Bakhchysaray: palace or cave?
The name of the town means “garden palace” and the place (or at least the name of the place) itself is well known in Poland thanks to poet Adam Mickiewicz. But obviously he hasn’t seen the caves!!
Bakhchysaray was the capital of the powerful Crimean Khanate between 15th and 18th centuries. Nowadays there are two important things to be seen there: Khans’ Palace and really impressing Chufut-Kale cave city on the top of the mountain.
Khans’ Palace (due to Lonely Planet) was the only one garden with mosque which Catherine the Great didn’t destroy, because she thought it was “romantic”. A bit hard to imagine this romantism, while swimming in the sea of tourists over there. Most of the people are gathering around the Fountain of Tears from 1764 which is famous thanks to Alexander Pushkin’s poem. For me more interesting was story around it: that it was built for the last khan to heal his broken heart after unrequited falling in love with… a Polish girl from his harem.
All the rest of the complex we found a bit boring and for sure not tourists-friendly. You have to pay for every entrance (to palace, to tower, to cemetery…) separately, you have tons of locals taking wedding pictures, somehow the soul of the place run away.
BUT… on the next day we found the place where this soul run away! A bit back in time (because this place was a “capital” of Crimean Khanate just before Bakhchysaray’s palace), maybe one hour of walking up – there is a long and bluff plateau houses a honeycomb of caves and structures where people were living for centuries. The “city” was settled between 6th and 12th century and first Sarmatian tribes, then Tatars and at the end – Turkish Jewish Karaites were living there. All the “cave monasteries” we have seen until now – can hide. Chufut-Kale’s “windows’” views and all the atmosphere are simply amazing.
Additionally there is very sweet small Uspensky Monastery, gold-domed church built in the limestone rock, on the way. Probably built by Byzantine monks in 8th century.