Ласточкино гнездо, Крым, Украина

Swallow's Nest (Ukrainian: Ластівчине гніздо, translit. Lastivchýne hnizdó; Russian: Ласточкино гнездо, translit. Lástochkino gnezdó; Crimean Tatar: Qarılğaç yuvası) is a decorative castle near Yalta on the Crimean shore in southern Ukraine. It was built between 1911 and 1912 near 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 Ai-Todor cape 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.

The original wooden Swallow's Nest.

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 "Love Castle." 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 by the current building. The Scottish baronial and Neo-Moorish styles had been introduced in the Crimea in the 1820s byEdward Blore, the architect of the Alupka Palace (1828-46). Compared to Alupka and Koreiz, Swallow's Nest is closer in style to German architectural follies, such as Neuschwanstein, Babelsberg, and Stolzenfels, although its precarious setting on the cliffs by the sea-side may also suggest the Belém Tower.

In 1914, von Steinheil sold the building to P. G. Shelaputin to be used as a restaurant. For a short time after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the building was used only as a tourist attraction. In the 1930s, the building was used by a reading club of the nearby Zhemchuzhina ("Pearl") resort.

In 1927, Swallow's Nest survived a serious earthquake rated at 6 to 7 on the Richter scale. The building was not damaged, except 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. For a long time, Swallow's Nest was closed to the public due to the damage it suffered in that quake. The building would remain closed for the next forty years.

Overlooking the cape of Ai–Todor, the romantic Swallow's Nest castle is situated on top of a 40-metre (130 ft) high Aurora Cliff.

Renovation and restoration on the building was started in only 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. Swallow's Nest was also featured in several Soviet films. It was used as the setting of Desyat Negrityat, the Soviet screen version of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. The Swallow's Nest Castle and the surrounding landmarks such as the Massandra palace were also shortly featured in a Jackie Chan film.


The building is compact in size (20 m long by 10 m wide; 65 ft by 33 ft). Its original design envisioned a foyer, guest room, stairway to the tower, and two bedrooms on two different levels within the tower. The interior of the guest room is decorated with wooden panels; the walls of the rest of the rooms are stuccoed and painted. An observation deck rings the building, providing a view of the sea, and Yalta's distant shoreline.


FI-1099187 146- aя открыткa

Country: Finland

Distance: 560 km

Travel time:  5 days


PL-216950 145- aя открыткa

Country: Poland

Distance: 352 km

Travel time:  4 days


DE-922488 144- aя открыткa

Country: Germany

Distance: 1,096 km

Travel time:  5 days

On postcard: Hamburg – lights and colors of the night


NL-653865 143- aя открыткa

Country: Holland

Distance: 1,228 km

Travel time:  5 days


CN-371671 142- aя открыткa

Country: China

Distance: 8,148 km

Travel time:  21 days

On postcard: Lion Grove Garden

The Lion Grove Garden (simplified Chinese: 狮子林园; pinyin: Shī Zǐ Lín Yuán) located at 23 Yuanlin Road Suzhou City, of Jiangsu Province of China (平江区园林路23号) is famous for the large and labyrinthine grotto of taihu rock at the garden's center. The name of the garden derives from the shape of these rocks which are said to resemble lions. It is recognized with other classical Suzhou gardens as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Lion Grove Garden was built in 1342 CE during the Yuan Dynasty by a Zen Buddhist monk, Wen Tianru in memory of his teacher Abbot Zhongfeng. At that time the garden was part of Bodi Orthodox Monastery (Pinyn: Puti Zhengzong). The name of the garden refers to the lion shaped Tahihu rocks, which in turn were built as reference to lion symbolism in the Lion's Roar Sutra. The name also refers to Lion Peak of Mount Tianmu in County of Zhejiang Province, where Abbot Zhongfeng attained Nirvana. At this time the garden was 6,670 m2 and covered in rock and bamboo. After Tianru's death the garden fell into disrepair, but in 1589 another Buddhist monk, Mingxing, rebuilt the garden. The magistrate (Chinese: 知縣; Pinyin: zhixian) of Hengzhou bought the garden, and his son Huang Xi rebuilt the garden in 1771. At this time the garden name was changed to the Garden of Five Pines. Starting in 1850 the garden fell into disrepair. In 1917 Bei Runsheng purchased the garden and finished the restoration in 1926. Many buildings and rocks date from this restoration. In 1949 the Bei family donated the garden to the PRC, who opened it to the public in 1954.

