house and a Robot house, children’s observatory and a pavilion for young naturalists.
The Salambo Villa is now the Konstantin Korovin Holiday Home for Artists. At the very sea on a quiet Chekhov street you can see a small house known as «Chekhov’s Little House.
The impressive landscape of Gurzuf has given rise to a number of legends One of them is about Mount Bear, or Ayu-Dag, another concerns the Adalary Rock. The beautiful nature of Gurzuf proves once again that this land is majestic.
The vestiges of hoary antiquity are seen side by side with tokens of modern times giving a special charm to Gurzuf.