On top of a Ukrainian adventure  


Express News Service

Vertigo literally makes you swallow. Perched 130-foot high on the edge of the Aurora cliff in the small spa town of Gaspra, Ukraine, The Swallow’s Nest Castle is a historic marvel and the pride of the Crimean Sea. Part of its facade seems to leap into the waters, with balconies and patios dangling off the edge. Precarious as though it may look, its structure is formidable.

The castle has survived the massive earthquake of 1927 that wreaked havoc in the surrounding region. The cliff did develop cracks, as a result of which, the castle was closed to visitors, though it faced only minor damage. Typical of Soviet bureaucracy and Iron Curtain xenophobia, it took 40 years for the castle to be renovated. In 1968, a large concrete plate was inserted into the cliff. An Italian restaurant opened its doors inside the castle. 

The first structure on the cliff was a cottage named Castle of Love, built by a Russian general in 1895; his name now lost to history. Back then, it was a summer home of Russian aristocracy. The cottage’s ownership passed to AK Tobin, a court doctor to the Russian Tsar. 

The Neo-Gothic structure you see today was constructed in 1911 on the directions of the castle’s new owner, Baron von Steingel, who gave the assignment to the  celebrated Russian architect Leonid Sherwood. Sherwood taught sculpture at the Academy of Arts in Petrograd. Stalin awarded him the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and was made a Distinguished Artist of the RSFSR. The castle has stayed the same since then. A few years later, Steingel left Russia and The Swallow’s Nest got a new owner, a tradeswoman from Moscow. 

Today, it is an incubating space for the creative arts and a popular site for exhibitions. The castle’s stunning architecture and location made it the crowning glory of many Soviet films, including Mister Blot’s Academy, Mio in the Land of Faraway, and Desyat Negrityat. One swallow does not make a summer, but if the coronavirus allows, tourists will make it to Ukraine next summer.

Precarious as it may look, the structure is formidable. It survived the earthquake of 1927 that wreaked havoc in the region. 

In the vicinity: ALUPKA

The Vorontsov Palace 
This architectural hybrid stands in the small town of Alupka and is the oldest and largest palace in Crimea. Built for the Russian Prince Mikhail S emyonovich Vorontsov as a lavish summer home between 1828 and 1848, nine million silver rubles were spent on its construction.

Museum of the Twice Hero of the Soviet Union Amet-khan Sultan It is an ode to the test pilot and native of Alupka, Amet-khan Sultan. Inside you will find a treasure trove of archival documents, photographs and his personal belongings.

Roomi Athno Café You can easily miss this little café but then you will also miss one of the best rye and malt bread in the city. So keep an eye out for Roomi Athno Café.

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