The garden's design attracted the attention of notable visitors such as the painter Ni Zan in 1373 CE, who created Picture Scroll of Lion Grove painting. In 1703 CE Emperor Kangxi visited the garden and was followed in 1765 by Emperor Qianlong visited the garden and left the personally inscribed True Delight tablet as gift. He also had a copy of the garden made in the Changchun garden of the Summer Palace and Chengde Mountain Resort.

The 1.1 ha garden is divided into two main parts, a housing complex and rockery around a central pond. In addition to the 22 buildings the garden also houses: 25 tablets, 71 stelae, 5 carved wooden screens, and 13 ancient specimen trees, some dating back to the Yuan dynasty. The garden is most famous for its elaborate grotto of Taihu stone. This 1154 m2 grotto contains a maze of 9 paths winding through 21 caves across 3 levels. The pond divides the grotto into east and west sections. The formal entrance to the western section is the called the Eight Diagram Tactics located across the Jade Mirror Bridge from the Pointing at Cypress Hall. The taihu stone peaks are located atop this grotto. Most famous is the Lion Peak surrounded by four other stones, Han Hui, Xuan Yu, Tu Yue, and Ang Xiao, which collectively form the Famous Five Peaks. There is a folktale about two immortals, Iron-Crutch Li and Lü Dongbin who wandered into the maze of the Lion Grove and being unable to exit settled in a cave to play chess.


FI-1096569 141- aя открыткa

Country: Finland

Distance: 545 km

Travel time:  3 days


DE-918019 140- aя открыткa

Country: Germany

Distance: 1,017 km

Travel time:  4 days

On postcard: Marburg

Marburg is a city in the state of Hessen, Germany, on the River Lahn. It is the main town of the Marburg-Biedenkopf district and its population, as of March 2010, was 79,911.

Founding and early history

Like many settlements, Marburg developed at the crossroads of two important early medieval highways: the trade route linking Cologne and Prague and the trade route from the North Sea to the Alps and on to Italy, the former crossing the river Lahn here. The settlement was protected and customs were raised by a small castle built during the 9th or 10th century by the Giso. Marburg has been a town since 1140, as proven by coins. From the Gisos, it fell around that time to the Landgraves of Thuringia, residing on the Wartburg above Eisenach.

St. Elisabeth

In 1228 the widowed princess-langravine of Thuringia, Elisabeth, chose Marburg as her dowager seat, as she did not get along well with her brother-in-law, the new Landgrave. The countess dedicated her life to the sick and would become after her early death in 1231, aged 24, one of the most eminent female saints, St. Elisabeth of Hungary. She was canonized in 1235.

Capital of Hesse

In 1264, St Elizabeth's daughter Sophie of Brabant, succeeded in winning the Landgraviate of Hesse, hitherto connected to Thuringia, for her son Henry. Marburg (alongside Kassel) was one of the capitals of Hesse from that time until about 1540. Following the first division of the landgraviate, it was the capital of Marburg from 1485 to 1500 and again between 1567 and 1605. Hesse was one of the more powerful second-tier principalities in Germany. Its "old enemy" was the Archbishopric of Mainz, one of the  Prince-electors, who competed with Hesse in many wars and conflicts for coveted territory, stretching over several centuries.

After 1605, Marburg became just another provincial town, known mostly for its university. It became a virtual backwater for two centuries after the Thirty Years' War, 1618–1648, when it was fought over by Hessen-Darmstadt and Hessen-Kassel (or Hessen-Cassel). The Hessian territory around Marburg lost more than two thirds of its population, which was more than in any later wars (including World War I and World War II) combined.


