Thursday, July 17, 2008

Swallow's Nest

Yesterday at Livadia Palace we noticed the outline of a swallow carved into a rock along one of the many trails we passed. We assumed that following that path would lead us to one of the Black Sea's more famous landmarks, the Swallow's Nest.

This morning Doug and I borrowed a couple of the ship's mountain bikes and set out in that direction. Or so we thought. We followed the twisting road out of town, up hills and down hills, and around until we suddenly found ourselves back at the ship. The second time we tried different roads until I noticed that we were passing the same soccer field as before going the same direction as before.

Finally on our third try we actually got out of Yalta. After some very steep hills we even made it back to Livadia Palace and found the swallow sign. The little foot trail was delightful. It led through shady woods alive with the noise of cicadas and babbling brooks. It also clung to the edge of some high cliffs with great views of the coast in both directions. As we passed below a gold domed Russian Orthodox church we could hear a choir practicing. Magical.

Then a miracle happened. I actually asked someone for directions! Yes, it is true. And she sent us back the way we had come, but down toward the ocean. It was great riding the bikes down, down, down and there it was. Much smaller than I had expected. Tiny, in fact, and Disneyesque. Still, it was pretty cool perched on the edge of a high cliff. Doug and I had a nice lunch at the restaurant inside and even splurged on the caviar appetizer.

We had more steep climbs on the way back and now I'm going up to the hot tub for a nice long soak.

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