Cave city Chufut-Kale in Crimea: description, history, excursions
On the territory of the Crimea there is a huge amount of amazingly interesting places with a rich history. One of them is the cave city Chufut-Kale. created by the efforts of man and nature, still impresses people who first visited it.
Location of the fortress
The place where the village of Starosele is now located has long attracted people with its silence, secrecy, comfort, natural strength and the presence of water. Here are rescue rocks protruding from the forest undergrowth, as if intended to shelter residents from enemies.
City `s history
The ancient city has a long history, about which many events can only be guessed.
The cave city Chufut-Kale is located on the plateau of the mountain spur. It is believed that the first Alano-Sarmatians mastered the steep plateau in the 4th century, building a fortress here, which later became known as Chufut-Kale (in translation - Judean Fortress).
However, there is another version of how the city-fortress Chufut-Kale appeared.In the last years of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (approximately 550 years), they began to think about protecting the approaches to Chersonesos. Engineers at the behest of the emperor developed a plan of three fortresses: Mangul, Chufut-Kale and Eski-Kerman. Cities were built and populated by Goths and Alans. However, it is worth noting that these events were not reflected in the treatise “On buildings”, and other written reports were not conducted at that time. About distant events can be judged only by archaeological finds.
For centuries the fortress city has reliably sheltered the population of the nearby valleys in dangerous times from the invasion of militant nomads - the Khazars, the guns, the Magyars, the Polovtsy, the Pechenegs. Haji Giray (the first Crimean Khan), appreciating the advantages of the fortress and the valley at the foot, in the middle of the 15th century organized his residence in the old part of the city. Below, in the village of Salachik, built a palace. While living in the palace, the khan could always quickly hide from danger in a safe fortress. Do not forget that in those days there was a desperate struggle for the independence of the peninsula from the Golden Horde. In the middle of the seventeenth century, the Khan left the palace, and the cave city Chufut-Kale was transferred to the Karaites.In the future, the fortress was named Calais. And over time, it began to be called Chufut-Kale.
In 1731 the first Crimean printing house was opened in the city, in which books in Karaite and Hebrew were printed. After the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, the Karaites left the city and settled in Yevpatoria, Bakhchisarai, Simferopol. So gradually the cave city Chufut-Kale became empty.
Once the rich history of the city is now sealed in stone buildings, which can be judged on what the fortress was in ancient times. You can start exploring the city from the East Gate. To the right of them in the rock is a large pool. It collected rainwater, which later people used in the economic needs and for livestock. Nearby on the hill was a mill. And behind it, in the wilds of the mountain forest, the Karaite cemetery hid from prying eyes.
Above the gate leading to the city, there is a marble slab with carved signs. No one knows what they mean. This mystery of the city of Chufut-Kale has still not been solved. A massive oak gate lined with iron leads to the fortress. Immediately behind them begins a new part of the city, built by the Karaites. It is protected by defensive walls and inaccessible rocks.In the city there was only one main street, which was adjacent to numerous side streets. It still houses a large stone house in which the famous Karaite scholar Firkovich once lived.
Description of the ancient city
The city of Chufut-Kale (Crimea) had a very small territory, but at the same time a large enough population. At the end of the sixteenth century, four to five thousand people lived here and there were about 400 houses. Buildings, as a rule, were located close to each other and had several floors. In the basement is usually placed utility rooms. All the windows certainly went out into the courtyard, enclosed by a massive fence. There were also sheds and premises for animals. The old buildings are partially preserved, so they can be seen walking through the city blocks.
The city walls had a thickness of up to five meters. The gates were located in the center, and the towers on each side. For greater security, a moat was cut in the wall, the width of which was 4 meters, and the depth - 2. It was filled with thawed and rainwater that flowed down the stone trenches.Such a simple construction was constructed in order to impede the tumbling of the battering rams.
Like any fortress, Chufut-Kale had its own secrets. In the northern part of the wall there was a gate, which was carefully masked. With its help, warriors could go out in order to deliver a sudden blow to their opponents. In the old town outside the gate was a public square. The well, the remains of a mosque built in 1346, and the mausoleum Nenekadzhan-Khanym are preserved on it. Three large longitudinal streets originate from the square: Kenaskaya, Srednyaya and Burunchakskaya. They were all built at different times.
Behind the southern wall of the city, cliffs with four-tier combat caves connected with each other rise. They later served as utility rooms.
Against the general background of the ruins of the city, the well-preserved Janik-Khanum mausoleum building looks amazing. Inside it is a tombstone with an inscription telling that the body of the empress Janika-Khanum lies here (she was the daughter of the Golden Horde khan named Tokhtamysh). The name of the Khan's daughter is shrouded in secrets and legends.One of them says that she was saved from the wrath of her father, who found her with her lover, and rushed into the abyss. Therefore, buried near the cliff.
North of the mausoleum the plateau abruptly ends. Here, at a majestic height, you can admire the scenery of the stunning Crimean mountains.
