Sunday, September 16, 2012
Swallows Nest Sea Castle, Crimean Peninsula, Ukraine
The Swallow's Nest (Ukrainian: Ластівчине гніздо, Lastivchyne hnizdo) is a decorative castle near Yalta on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. It was built between 1911 and 1912 in Gaspra, on top of 40-metre (130 ft) high Aurora Cliff, to a Neo-Gothic design by the Russian architect Leonid Sherwood. The castle overlooks the Cape of Ai-Todor of the Black Sea and is located near the remnants of the Roman castrum of Charax. Swallow's Nest is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Crimea, becoming the symbol of Crimea's southern coastline.
Owing to its important status as the symbol of the Crimea's southern coast, the Swallow's Nest was featured in several Soviet films. It was used as the setting of Desyat Negrityat, the 1987 Soviet screen version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. The building was also featured in the 1983 Soviet-Polish children's film Mister Blot's Academy as well as in Mio in the Land of Faraway, a 1987 joint production by Swedish, Norwegian, and Soviet film companies.
The first building on the Aurora Cliff was constructed for a Russian general circa 1895. The first structure he built was a wooden cottage romantically named the "Castle of Love." Later on, the ownership of the cottage passed to A. K. Tobin, a court doctor to the Russian Tsar.
In 1911, Baron von Steingel, a Baltic German noble who had made a fortune extracting oil in Baku, acquired the timber cottage and within a year had it replaced with the current building. The Scots Baronial and Moorish Revival styles had been introduced in the Crimea in the 1820s by Edward Blore, the architect of the Vorontsov Palace (1828-46). Compared to the Alupka and Koreiz palaces, the Swallow's Nest is closer in style to various German architectural follies, such as the Neuschwanstein Castle, Babelsberg Palace, and Stolzenfels Castle, although its precarious seaside setting on the cliffs draws parallels with the Belém Tower in Portugal, or Miramare Castle on the Gulf of Trieste outside Trieste, Italy.
In 1914, von Steingel sold the building to P. G. Shelaputin to be used as a restaurant. For a short time after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the building was used only as a tourist attraction. In 1927, Swallow's Nest survived a serious earthquake rated at 6 to 7 on the Richter scale. The building was not damaged aside for some small decorative items that were thrown into the sea along with a small portion of the cliff. However, the cliff itself developed a huge crack. In the 1930s, the building was used by a reading club of the nearby "Zhemchuzhina" (Pearl) resort, however it was closed shortly thereafter as a safety precaution due to the damage it suffered in the quake, remaining closed for the next 40 years.
Renovation and restoration on the building was started only in 1968. The project involved the restoration of a small portion of the castle and the addition of a monolithic console concrete plate to strengthen the cliff.Since 1975, an Italian restaurant has operated within the building. In 2011, the Swallow's Nest was closed for three months due to a complete restoration effort estimated at 1,200,000 hryvnias ($150,000 USD).