Thursday, September 6, 2007

Miniature Crimean Castle


"Swallow's Nest" - Little-known Romantic Destination

Something inherently romantic speaks to our hearts when we see a castle looking out to the sea, from a high cliff among imposing coastal mountains. If you remove the hustle of a resort town around it, the place becomes infused with fantasy and magic, especially in the glow of a setting sun.

(images credit: Andrei Yarkov)

(images credit: Andrei Yarkov)

Are we talking Cote D'Azur, or Italy's Liguria coast here? Amazingly, not in this case. "The castle" is located in the most unlikely of all places - in Ukraine (in Gaspra, near Yalta). Crimea Island (or rather a peninsula) escaped coverage in the Western media for many years, mostly due to the mess created by the communist's rule. When the German Baron von Steinheil saw the place in 1911, however, he immediately ordered his architect to design a structure worthy of Neuschwanstein Castle and put it on the prominent Aurora cliff, overlooking the cape of Ai-Todor. It also worth mentioning that originally on this place stood a single wooden hut, apty named "The House of Love".

(images credit: Andrei Yarkov)

"Lastochkino Gnezdo" (The Swallow's Nest, read Wiki's artice) is located close to Yalta and has been closed to general public after surviving a large earthquake in 1927 (the cliff has developed a crack beneath it). However in recent years it's been fully restored and now houses an Italian Restaurant (best location for such a business, I might add, see website). I've been on a tour to this place but never went inside, so I can not really tell you about the decor: this destination is definitely on my list to visit again in the coming years.

(image credit: Erwin Friesen)

Perhaps today this castle does not look as enchanting as in 1900s due to famously shabby Ukranian development all around it. It's better than in other places, though, because the area is well-known as a resort destination, plus you can not take away spectacular natural vistas, no matter how hard you try. Here is a picture of the "Sail Rock" nearby:

(images credit: Andrei Yarkov)

If you are in the hiking mood, you can explore surrounding paths among the cliffs (the area is limited, however, due to resort development). Better yet hop on one of these cute water taxis and head over to Nikitsk Botanical Gardens (possible subject of another post) or to the splendid parks of Gurzuf seaside village.

(image credit: Max Monahov)

You can still watch sunsets over the Black Sea, sipping Italian wine in an exquisitely decorated dining room - inside a diminutive magical castle perched on a cliff. What else could you possibly want? Maybe a more attentive service, perhaps, bearing in mind that it's still a post-Soviet country.

(images credit: Andrei Yarkov)
Additional sources: Ochevidec


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