Opening of the hydraulic system of the fortress
In 1988, a sensational discovery was made on the territory of the fortress. Despite the fact that the city has never had natural groundwater exits, the city has existed for hundreds of years. It turns out that drinking water was brought from nearby sources. And for economic purposes used rain moisture. However, the legend tells that during the siege the water was taken from a hidden hydraulic system, information about which was considered a terrible military secret. And even after the fortress lost its defensive function, the Karaites passed the secret from generation to generation. Only the most chosen knew about it.
Based on oral and written sources, speleologists began searching. Finding a small depression near the tree, they realized that this was the mouth of the well. He began to clear, taking out the soil and rocks. The work was carried out for three years.Here, at a 25-meter depth, a heaped side entrance was found leading upwards. It was connected to a well and formed a fairly spacious room. There are traces of water on the walls and inscriptions in Karaite and Latin.
Further work led to the discovery of the gallery, which took off in one of the towers. Apparently, this was the first defensive line. Previously, scientists did not even know about it. After a thorough clearing, cavers discovered a gallery about 2 meters high and 2.5 meters wide, the length of which is about 108 meters.
In some parts of it even small stalactites are found. A detailed dungeon plan and human figures were found on the walls. An interesting fact is that at a depth of 27 meters the well widened significantly, here began a stone spiral descent. After clearing it, extensive reservoirs located at a forty-meter depth were found.
How did the system work?
Once upon a time, water over large cracks in a structure fell into one of the baths, then poured into another tank located in front of the entrance to the well, and from there it was taken for use. At present, the cracks are silted, therefore water practically does not flow through them.In the lower hall, niches for flare lamps and unknown signs were found on the walls.
Secrets of the hydraulic system
Cavers did not stop work. After the lower part of the system was cleared of silt and clay, the depth of the well was 45 meters. It is believed that the hydraulic system could be created by the Byzantines or Khazars at the beginning of our era, and have a cult purpose. In moments of danger, she could become a shelter from enemies. In a gallery at a depth of 40 centimeters from the surface, a treasure was found in a clay pot. It consisted of golden Venetian ducats, Egyptian dinars, silver coins and other monetary units. Experts believe that this is the richest find not only in the Crimea, but also in Europe and the whole world. The treasure was deposited in the Museum of local lore of Simferopol.
Excursion objects of the ancient city
On the territory of Chufut-Kale, historical objects are preserved, which provide an opportunity to see how the city was at different stages of history. The oldest building is considered the defensive wall, which can be seen during the tour. It was built in the X-XI centuries.Fragments of a three-layer medieval wall are perfectly preserved to this day. In addition, tourists are shown the remains of a plumbing system made of pottery ceramic pipes. It was after its discovery that a well was found, which supplied the entire city with water.
Visitors to the city can see a well-preserved mausoleum, two Karaite prayer houses, a residential manor of a Karaite scholar, which allows you to see how people lived at that time.
All these objects can be viewed during the excursions and learn in more detail the history of Chufut-Kale.
How to get to Chufut-Calais by public transport
Bakhchisaray region of Crimea is rich in historical and archaeological sites, as well as the entire peninsula. The fortress of Chufut-Kale is a little away from the seaside resorts, however, it is not difficult to get to it both by public transport and by car. Bakhchisaray district is located in the southwest of the peninsula. The transport communication with him is well established, and in the season the number of buses significantly increases, based on the influx of tourists.Not to mention the fact that in each resort town or village daily excursion trips to local attractions, including a stone fortress, are organized daily.
If you are planning an independent trip, you should first get to a city such as Bakhchisarai by bus or car. The cave city of Chufut-Kale is just 3.5 kilometers away. Next, tourists can take a taxi or bus number 2 (transport goes from the railway station) to get to Staroselieu. Coming out at the final stop, you can walk past the Assumption Monastery about 2.5 kilometers along the beautiful Maryam-Dere valley.
Can I get to Chufut-Kale by car?
If you do not like such walks, then you can go straight from Bakhchisarai to the eastern gate of the fortress on a UAZ. In ten minutes you will be near Chufut-Kale.
How to get there by car? This question interests many car enthusiasts. If you decide to travel by car, then from Bakhchisarai you need to get to the village of Staroselie. Further to the eastern gate can be reached by the same road, which is used by Oise.However, keep in mind that it is quite complex and rocky. A passenger car is not recommended to ride on it, it is better to leave the car in Staroselier.
If you are visiting the cave city on your own, you should definitely take advantage of the services of local guides who will tell a lot about Chufut-Kale. Excursions conducted through its territory are incredibly interesting and informative. And after their graduation, you can independently wander through the streets of the village and make awesome photos as a keepsake. It is said that it is incredibly beautiful here at sunset. But unfortunately, at this time there are no excursions.
Instead of an afterword
Chufut-Kale is amazingly interesting and beautiful place. The ancient city is one of those places worth visiting in the Crimea. Tourists who have visited it, leave the most admiring reviews, recommending to visit the cave city. Of course, at present, most of the unique historical monument is ruins, but there are well-preserved buildings and elements of the fortress.