The peninsula of the Crimea (the Chersonesus Taurica of the ancients) lies between the forty-fourth and forty-sixth degrees of north latitude, and the thirty-second and thirty-seventh degrees of east longitude. It is united on the north to the mainland by the isthmus of Perekop, five miles in width, and has on its east the Sivache, or Putrid sea, the sea of Azov, and the straits of Enikaleh, by which it is separated from the isle of Taman, being everywhere else surrounded by the Black sea. It is estimated to contain about fifteen thousand square miles.
The Crimea is divided into two distinct parts, one lying north and the other south of the river Salghir, which flows from west to east, and is the only stream of any importance in the peninsula. The former consists almost entirely of vast plains, or steppes, destitute of trees, but covered with luxuriant pasture, except where they are interspersed with heaths, salt-lakes, and marshes. The climate of this region is far from good— being cold and damp in winter, and oppressively hot and very unhealthy in summer, particularly along the Putrid sea.
The aspect and climate of the other, or southern portion of the peninsula, are entirely different. It presents a succession of lofty mountains, picturesque ravines, and the most beautiful slopes and valleys. The mountains, formed of strata of calcareous rocks, stretch along the southern coast from Caffa, on the east, to Balaclava on the west. The Tchadyadag, or Trent mountain, the highest in the chain, rises to the height of more than five thousand feet above the level of the sea, and several of the other summits attain to a considerable elevation. The climate of the valleys, and of the slopes between the mountains and the sea, is said to be the most delicious that can be imagined; and, besides the common products, such as grain, flax, hemp, and tobacco, vines, olives, fig-trees, mulberry-trees, pomegranates, oranges, &c, flourish in the greatest profusion.
Professor Pallas, Dr. Clarke, and others, have given the most glowing descriptions of this interesting region. According to Clarke, "If there exist a terrestrial paradise, it is to be found in the district intervening between Kutchukoy and Sudak, on the southern coast of the Crimea. Protected by encircling alps from every cold and blighting wind, and only open to those breezes which are wafted from the south, the inhabitants enjoy every advantage of climate and of situation. Continual streams of crystal water pour down from the mountains upon their gardens, where every species of fruit known in the rest of Europe, and many that are not, attain the highest perfection. Neither unwholesome exhalations, nor chilling winds, nor venomous insects, nor poisonous reptiles, nor hostile neighbors, infest their blessed territory. The life of its inhabitants resembles that of the golden age. The soil, like a hot-bed, rapidly puts forth such variety of spontaneous produce, that labor becomes merely an amusing exercise. Peace and plenty crown their board; while the repose they so much admire is only interrupted by harmless thunder reverberating on rocks above them, or by the murmur of the waves on the beach below.'
But if this description be as faithful as it is eloquent, it will not certainly apply to any other portion of the Crimea, not even to the famous valley of Baider. At certain seasons of the year the finest parts of the peninsula are infested with swarms of locusts, which frequently commit the most dreadful devastation, nothing escaping them, from the leaves of the forest to the herbs of the plain. Tarantulas, centipedes, scorpions, and other venomous insects, are also met with in most parts; and even to the south of the mountains the air in autumn is not everywhere salubrious, and malignant fevers are not uncommon.
Owing to the thinness of the population, and their want of industry, the Crimea, which in antiquity was the granary of Athens, and whose natural fertility is nowise diminished, does not produce a tenth part of what it might do. The steppe or northern portion is, in general, more suitable for grazing than for tillage, and is depastured by immense numbers of sheep, horses, and black cattle. Some of the rich Nogai" Tartars are said to have as many as fifty thousand sheep, and one thousand horses; and the poorer classes have one hundred of the former and ten of the latter! Thousands of cattle often belong to a single individual: camels also are abundant. The breed of horses is improved by crossing with Arabian stock. The sheep are mostly of the large-tailed species peculiar to the Kirghiz Tartars. The buffalo is domesticated, and yields a rich milk; and the culture of bees is a good deal attended to. Though they have renounced their migratory habits, the Tartars, who constitute the bulk of the population, have little liking to, or skill in, husbandry. Exclusive of milk and other animal food, they subsist chiefly on millet; producing, however, in some years, as much as one million of bushels of wheat for exportation. The mountainous, or southern portion of the peninsula, furnishes large quantities of indifferent wine, with flax, fruits, timber, honey and wax, &c.; but the cultivation of grain is so little attended to, that, even in the best years, its inhabitants have to import a large proportion of their supplies.
