CRIMEA, Day 8: Yalta and Swallow’s Nest

Swallow's Nest panoramaYalta, a city on the southern coast of the Crimean peninsula, is the resort capital of the region. For some two hundred years it has been referred to as the Nice of the Black Sea/ Russia/ Soviet Union, as thousands of summer vacationers descended on it every year from all over Russia/ USSR/ former USSR and abroad.

Though it is first and foremost a seaside holiday destination, Yalta is a full-blown, year-round city, with a population of nearly 80 thousand. It has hundreds of hotels and restaurants, dozens of stores and nightclubs, plus many more entertainment options including a zoo (run by the same awesome oligarch as this place) and a movie theater playing Hollywood’s latest. Menus are duplicated in surprisingly accurate, colloquial English. Banks accept foreign Visa and MasterCard, currency exchange bureaus are aplenty, and there is even a McDonald’s, the ultimate marker of a civilized society!

Yalta is located smack in the middle of a lot of Crimea’s natural and cultural attractions, including Vorontsov, Livadiya and Massandra palaces, Nikitsky Botanical Gardens, and the Ai-Petri mountain and Big Canyon. Yalta is an optimal place to stay for a foreigner who wants to explore Crimea but is not ready to “go native” or veer too far off the beaten path. Expect all the amenities of a modern resort community, but also bigger crowds, somewhat higher prices, and sea waters crisscrossed by hundreds of tour boats a day. It’s very lively but far less intimate and rustic than something you will find moving east along the coast.

Yalta is also home to the sight that over the last hundred years has become Crimea’s international calling card: the whimsical, Neo-Gothic Swallow’s Nest Castle. Aptly named for its location atop the Aurora Cliff, rising high above the Black Sea, this summer house was conceived by Baron von Steingel, a German oil magnate. It was subsequently sold to a wealthy Russian widow, turned into a restaurant, then into a museum and a reading house during the Soviet era, and now it is a restaurant once again. In the process it became Crimea’s best-recognized landmark — and it is certainly a sight to behold.

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39 thoughts on “CRIMEA, Day 8: Yalta and Swallow’s Nest

  1. Emmi,come here and begin to cry about Russian occupation,starving Crimeans and empty beaches.My parents returned from Crimea week ago and they said that it is all OK there.The tourists continue visit Crimea even from Ukraine.Of course there are not so many of them like before(3 times fewer) but the locals say that Russian tourists are still continue to arrive.In the next season there will be even more Russian and Belorussian tourists.Moreover Russian tourists are more profitable for locals than Ukrainian ones because the life standards in Ukraine are lower and Ukrainian tourists bring less money to republic.

    • Come on, Oleg, let’s play nice.
      Yeah, I was there in pre-season and it was still a lot of people. Esp at the big sites and places like Yalta. It made me actually kind of afraid to visit during peak season, let alone peak seasons of the Past, when you’d get a lot of Ukrainian tourists. Not AFRAID-afraid, but I like my space and solitude and being one of only a couple of people at a cafe.

    • You know, I was gonna melt and blush, but then I saw the source of the comment 😉 Dont think I dont know what you’re up to!

      PS – yes all 18 days plus 4 more chapters on general travel observations and recommendations

      PPS – eh…flattery will get you if not everywhere, then pretty far 😉

        • This isnt a ‘conversion’ tactic? 🙂
          Wow, I am flattered, thank you.
          I was going to make a decent push for professional travel publication, then work got super-insane, but luckily I do a lot of writing for that, so it’s creatively fulfilling.
          But again, thank you 🙂

  2. Pingback: CRIMEA, Day 9: Rosé and Roses | Home & Away

  3. Yalta sound wonderful! Greetings from egypt – we have a mcD but forget all the other stuff – alexandria is the only city that looks like a real city to foreigners when they come here. Me too, when I start going insane, my husband takes me to the real shopping mall in alexandria and feeds me mcD’s frenchfries and chocolate shake till I agree to stay in egypt a few more days… I think I’m a litre low on chocolate shake right now, come to think of it! Anyway, nice to meet you via Lady of the cakes! ;^)

  4. I like the castle on the cliff, but that suspension carrier thing looks scary. You might get amazing shots, but what happens if the cable breaks….

    • You know, I was too exhausted to climb 300 stairs to it, but it probably would be pretty thrilling. I has to settle for hundreds of postcard views instead 🙂

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