May 01, 2011

Trekking In Partisan Footsteps

Trekking In Partisan Footsteps

Walking tours of Crimea can open up this Black Sea melting pot even to a casual visitor. They might run along the coast and study places where tradition tells us the action of Euripides’ and Sophocles’ plays about Iphigenia in the land of the Taurians takes place. Near Sevastopol are the ruins of the ancient city of Chersonesus Taurica; in Antiquity, modern-day Feodosiya (then known as Caffa) and Kerch (known as Panticapaeum) were major towns along the Black Sea coast. On the mountain of Ayu-Dag can be found the remains of an ancient temple sacred to Artemis; it is believed to be the terrace of this temple that Iphigenia, as a priestess of Artemis, would throw travelers to their deaths. The Argonauts sailed by these places in search of the Golden Fleece. Today, the shores of Crimea preserve ruins of ancient temples, cities and fortresses from that distant era.

The nomadic peoples of the steppe — Cimmerians, Scythians and Taurians —also left their mark on Crimea. Near Simferopol, archaeologists have for years been excavating the burial mounds of Scythian Naples, the capital of the Scythian lands. In the early Christian era, people fled Byzantium to Crimea to escape persecution during the long years of infighting over iconoclasm. And so, in Crimea there are secret Christian cave-monasteries with frescoes of fishes and crosses, and cross-shaped openings carved into the roofs of the cave so the sun’s rays could illuminate the baptistery with a reminder of the Crucifixion.

As for the legacy of the Ottoman Empire and the Golden Horde, at Bakhchisarai and Stary Krym one can find ruined Karaite towns and Genoese forts from the Middle Ages… And then there are the wild deer, caves, waterfalls, pure mountain streams, mountains, the sea, palms, primroses, alpine meadows, mountain plateaus, wild boar, foxes, hares, mushrooms, berries, dolphins…

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