10 Ways to Walk Through Different Eras and Countries Without Leaving Russia
In order to see the ancient cities with your own eyes, it is not necessary to invent a time machine. It is enough to go to the place where archaeological or architectural monuments of the desired era have been preserved. Our country opens up truly exciting opportunities in this regard – it is not a problem to get into almost any period of history. We have put together 10 examples showing how this can be done.
1. Go to the primitive era
Sometimes traces of our ancestors are found in places that at first glance are not very suitable for habitation, for example, beyond the Arctic Circle. But thousands of years before our era, the climate there could be completely different.
IV-II millennia BC. e. dated petroglyphs on the islands of Kanozero in the south of the Murmansk region. Here they found 1200 ancient images carved in stones: animals, boats, skis, a shaman, a pregnant woman with a baby traced in her stomach, even a love triangle. In order to preserve the unique monument, in 2014 a group of 600 drawings was covered with a transparent dome to protect them from weather troubles.
On one of the Solovetsky Islands – Bolshoy Zayatsky – researchers found several spiral labyrinths dating back to the 3rd-1st millennium BC. e. Why ancient people built them, scientists do not know for sure. One of the most common hypotheses says that this is the abode of the souls of the departed.
Traces of ancient people are found here and there throughout Russia: petroglyphs in the Altai, rock paintings in the Kapova cave in the Southern Urals, sites of an ancient man in Kostenki, Voronezh region, etc. – there is where to roam.
2. Look into Ancient Greece…
In the Crimea, not far from modern Sevastopol, once stood one of the ancient city-states Tauric Chersonesus. Him in the 5th century BC. e. built by the Dorians – the action of the tragedy of Euripides “Iphigenia in Tauris” takes place there. The temple of Artemis itself has not been preserved, but the ancient theater, a complex of elegant columns and the ruins of estates can be seen. The museum-reserve exhibits exhibits of the ancient Roman era – it was the Romans who replaced the Greeks. In addition, Prince Vladimir was baptized in the city at one time, so there are also many monuments of the Christian period here. Tauric Chersonese is included in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
There are other traces of Antiquity in the Crimea, the Krasnodar Territory and the Rostov Region. If you want a complete immersion in the era, why not arrange a whole trip through the cities of the Bosporan kingdom.
3. … and in the early Middle Ages to the Byzantines
In the same Crimea, several cave cities have been preserved, which appeared in the 5th–10th centuries on the so-called mesas with flat tops. Eski-Kermen, located near the villages of Kholmovka, Zalesnoe, Ternovka and Red Poppy, freely spreads over an area of 8.5 hectares. The fortifications and the siege well of the 6th century are still preserved, to which a staircase of six flights with 80 steps leads. You can also walk around the caves to the full – there are about 350 of them in the rocks of the city itself and another fifty outside it. Among the cave rooms there are several temples, in which the remains of frescoes of the XII-XIII centuries are still visible – alas, many of them were badly damaged by vandals.
You can walk for a long time in the mountains, chosen by the Byzantines in their time. Monasteries and fortresses, although they were built using the same technology, differ from each other and impress with their originality, so you won’t get bored wandering through the caves of Kachi-Kalyon, Mangup, Chufut-Kale, Tepe-Kermen, etc.
4. Compare ancient Greek cities with ancient Persian
The Citadel, the Old Town and the fortifications of Derbent are another UNESCO monument. It was founded in 438 by the Persian king Yazdegerd II from the Sassanid dynasty. The Naryn-Kala citadel and two walls descending to the Caspian Sea were built and completed from the 5th to the 17th century. If you want to “fall through” into the Persian Middle Ages, just walk around the Old City between these walls. It is here that you can see the oldest mosque in Russia, Juma, built in the 8th century. In addition, the sacred cemetery of Kyrkhlyar with the Tuti-Bike mausoleum and ancient baths remained in memory of the old days.
5. Visit Veliky Novgorod
Since ancient times, on the left bank of the Volkhov, there has been the Kremlin of the famous trading city, from which the epic Sadko sent his ships. Here the fortress is called detinets, this part of the historical center is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The first mention in the annals of Novgorod dates back to 859, it was here that the Vikings were called in the time of Ancient Rus’. Located within the walls of the Kremlin, the Hagia Sophia is the oldest building in the European territory of Russia; it was erected under Prince Vladimir in 1045–1050.