Marburg is the seat of the oldest protestant university in the world, the University of Marburg (Philipps-Universität-Marburg), founded in 1527. It is one of the six classical "university villages" in Germany, the other five being Freiburg, Göttingen, Heidelberg, and Tübingen, as well as the city of Gießen, which is located 30 km south of Marburg.

In 1529, Philipp I of Hesse arranged the Marburg Colloquy, to propitiate Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli.


Owing to its neglect during the entire 18th century Marburg – like Rye or Chartres – survived as a relatively intact Gothic town, simply because there was no money spent on any new architecture or expansion. When Romanticism became the dominant cultural and artistic paradigm in Germany, Marburg became interesting once again, and many of the leaders of the movement lived, taught, or studied in Marburg. They formed a circle of friends that was of great importance, especially in literature, philology, folklore, and law. The group included Friedrich Karl von Savigny, the most important jurist of his day and father of the Roman Law adaptation in Germany; the poets, writers, and social activists Achim von Arnim, Clemens Brentano, and especially the latter's sister and former's later wife, Bettina von Arnim. Most famous internationally, however, were the Brothers Grimm, who collected many of their fairy tales here – Rapunzel's Tower stands in Amönau near Marburg, and across the Lahn hills, in the area called Schwalm, little girls' costumes included a red hood.

It has to be said, however, that this circle had disappeared from Marburg by the 1820s, and for another 45 years, Marburg became a Hessian backwater again.

Prussian town

In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the reactionary Prince-elector of Hesse had backed Austria; Prussia won, and invaded (without any bloodshed) and annexed Hesse-Kassel (as well as Hanover, the City of Frankfurt, and other territories) north of the Main river, while likewise the pro-Austrian Hesse-Darmstadt remained independent. For Marburg, this turn of events was very positive, because Prussia decided to make Marburg its main administrative centre in this part of the new province Hesse-Nassau and to turn the University of Marburg into the regional academic centre. Thus, Marburg's rise as an administrative and university city began; as the Prussian university system was one of the best in the world at the time, Marburg attracted many respected scholars. However, there was hardly any industry to speak of, so students, professors, and civil servants – who generally had enough but not much money and paid very little in taxes – dominated the town, which tended to be very conservative.

20th century

Franz von Papen, vice-chancellor of Germany in 1934, delivered an anti-Nazi speech at the University of Marburg on 17 June. This contributed to several of von Papen's staff being murdered by the Nazis.

From 1942 to 1945, the whole city of Marburg was turned into a hospital with schools and government buildings turned into wards to augment the existing hospitals. By the spring of 1945, there were over 20,000 patients – mostly wounded German soldiers. As a result of its being designated a hospital city, there was not much damage from bombings except along the railroad tracks.

In 1945, Marburg became President and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg's final resting place. His grave is in theElisabethkirche. He is also an honorary citizen of the town.

Marburg is also now home to one of the most progressive schools for the blind in the world. Street crossings are equipped with "walk" and "don't walk" signs that also emit sounds enabling the blind to know what the signs are "saying".

Main sights

Architecturally Marburg is famous both for its medieval churches and for its castle. In particular the Elisabethkirche one of the two or three first purely Gothic churches north of the Alps outside of France is an archetype of Gothic architecture in Germany.

More important, however, is Marburg's city as such, an unspoilt, spire-dominated, castle-crowned Gothic/Renaissance city on a hill, intact because Marburg was an extreme backwater between 1600 and 1850. Unlike, for example, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Marburg regained some of its importance in later centuries, so it is not a "museum village" but rather a student-dominated university town.