The most important and valuable product of the Crimea is the salt derived from the salt-lakes in the vicinity of Perekop, Caffa, Koslow, and Kertsch. It is monopolized by the government, and yields a considerable revenue. The quantity exported from the lakes near Kertsch amounts to from thirty to thirty-five thousand pounds a year: the lakes of Perekop are even more productive. At Koslow there is only a single lake. In 1833, the different lakes of the Crimea produced the immense quantity of fifteen millions, sixty-five thousand poods (two hundred and forty-two thousand tons), of which about eight and a half millions of poods were sold in the course of the year. Prom twelve to fifteen thousand men are employed in the works; each pood costs to the treasury four copecks, or thereabout, the expense of production being seldom greater than from six to ten copecks. Government sells this salt at eighty copecks per pood, except the portion destined for the consumption of the peninsula, which only pays fifteen copecks. Salt exported is charged with a duty of five copecks.
Exclusive of salt and grain, the other principal articles of export are wine, honey of an excellent quality, wax, Morocco-leather, hides, a considerable quantity of inferior wool, with lambskins which are highly esteemed, &c. Silks and cottons, in the style of the Asiatics, form the basis of the import trade; and there are also imported woollen-stuffs, wine, oil, dried fruits, tobacco, jewelry, drugs, and spices. The only manufacture worth notice is that of Morocco-leather.
The principal towns are Kertsch, Caffa (or Theodosia), Balaclava, and Koslow (or Eupatoria). Sevastapol, the finest harbor in the peninsula, is one of the stations of the Russian fleet. Baktchiserai was the old capital of Crim Tartary, under the khans; Simferopol is, however, the modern capital, not of the Crimea only, but of the entire government of Taurida.
The population consists of Tartars, Russians, Greeks, Germans, Jews, Armenians, and gipsies. The variety of different nations found in the Crimea, and the fact that each lives as in its own country, practising its peculiar customs, and preserving its religious rites, is one of the remarkable circumstances that render the peninsula so curious to a stranger. The number of Tartars has declined considerably by emigration and otherwise, since the occupation of the country by the Russians ; but they still form the nucleus and principal body of the population. They consist — first, of Nogai Tartars, living in villages, who pique themselves on their pure Mongolian blood; second, of Tartars of the steppe, of less pure descent; and, third, of those inhabiting the southern coast, who are a mixed breed, largely alloyed with Greek and Turkish blood, and despised by the others, who bestow on them the contemptuous designation of Tut, or renegade. They are all, however, attached to the Mohammedan faith, and Simferopol is the seat of one of the two muftis of the Russian empire.
The Tartars are divided into the classes of nobles (moorzas), of whom there are about two hundred and fifty, priests (mullahs), and peasants. A mullah is at the head of every parish, and nothing is undertaken without his consent. The peasants plough his land, sow and reap his grain, and carry it home; and it is seldom that the proprietor takes tithe of the priest. In summer, the feet and legs of the peasantry are bare ; but in winter they are clothed after the Russian fashion. They are simple in their manners and dress; and their sobriety, chastity, cleanliness, and hospitality, have been highly eulogized, and probably exaggerated. They live principally on the produce of their flocks and herds ; are wedded to routine practices; and if they be not, as Pallas seems to have supposed, decidedly averse to labor, they, at all events, are but little disposed to be industrious. The emigration that took place after the occupation of the country by the Russians, was owing quite as much to the efforts of the latter to convert the Tartars into husbandmen, as to the excesses they committed. In their diet they make great use of honey, and are much addicted to smoking. Every family has two or more copies of the Koran, which the children are taught to read; but, in despite of this, and of the schools established in their villages, they are, for the most part, exceedingly ignorant.