On the opposite bank, the Novgorod Torg once roared. There are also many buildings that remember the merchants of the pre-Mongolian period. For example, the church of Paraskeva Pyatnitsa of the 13th century or the church of Ivan on Opoki of the 12th century. The latter served not only for worship, but also as a bank where merchants kept goods and proceeds – hardly anyone would dare to steal in the temple. You should also definitely go to the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior – it has preserved unique frescoes by Theophanes the Greek.
6. When the Buddha appears from under the water
In Tuva, on Mount Sume-Beli, located on the banks of the Chaa-Khol River, there is a Buddhist sanctuary. In the niche of the rock, an image of the Buddha is carved, on the sides of which are his disciples Amitabha, the entrance is guarded by two guards. Scientists believe that it was created in the XI-XIII centuries, in the Yuan period. It is not so easy to see it – most of the time the bas-relief is hidden under the waters of the Sayano-Shushenskoye reservoir, it opens only once a year, during the release of water. Slowly but surely, the elements are washing away a unique monument from the face of the earth, and no one knows how long it will last, so it’s better not to delay your visit to the Buddha.
7. Understand how the ancient Bulgars lived
The Bulgar settlement appeared in the 10th century on the territory of modern Tatarstan. In 1361 the stronghold of the Volga Bulgars was captured and destroyed by the Golden Horde Khan Bulat-Timur. After some time, the new owners decided that there was no need to waste good, and restored the city. It is to the period when Bulgar was one of the largest settlements of the local ulus of the Golden Horde that the monuments that have survived to our times belong. Here you can see the Cathedral Mosque and the foundation of the Great Minaret, the northern and eastern mausoleums (the latter managed to be the temple of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker for some time), as well as the Black Chamber, where the khan ruled the court, the White Chamber, where public baths were located, and the ruins of the khan’s palace of the XIII century. In 2014, the complex was included in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.
8. Look at the combination of Muslim and Christian cultures
The easiest way to get to Bulgar is from Kazan. And being in it, it is impossible not to go into the local Kremlin – another UNESCO monument. He retained a recognizable silhouette from the time of the Golden Horde, but the walls themselves were erected by Russian masters by decree of Ivan the Terrible, who destroyed the old wooden ones during the capture of Kazan. The gates were also left in the same place, only renamed. On the foundation of the old mosque, the Annunciation Church was erected in the shortest possible time. In order not to carry guns all the way from the capital itself, they set up a foundry yard right in the Kremlin. In a word, they arranged the former Tatar fortress to their taste. And in the 20th century, a new mosque was built not far from the Orthodox Cathedral, giving the Kremlin a special national character.
If you want to see historical mosques, it makes sense to go to the Tatar settlement, where many buildings of the 18th-19th centuries have been preserved. During the reign of Catherine II, Russian officials became concerned that the minarets were rising too high in the sky, and wrote to the Empress, urging her to limit the flight of thought of local architects. The empress, however, complacently objected that she rules only on earth, and heaven is not in her competence, so shortening the minarets did not work out.
9. Evaluate the urban reforms of Catherine the Great
It was for the architecture of the reign of the Empress that the historical center of Yaroslavl was also included in the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List with the wording “an outstanding example of the town-planning reform of Catherine II, deployed throughout Russia in 1763.” Wide green streets lined with two- and three-story houses lead to spacious squares. Buildings preserved from earlier times serve as architectural accents. There are so many churches here that the eyes run wide. By the way, in the Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery of the 16th century, the “Word of Igor’s Campaign” was discovered at one time.
10. Look into a cozy German town
Chernyakhovsk, unlike Kaliningrad, did not suffer too much during the Second World War and retained the dignity of a typical German city. Solid, but not devoid of elegance, buildings of the 19th century, paved with cobblestone pavements and red brick churches remind of the good old Europe – until the middle of the 20th century, Chernyakhovsk was the German Insterburg.
The ruins of the medieval castle of the same name, built in 1336 by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Dietrich von Altenburg to protect against the Lithuanians, have been preserved in the city.
In fact, it turns out that it is not so difficult to get into Europe, and Asia, and in ancient times, and in the 19th century relatively close to us. There are more than a dozen possibilities, the main thing is to decide which era and culture looks the most attractive, and choose a destination.