Much of the physical attractiveness of Marburg today is the legacy of the legendary Lord Mayor Dr. Hanno Drechsler (in office 1970-1992), who promoted urban renewal and the restoration, for the first time, by object and not by area; i.e., areas were not pulled down but rather buildings restored. Thus, at a time when other cities were still pulling down medieval quarters, Marburg already protected its unique heritage. Marburg also had one of the first pedestrian zones in Germany. Marburg's Altstadtsanierung (since 1972) has received many awards and prizes.


NL-648304 139- aя открыткa

Country: Holland

Distance: 972 km

Travel time:  6 days


RU-423239 138- aя открыткa

Country: Russia

Distance: 1,729 km

Travel time:  10 days


PL-214335 137- aя открыткa

Country: Poland

Distance: 580 km

Travel time:  4 days

On postcard: Dwarfs of Wrocław

Wrocław’s dwarfs is the name given to the charming small figurines that first appeared in the streets of Wrocław in 2001. Since then, their numbers have been continually growing, and today they are undoubtedly one of the greatest tourist attractions of the city. Those who would like to combine sight-seeing in Wroclaw with tracking the dwarfs, are offered special brochures and guided tours.

The number of dwarfs in the city is not finite, with new ones appearing in the streets each year, whilst others are stolen or vandalized despite being protected by sophisticated security devices.

In 2001, to commemorate the Orange Alternative movement, a figurine of a dwarf: the movement’s symbol, was officially placed on Świdnicka Street, where the group’s happenings used to take place. The dwarf was founded by Agora (the publisher of Gazeta Wyborcza: a Polish broad sheet). It is probably one of the few cases in the world where such a subversive group has been honoured by the city authorities, who commissioned the placing of a statue of a dwarf in the city centre. In 2003, the Mayor of Wrocław, in an attempt to continue the new tradition, unveiled a small plaque on the door of The Dwarfs’ Museum. It can be found at the height of human knees on the wall of a historic tenement called: Jaś, which is situated between the Market Square and St. Elizabeth’s Church.

The figures of the dwarfs, which are smaller than the Orange Alternative monument on Świdnicka Street, were placed in different parts of the city. The first five: designed by Tomasz Moczek, a graduate of The Academy of Art and Design in Wrocław, were placed in August 2005. These were the Fencer near the University of Wrocław, the Butcher in Stare Jatki arcade, two Sisyphuses on Świdnicka Street and the Odra-Washer-Dwarf, near Piaskowy Bridge. The name of the last dwarf is related to Pracze Odrzańskie: an estate on the outskirts of the city. Since that time, the number of figures has continued growing, predominantly in the Old Town.

A ceremony unveiling two other dwarfs took place on the day of June 18th, 2008. They were situated on Świdnicka Street, next to W-skers: a dwarf in a wheel chair. The figures represent two disabled dwarfs: the Deaf-mute and the Blind. They are part of the Wrocław Without Barriers campaign, which aims at drawing attention to handicapped people living in Wroclaw. Five days later, at the Hematology and Pediatric Oncology Clinic in Wrocław, another dwarf was erected. It was to be the third female dwarf: Marzenka, whose design was based on the logo of the Mam marzenie charity.


DE-908682 136- aя открыткa

Country: Germany

Distance: 1,071 km

Travel time:  9 days

On postcard: Rheinturm, Düsseldorf

The Rheinturm is a 240.5 metre high concrete telecommunications tower in Düsseldorf, capital of the federal state (Bundesland) of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Construction commenced in 1979 and finished in 1981. The Rheinturm carries aerials for directional radio, FM and TV transmitters. It stands 174.5 metres high and houses a revolving restaurant and an observation deck at a height of 170 metres. It is the tallest building in Düsseldorf.

The Rheinturm was inaugurated on December 1, 1981. It contains 7,500 cubic metres of concrete and weighs 22,500 tons. Before October 15, 2004, when an aerial antenna for DVB-T was mounted, it was 234.2 metres high.

The observation deck is open to public, daily from 10:00 – 23:30. As a special attraction, there is a light sculpture on its shaft which works as a clock. This sculpture was designed by Horst H. Baumann and is called Lichtzeitpegel (light time level). The light sculpture on the Rheinturm is the biggest digital clock in the world.