The Greeks established themselves in the Crimea, and founded several colonies upon its coasts, nearly six centuries before the Christian era. The country fell successively into the possession of Mithridates, king of Pontus, and of the Romans, Goths, Huns, &c. In 1237, it was taken possession of by the Tartars, forming one of the western conquests of the terrible hordes issuing from central Asia, under Zinghis Khan, which overran the Chinese empire, Persia, and other countries. About the same time its ports were much resorted to by the Venetians and Genoese ; the latter of whom rebuilt Caffa (the ancient Theodosia), and made it the centre of their power and of the extensive commerce they carried on in the Euxine. In 1475, the Turkish sovereign Mohammed II. expelled the Genoese, and reduced the peninsula to the state of a dependency of the Ottoman empire, leaving it to be governed by a khan, or native prince. This state of things continued for about three centuries.
The khans had moved the seat of government from the rocky fortress of Tchoufut Kale to the valley of the Djurouk Su, and, as tributaries of the Porte, had reigned in their palace of Baktchiserai (Bagtche Serai) for nearly three hundred years, when the bloody war which had been relentlessly carried on between Russia and Turkey, and of which the Crimea had been in some degree the theatre, terminated in the treaty of Kainarje. Devlit Ghiri, who had been invested with the dignity of khan by the sultan, was now deposed; and his brother Jehan, who for some time past had been retained a hostage at St. Petersburg (though he nominally held the office of a captain in the imperial guard), was placed upon the throne by the empress Catherine — an act which was in direct violation of the principal article in this treaty, in which the independence of the Crimea, as well as the free choice of its sovereigns, had been expressly stipulated.
But it was not enough that a prince should be thus forced upon a coun try, in opposition to the will of the people: a mere puppet in the hands of Russia, he was compelled to show a marked preference for the power to which he owed his crown, and to introduce so many Russians into his ser vice, that he soon increased the hatred and disgust of his subjects, whose feelings of disaffection were secretly fomented by Russian emissaries, until they broke out into an open revolt of so serious a character as to oblige the khan to fly to Taman, where he remained until assistance arrived in the shape of a Russian army, which invaded the Crimea, and restored him to the throne from which he had been forced.
During this period of the occupation of the province by the Russians, the most atrocious cruelties were perpetrated upon those who had been instigated to share in the revolt. So anxious did Russia profess herself to prevent the recurrence of such an event, that a proposal was made to the khan to retire from the throne upon a pension of one hundred thousand roubles a year, resigning his crown into the safe keeping of the imperial government — an offer which was entitled to some consideration in the presence of an overwhelming army ready to enforce its acceptance. The luckless prince, whose residence at the Russian court had taught him to estimate truly the value of promises emanating from such a quarter, persisted for some time in his refusal, but he found himself ultimately obliged to submit to the terms proposed; and, as he had but too justly anticipated, was confined as a prisoner at Kalouga, in which character he was, of course, considered undeserving of his pension!
After in vain petitioning to be sent to St. Petersburg, Jehan was consigned, at his own request, to the tender mercies of the Turks. By them he was banished to Rhodes, where he soon after fell a victim to the bow-. string: so terminated the inglorious career of the last of the khans. An imperial ukase, issued by the empress Catherine, annexed this magnificent province to her fast-extending empire.
Sevastapol (or Aktiar), the great naval station of Russia on the Black sea, occupies part of a considerable peninsula on the south side of the excellent roadstead of the same name, near the southwestern extremity of the Crimea (three hundred and forty miles northeast of Constantinople), rising from the shore in the form of an amphitheatre, and consisting of a number of tolerably well-built streets, which either stretch south in parallel rows, climbing a steep acclivity, or transversely east to west. The main street, situated along the harbor, which is immediately east of the town, is lined with two-story houses; many of the others, though only of one story, being whitewashed, have a clean and cheerful appearance.
