Palace of the Crimean Khans and Other Wonders
It may seem strange to think of the Khans as a royal family (the most well-known Khan, of course, being Gengis) but indeed, they were. Khan is a title given to Asian rulers, and the Crimean Khans occupied the area that is now southern Ukraine. Their only existing palace or Hansaray can be visited in Bakhchisaray, Ukraine, one of many interesting and historic sites in this region of Crimea.
The palace is decorated in 16th century Crimean Tatar style and contains, among other things, a harem. Today, Ukraine women are known throughout the world for their beauty and it was not less so four centuries ago. The famous poet Alexander Pushkin wrote a poem about one of the fountains on the site, which is a popular tourist attraction. It was commissioned by one of the last Crimean Khans, a man so known for his cruelty and emotionlessness that when he cried at the death of one of his harem girls, no one had ever seen such display before. The fountain was commissioned to weep as he had.
Bakhchisaray inspired other notable authors, including Adam Mickiewicz, a Polish poet who immortalized the town in his work “Crimean Sonnets.” The area, like much of Crimea, offers spectacular cliffs and hiking. An Orthodox monastery cut from solid rock and possibly founded as early as the 8th century is located just outside Bakhchisaray. Closed under the Soviets, the monastery re-opened in 1993 and may be visited, but photography is not permitted.
Visiting Bakhchisaray is notable not only for the historic aspects of the town, but for the opportunity to view the lives of the Crimean Tatars. Primarily Sunni Muslims, they are quite progressive in social policy. Ismail Bey Gasprinskii, a Tatar reformer and social critic influential in the late 1800s, published a newspaper advocating for many social causes including emancipation of women and his views were well absorbed. Ukraine women today in the area enjoy job opportunities and responsibilities similar to men.
Bakhchisaray welcomes guests year round, as the weather in this area is typically sunny and mild. Some rainfall is to be expected as it is near the mountains but extended showers are unusual. This town can be an unforgettable historic and human experience for the visitor and is highly recommended.
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