Bakhchisaray and cave cities
The Bakhchisarai area is one of the most interesting in Crimea, with an unusually high number of geological, archeological and historical monuments. In addition there are original landscapes, with steep lines of limestone cliffs, areas of different types of forest, and rows of fruit trees. The mountain hiking here is not particularly challenging, but will delight you with pure water springs, picturesque mountain lakes, and quaint villages. Everywhere small restaurants of oriental cuisine are cropping up. Under even greater development in recent years has been tourism associated with the history of religion, and pilgrimage. There are Christian churches and monasteries, and also Islamic mosques, many of these latter are under restoration.
The city of Bakhchisarai (in the Crimean-Tatar language it means the Garden Palace) was founded at the end of the 15th century as the capital of the Crimean Khanate which came about after the Golden Horde. In what was once the Khan's Palace, is housed the History and Cultural Reservation Museum , located in the centre of the old city. The archeological exhibition acquaints us with life during the most ancient period, when the valleys and rocky sites of the Crimea were among the most densely populated regions of Europe. The museum's ethnographic collection is dedicated to the culture, life, crafts and national creativity of the Crimean Tatars.
The original oriental architecture of the palace, with its gardens of leafy trees and flowers, seems to belong more to fairy tales and legends than to a history of battles and wars. The Fountain of Tears , sculptured by Pushkin , is a destination of pilgrimage for anyone that loves poetry.
The Polish poet Adam Mitskevich and the Ukrainian poetess L.Ukrainka , both wrote poetic stories about the fountain.
The Khan Khadji-Gerei , who proclaimed an independent Crimean Khanate in 1443, was the founder of a dynasty that played an important political role in Europe.
The Russian Empress Catherin II traveled to Crimea in 1787 and visited Bakhchisarai herself.
From Bakhchisarai the majority of tourists head for the cave town of Chufut Kaleh, moving through Staroselye along a gully with remarkable cliffs - that rise up like natural sphinxes.
In one of the local grottos the Staroselski Boy was found - the first find of a Cro-Magnon type person on the territory of the former USSR, and dates back some 40-50 thousand years.
At the Staroselye entrance (at Gasprinski Street 47), there is the Museum Ismail-bei-Gasprinski , dedicated to a man that was a great enlightener of the Crimean-Tatar people.
South from Staroselye, the Maryam-Dere (St. Maria) gully stretches. In the 15th century the Uspenski (Assumption) orthodox monastery was founded here. It is interesting, that the Crimean Khans, despite the fact that they were Muslims, used to bring rich gifts to it.
In Chufut-Kaleh , a large cave town of the 6th-19th centuries, there remains some buildings of the Karaites, in addition to the gate, walls, and praying houses.
In the upper reaches of the Iosafat Valley, you can see an ancient cemetery of the Karaites .
East from Bakhchisarai is the valley of the Bodrak river, which is notable for the cave town of Bakla , an ancient centre of winemaking. Its even more famous feature is the collections of bare mountain rocks close by, which became an object at the official exhibition of the World Geological Congress in 1984. For more than half a century, the future geologists of the leading universities of Russia, Ukraine and other countries, have had their field practice here.
A popular place for educational excursions is the Crimean astrophysical observatory in the upper reaches of the valley. This observatory is the largest in Europe.
Passing through Siren village, which is situated between Bakhchisarai and Sevastopol, you can reach the Belbek Valley and here visit two medieval cave towns - Mangup and Eski-Kermen . From here past the Sokolinoye village, to the famous Great Canyon of Crimea.
In the valley of the Kacha River there is a remarkable cave monastery - Kachi-Kalion (estimated to have been built in the 7th century). It rises high above the highway. In a stone section that broke off from the cliff, there is a church capable of seating 10 to 12 persons. The church is devoted to St. Sofia, 'Faith', 'Hope', and 'Love'. Next to it, inside the same rock a cell has been created. The cells and household rooms of the monastery are cut in the cliff wall at several levels. Under the natural dome of the limestone rock, in a niche under the cross that is cut into the stone, is located St. Anastasia's Water Spring.
Upstream of the Kacha River, close by to Kudrino village, the road turns north, to Tepeh-Kermen , where there are some 240 caves. One of these houses an early Christian church of the German tribe of Goths.
Published on: 04/09/2005
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