The roadstead and harbor, and the extensive establishments connected with them, are by far the most important features of Sevastapol. The roadstead, entered from the west, stretches east for about three and a half miles, forming a deep hollow between lofty limestone-ridges, which completely shelter it both on the north and south, from which the prevailing winds blow. Its breadth at the entrance is about thirteen hundred yards, immediately widening out to about one mile, and again diminishing till not more than six or seven hundred yards at its head. The average depth at the entrance, and for some distance within, is ten fathoms, but afterward shallows east to not more than four fathoms. The harbor proper is a creek, which opens from the roadstead, and stretches south along the east side of the town. It is above a mile and a half long, and at its entrance four hundred yards wide. In addition to its natural advantages, it has had all the improvements which art and unbounded expenditure could give to make it complete. The admiralty, arsenal, and public offices, are on the western — the hospitals, barracks, and magazines, mostly on the eastern side of the harbor. Toward the land side, no defences appear to have been thought necessary, but both the roadstead and harbor are protected by three batteries of the most formidable description. Two of these, called Constantine and Alexander, defend the roadstead, one being situated on each side of it; the third, called Nicholas, is situated in the haven itself, fronting the town. These batteries, which, according to some, are of the most perfect, and, according to others, of very indifferent construction, could bring twelve hundred guns to bear upon any fleet attempting to force a passage. The fortifications were commenced in 1780, when it was a mere Tartar village. The population, including military and marine, now exceeds forty thousand. Oliphant, who visited Sevastapol in 1853, thus remarks: "Nothing can be more formidable than the appearance of the town from the seaward. We visited it in a steamer, and found that at one point we were commanded by twelve hundred pieces of artillery. Fortunately for a hostile fleet, we afterward heard that these could not be discharged without bringing down the rotten batteries upon which they are placed, and which are so badly constructed that they look as if they had been done by contract. Four of the forts consist of three tiers of batteries. We were, of course, unable to do more than take a very general survey of these celebrated fortifications, and therefore can not vouch for the truth of the assertion that the rooms in which the guns are worked are so narrow and ill-ventilated, that the artillerymen would be inevitably stifled in the attempt to discharge their guns and their duty. But of one fact there was no doubt: that however well fortified may be the approaches to Sevastapol by sea, there is nothing whatever to prevent any number of troops landing a few miles to the south of the town in one of the six convenient bays with which the coasts, as far as Cape Kherson, is indented, and, marching down the main street (provided they were strong enough to defeat any military force that might be opposed to them in the open field), sack the town, and burn the fleet.
"I was much struck with the substantial appearance of many of the private houses ; and, indeed, the main street was handsomer than any I had seen since leaving Moscow. New houses were springing up in every direction, government works were still going forward vigorously, and Sevastapol bids fair to rank high among Russian cities. The magnificent arm of the sea upon which it is situate is an object worthy the millions which have been lavished in rendering it a fitting receptacle for the Russian navy.
"As I stood upon the handsome stairs that lead down to the water's edge, I counted thirteen sail-of-the-line anchored in the principal harbor. The newest of these, a noble three-decker, was lying within pistol-shot of the quay. The average breadth of this inlet is one thousand yards; two creeks branch off from it, intersecting the town in a southerly direction, and containing steamers and smaller craft, besides a long row of hulks which have been converted into magazines or prison-ships. The hard service which has reduced so many of the handsomest ships of the Russian navy to this condition, consists in lying for eight or ten years upon the sleeping bosom of the harbor. After the expiration of that period, their timbers, composed of fir or pine wood never properly seasoned, become perfectly rotten. This result is chiefly owing to inherent decay, and in some degree to the ravages of a worm that abounds in the muddy waters of the Tchernoi Retcka, a stream which, traversing the valley of Inkerman, falls into the upper part of the main harbor. It is said that this pernicious insect — which is equally destructive in salt water as in fresh — costs the Russian government many thousands, and is one of the most serious obstacles to the formation of an efficient navy on the Black sea....... It is maliciously said that, upon the few occasions that the Russian fleet in this sea have encountered a gale of wind, the greater part of the officers and men were always sea-sick! It is certain that they have sometimes been unable to tell whereabout they were on their extensive cruising-ground; and once, between Sevastapol and Odessa, it is currently and libellously reported that the admiral was so utterly at a loss, that the flag-lieutenant, observing a village on shore, proposed to land and ask the way!"