RU-407521 135- aя открыткa

Country: Russia

Distance: 1,066 km

Travel time:  15 days


NL-634290 134- aя открыткa

Country: Holland

Distance: 1,092 km

Travel time:  10 days


FI-1084380 133- aя открыткa

Country: Finland

Distance: 1,225 km

Travel time:  6 days


DE-902195 132- aя открыткa

Country: Germany

Distance: 1,101 km

Travel time:  6 days

On postcard: Aldabra giant tortoise

The Aldabra giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea), from the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, is one of the largest tortoises in the world. This species is widely referred to as Aldabrachelys gigantea but has also been placed in the genus Dipsochelys as Dipsochelys dussumieri.

Anatomy and morphology

The carapace is a brown or tan color with a high domed shape. It has stocky, heavily scaled legs to support its heavy body. The neck of the Aldabra giant tortoise is very long, even for its great size, which helps the animal to exploit tree branches up to a meter from the ground as a food source.

Similar in size to the famous Galápagos giant tortoise, its carapace averages 120 centimetres (47 in) in length. The average weight of a male is around 250 kilograms (550 lb), but one male at the Fort Worth Zoological Park weighs over 360.25 kilograms (794.2 lb). Females are generally smaller than males, with average specimens measuring 90 centimetres (35 in) in length and weighing 150 kilograms (330 lb).

Range and distribution

The main population of the Aldabra giant tortoise resides on the islands of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. The atoll has been protected from human influence and is home to some 152,000 giant tortoises, the world's largest population of the animal. Another isolated population of the species resides on the island of Zanzibar, and other captive populations exist in conservation parks in Mauritius and Rodrigues. The tortoises exploit many different kinds of habitat including grasslands, low scrub, mangrove swamps, and coastal dunes.


A peculiar kind of habitat has co-evolved due to the grazing pressures of the tortoises: "tortoise turf," a comingling of 20+ species of grasses and herbs. Many of these distinct plants are naturally dwarfed and grow their seeds not from the tops of the plants, but closer to the ground to avoid the tortoises' close cropping jaws.

As the largest animal in its environment, the Aldabra tortoise performs a role similar to that of the elephant. Their vigorous search for food fells trees and creates pathways used by other animals.

Feeding ecology

Primarily herbivores, Aldabra giant tortoises will eat grasses, leaves, and woody plant stems. They occasionally indulge in small invertebrates and carrion, even eating the bodies of other dead tortoises. In captivity, Aldabra giant tortoises are known to enjoy fruits such as apples and bananas as well as compressed vegetable pellets.

There is little fresh water available for drinking in the tortoises' natural habitat, therefore they obtain most of their moisture from their food.

Aldabra giant tortoise Aldabrachelys gigantea at Bristol Zoo, England

The Aldabra tortoise has two main varieties of shell. Specimens living in habitats with food available primarily on the ground have a more dome-shaped shell with front extending downward over the neck. Those living in an environment with food available higher above the ground have a more flattened top shell with the front raised to allow the neck to extend upward freely.


Aldabra tortoises are found both individually and in herds, which tend to gather mostly on open grasslands. They are most active in the mornings when they spend time browsing for food.

A herd of Aldabra tortoises at the Botanical Gardens, Mahé

They dig underground burrows or rest in swamps to keep cool during the heat of the day.

While they are characteristically slow and cautious, they are capable of appreciable speed, especially when tempted with a treat. They are also known to attempt perilous acrobatic feats, rising precariously on their hind legs to reach low branches. They risk death by tipping onto their backs and being unable to right themselves.

They are also excellent swimmers, being naturally buoyant. This factor has allowed the spread and eventual speciationof many kinds of related tortoises across the Indian Ocean.

The tortoises are not domestic or tame, but they are remarkably indifferent to the presence of humans. They do not seem to have any fear of people; some even seek them out for attention. Some like to have their heads patted, others enjoy having their necks scratched where they meet their plastron.

