The Swallow’s Nest

  • The Swallow’s Nest
  • The Swallow’s Nest is a landmark and historical monument located on a vertically steep 131 ft. high Aurora Cliff of Cape Ay-Todor in townlet of Gaspra. The edifice resembles a medieval chivalrous castle. The Swallow’s Nest became a symbol of the Crimean Southern Coast.

The Swallow’s Nest is a very famous Crimean landmark and historical monument, it is situated on the top of a steep 131 ft. high Aurora Cliff on Cape Ay-Todor in a resort townlet of Gaspra. In its appearance, the Swallow’s Nest resembles a medieval knight castle. Similar buildings can be found near Italian city Trieste – namely, the Miramare Castle and the Belem Tower. Today the Swallow’s Nest is symbolically associated with the Crimean Peninsula and is considered its main emblem.

From there a magnificent view of Yalta and Yalta Bay unveils, as well as a picturesque sight of Mount Ayu-Dag (the famous Medved Gora) and rock Parus (literary: Sail). 

The present Swallow’s Nest castle appeared on a rock above water waves almost a hundred years ago, and in ancient times there stood an antique temple. Romans replaced the Greek colonists and founded a fortress named Charax in western part of the cliff, and the rock itself was romantically named in honor of Greek goddess of dawns Aurora. In 8th – 10th centuries there was an active Greek Orthodox St. Theodore Monastery, which gave name to the cape – ‘Ay-Todor’ is translated as ‘Saint Theodor’. 

The first building constructed on the cape was made of wood and was erected after Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 for a retired Russian general. This building remained in history in its initial appearance on canvases of outstanding artists: Ivan Aivazovsky, Lev Lagorio, Alexey Bogolyubov.

Later this beautiful dacha became a property of A.Tobin, and after his death his widow sold this plot of land to a Moscow merchant-woman Rakhmanina. Sentimental new owner called her re-built estate a fairy-tale refuge of love. But the building still remained famous under its previous name – the Swallow’s Nest.  

Its today’s appearance was obtained by the Swallow’s Nest thanks to Baron von Steingel, a German oilman. He bought the building from merchant Rakhmanina in 1911. Most probably, Baron missed his motherland Germany when he was extracting Baku oil in Russia, so he decided to leave a memory in Crimea about medieval knight castles. In 1912 the wooden dacha atop Aurora Cliff was taken down and a beautiful romantic castle appeared instead of it, which resembles medieval fortresses on banks of Rhine river. The design was created and the put into life by Leonid Sherwood, son of a famous architect Vladimir Sherwood, author of State Historical Museum in Moscow’s Red Square.

An original Gothic castle is located on a foundation which is 32 ft. wide and 64 ft. long, internal rooms are located in series and in a space-saving way in a two-story tower. A garden which used to be near the edifice collapsed down into the sea after one of the earthquakes. 

At the beginning of the First World War a restaurant was opened in the castle. It was opened by merchant Pavel Shelaputin, a new owner of the castle. Some time later he died, and the restaurant was closed. Instead it a reading hall of a local resort was opened here. Due to the emergency condition of the building, it was considered dangerous for life, so the reading hall was soon closed.

In 1927 the castle survived a very strong earthquake which was estimated as 6-7 points of Richter scale. It was that very earthquake which prevented Ostap Bender from getting a chair with diamonds of madam Petukhova. The Swallow’s Nest was lucky – only its acute spires and a part of the rock went down to the sea. The Swallow’s Nest was considered very dangerous and thus was closed for a long time – until 1968. Yalta constructors under command of architect Tatiev started reconstruction of the castle. Its foundation was reinforced with a ferroconcrete slab and the cracks were filled with concrete.

By early 1970s the edifice was reconstructed and restored, after that the Swallow’s Nest was officially recognized as landmark.

Episodes of “The Amphibian Man”, a 1962 Soviet science fiction movie, were shot here. Ichtyandr or Sea Devil, as he was also called in the movie, had his underwater home right below Aurora Cliff. 

Intriguing Soviet movie ‘Desyat Negrityat’ (literary: Ten negro boys), a Stanislav Govorukhin’s screen version of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, was shot near the Swallow’s Nest. 

In 2008 the Swallow’s Nest became a winner of a contest “7 Miracles of Yalta”.

The Grater Yalta, townlet of Gaspra.


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