Inkerman, the "Town of Caverns," lies near Sevastapol. The curiosities of this locality consist in the remains which exist there to tell of races long since departed. The precipitous cliffs, between which flow the Tchernoi Retcka, are honeycombed with cells and chapels. The origin of these singular caves is uncertain; but they are supposed to have been excavated by monks during the reigns of the Greek emperors of Constantinople in the middle or later ages. When the Arians who inhabited the Chersonesus were persecuted by the Greek church, then predominant, the members of that sect took refuge in these singular dwellings, whose lofty and inaccessible position rendered them to a certain degree secure. The largest chapel, which presents all the characteristics of Byzantine architecture, is about twenty-four feet long by twelve broad. Sarcophagi, usually quite empty, have been found in many of the cells*; these latter are often connected with each other, and are approached by stairs cut in the living rock. Perched upon the same cliff, and of much earlier date than the caverns which undermine them, are the ruined walls of an old fort. Whether they are the remains of the Ctenus of the ancients, built by Diophantes, King Mithridates's general,'to strengthen the Heraclean wall, or of the Theodori of the Greeks, or of some Genoese stronghold, is still a very open question. There can be no doubt, however, that the seat of government of the principality of Theodori stood formerly on this spot; but it is probable that its inhabitants were composed of Greek colonists, and not of Circassian tribes, as some writers have supposed.
The view from the high-road to Baktchiserai of the valley of Inkerman, with its perforated cliffs and ruined fortress (as represented in the accompanying engraving), is as remarkable as it is beautiful. A romantic old bridge in the foreground spans the sluggish stream, which winds amid the most luxuriant vegetation.
Simferopol (or Akmetchef), the capital of Taurida and the Crimea, lies in a central position, forty miles northwest of Sevastapol. It stands in a fine but not very healthy situation on the river Salghir, and consists of two parts: one new built by the Russians, in the European style; the other old, and occupied by the Tartars. The streets in the former are wide and regular; and it contains the government offices, and a cathedral, said by Dr. Lyall to be by far the handsomest ecclesiastical edifice he had seen in Russia.
The following is Oliphant's description of the modern capital of the Crimea, and its environs, as they appeared to him in 1853 : "When the Crimea was ceded to Russia in 1781, the picturesque old capital of Baktchiserai was considered unworthy of being the chief town of the new province, and a gay modern city was laid out upon the plains of the Salghir, dignified with an imposing ancient Greek name, and built in true Russian taste, with very broad streets, very white, tall houses, decorated with very green paint. If the population consisted entirely of Russians, the interior of the town would be as far from realizing the expectations which its outward appearance is calculated to produce, as Kazan or Saratov; but fortunately for Simferopol, it was once Akmetchet (or 'The Whiite Mosque'),and the inhabitants of Akmetchet still linger near the city of their ancestors, and invest the cold monotony of the new capital with an interest of which it would be otherwise quite unworthy.
"Formerly the second town in the Crimea, and the residence of the kalga sultan, or vice-khan, Akmetchet was a city of great importance, adorned with palaces, mosques, and public baths. It has now exchanged the eastern magnificence of former days for the tawdry glitter of Muscovite barbarism.
"The streets inhabited by Tartars are composed entirely of blank walls, and would therefore be the dullest places imaginable were it not for the people who traverse them. The houses are only one story high, and each is enclosed in a separate courtyard. The parchment windows which look out into it are placed so low as to be quite hidden from the street; and so the unfortunate females have not the ordinary amusement of eastern ladies, and no black eyes glance out of latticed windows upon the passenger as he passes beneath them. The Tartar women of Akmetchet, however, do not lose much by their seclusion. The streets have none of the life and bustle of a town like Cairo. The shops are few and far between, very small and poor, and kept by ugly, unveiled women. The beauties walk about; covered up to the eyes with the white 'fereedje,'which reaches as low as thp knee. Were it not for the bright-colored skirt which flutters beneath it, and the loose drawers that fail over tiny yellow boots, they would look precisely like animated bundles of white linen. The men occasionally wear the turban and flowing robe of the true oriental; but their costumes, always picturesque, vary so much as to be almost indescribable.