Life history

Large tortoises are among the longest-lived animals on the planet. Some individual Aldabra giant tortoises are thought to be over 200 years of age, but this is difficult to verify because they tend to outlive their human observers. Adwaita was reputedly one of four brought by British seamen from the Seychelles Islands as gifts to Robert Clive of the British East India Company in the 18th century, and came to Calcutta Zoo in 1875. At its death in March 2006 at the Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) Zoo in India, Adwaita is reputed to have reached the longest ever measured life span of 255 years (birth year 1750). Adwaita's was determined by carbon dating his shell, making his age to be around 255 in 2006.Today, Esmeralda is thought to be the oldest living giant tortoise at 170 years old, since the death of Harriet at 176, a Galapagos giant tortoise. Esmeralda is an Aldabra giant tortoise.

In captivity

The Aldabra tortoise is recently becoming more available in the pet trade. The price still makes them somewhat of an exclusive animal, costing between $1,000 and $20,500 depending on size as of 2006. Care for these tortoises requires a good deal of commitment. They are very powerful as adults, and can be destructive in a typical suburban setting; capable of ramming through fences and doors. Fairly expensive accommodations are necessary to contain thesetortoises and keep them at a comfortable temperature throughout the year (80-95°F 27-35°C).


Between February and May, females lay between 9 and 25 rubbery eggs in a shallow, dry nest. Usually less than half of the eggs are fertile. Females can produce multiple clutches of eggs in a year. After incubating for about 8 months, the tiny, independent young hatch between October and December.

In captivity, oviposition dates vary. Tulsa Zoo maintains a small herd of Aldabra tortoises and they have reproduced several times since 1999. One female typically lays eggs in November and again in January, providing the weather is warm enough to go outside for laying. The zoo also incubates their eggs artificially, keeping two separate incubators at 81 degrees F and 86 degrees F. On average, the eggs kept at the latter temperature hatch in 107 days.


The Aldabra giant tortoise has an unusually long history of organized conservation. Albert Gunther of the British Museum, who later moved to the Natural History Museum of London (enlisting Charles Darwin and other famous scientists to help him) worked with the government of Mauritius to establish a preserve at the end of the 19th century. The related, but distinct, species of giant tortoise from the Seychelles islands (Seychelles giant tortoise Dipsochelys hololissa and Arnold's giant tortoise D. arnoldi) are the subject of a captive breeding and reintroduction programme by the Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles.


JP-163443 131- aя открыткa

Country: Japan

Distance: 8,256 km

Travel time:  16 days

On postcard: Nikkō National Park

Nikkō National Park (日光国立公園 Nikkō Kokuritsu Kōen) is a national park in the Kantō region, on the main island of Honshū in Japan. The park spreads over four prefectures: Tochigi, Gunma, Fukushima, and Niigata.

This is one of the most beautiful parks in Japan. Historic heritages such as shrines and temples there harmonize with the excellent natural scenery, and a number of foreign tourists enjoy the Japanese culture and traditional art.
Among the Nikko mountains, famous ones are Mt. Okushirane (2,578m), Mt. Nantai, Mt. Nasu, and Mt. Hiuchi. On the summit of Mt. Nantai, there is a volcanic crater. Numerous plateaus, rivers, cascades, water-falls, lakes and deep forests are forming together picturesque landscapes. Ozega-hara, the highest moorland in Japan, is particularly beautiful when Mizu-basho (Lysichiton camtschatcense) and other moor-plants bloom from June to July.
In addition to such natural beauty, Nikko has the finest handwork of artisan for mausolea. Toshogu Shrine and Rinnoji Temple are the best representative of magnificent structures there in perfect harmony with natural beauty. There are also many hot springs, and hiking, camping, skiing, skating and fishing are very popular in this park.
The park can be reached in a couple of hours from Tokyo, and roads and hotels are well accommodated.