Perched on the edge of the Crimean Sea is not perhaps where one would look to find a Neo-Gothic castle. However, the Swallow’s Nest proves the exception to the rule. Constructed on the top of the Aurora cliff overlooking the sea, outside of the town of Gaspra, it stands as a curious remnant of Imperial Russia.
The original structure on the property was a small wooden cottage that was constructed at the behest of a Russian General around 1895. However, several years later the cottage was placed in the ownership of A.K. Tobin, a physician at the Imperial Court and doctor to the Tsar.
The cottage again changed hands, this time being purchased by Baron von Stiengel who demolished the original cottage and replaced it with the Neo-Gothic manor that still stands to this day. Although it is classified architecturally as a castle, it is not a castle in the truest sense of the word. It was not built to house and protect its occupants, with the turrets and battlements being more for show than any practical application.
When one first looks at the Swallow’s Nest it is hard not to marvel at the simple physics of the structure. It is built literally on the edge of the cliff with parts of the balconies and patios actually extending beyond the rock face, jutting into thin air. The whole building looks as though it could at a moment’s notice topple over into the Crimean Sea. This being said, the Swallow’s Nest has survived a large earthquake (6-7 on the Richter scale) that struck the region in 1927. Although the building itself was not badly damaged the underlying rock was. The cliff itself developed a large vertical crack as a result of the quake and the Swallow’s Nest was closed for more than four decades because it was deemed structurally unsafe.
In 1968, renovations began on the building in an attempt to make it habitable—or at least visitable. Engineers inserted a large concrete plate into the cliff that helped shore up the crack that was left by the quake. In 1975 an Italian restaurant opened in the castle and has operated on its premises ever since. Because of its inspiring location the castle was used in the exterior shots of multiple Soviet films.