"We soon got tired of wandering through this maze of narrow lanes, always confined between high, blank walls, and changed the scene by suddenly coming upon the fashionable promenade, where the band was playing in cool, delicious gardens, to the gay world, who delight to assemble here and stroll upon the banks of the Salghir, away from the heat and dust of the town. The present governor, Pestal, a brother to ' Yes, it comes at last,' is, I understand, in high favor with the emperor. His house is a substantial, handsome-looking mansion. There are extensive barracks situated a little outside the town, but the hospital alone is always in use; the rest of the building is only occupied occasionally by troops passing to and from the Caucasus.
"There are no less than two hotels in Simferopol, and in the one we were at they actually gave us a sheet each, but, of course, no means of washing! Our windows looked out upon the principal street, and were always interesting posts of observation. Sometimes a lumbering nobleman's carriage, piled with luggage, and stored with provisions for a month, rattled into the town — the family being about to return to St. Petersburg for the winter, after spending the summer at their country-seat in the Crimea; or an unpretending vehicle, exactly similar to ours, jogged quietly past, crammed with Armenian merchants, some of whose legs, protruding from between the curtains, were presumed to belong to Armenians, from the perfume of Turkish tobacco which was diffused over the street during their transit; or a file of camel-carts, filled with straw, moved sedately along, stopping every now and then for a few moments while the drivers spoke to friends, when all the camels lay down: no amount of experience seemed to show them that it was hardly worth while to do this, considering how soon they would have to get up again, and the great exertion it involved. Accustomed only to the camels and dromedaries of still more eastern countries, the appearance of this Bactrian camel was quite new to me. The two humps are generally so long, that, unable to sustain themselves, they fall over, and often hang down on each side of the animal's back. The neck and legs are covered with long, thick hair, from which the Tartar women weave cloth of a soft, woolly texture.
"In strong contrast to these singular carts, pert droskies were continually dashing about. Though so small and light, all the public droskies here have two horses, generally very good ones, while the heat of the sun has rendered it necessary that they should, for the most part, be supplied with hoods; so that the atrocious little vehicle of St. Petersburg is converted at Simferopol into quite a respectable conveyance. Next door to our hotel was rather a handsome Jewish synagogue, in which school seemed perpetually going on. Simferopol contains about fourteen thousand inhabitants, of which comparatively a large proportion are members of this persuasion.
"Fortunately the annual fair, which takes place in the first week of October, was being held during the period of our stay; and then it is that the greatest variety of costume, and all the characteristic features of the Crimea, are most opportunely collected for the traveller's benefit. To be properly appreciated, the fair of Nijnei-Novgorod should be seen before that of Simferopol, which we found infinitely more striking, perhaps because we were completely taken by surprise when, quite unaware of its existence, we chanced to enter the market-place one afternoon. It is seldom that two races so widely differing in manners and customs, springing from origins so distinct, are brought into every-day contact in such a palpable manner as in Crim Tartary; and this mixture is the more interesting from the improbability of its existing very long in its present unnatural condition.
"An enormous square, many acres in extent, contained an indiscriminate mass of booths, camels, carts, droskies, oxen, and picturesque grouns.
Here may be seen the red-bearded Russian mujik, in jackboots and sheepskin, in close confabulation with a gayly-dressed Tartar, who has just gal-lopped across the steppe, and who sits his horse as if he were part and parcel of him. He wears a large, white fur-cap; a red-striped, embroidered jacket, fitting close to his body, with wide, open sleeves; while his loose, dark-blue trousers are girded with a bright-colored sash, amid the folds of which the massive handle of his dagger appears ; and his slippered feet are thrust into clumsy stirrups at the ends of very long leathers. His horse is a wiry little animal, possessing an infinitely greater amount of intelligence than beauty. Farther on among the crowd, and distinguished by his green turban, floats the robe of some pious hadje; nor does he seem in the least scandalized by two young ladies in a drosky, not only devoid of fereedje, but even of bonnets, and wearing only the jaunty little caps of the Parisian grisette. We might very fairly suggest, however, the propriety of their profiting, in some degree, from the example of the muffled females over the way, who seem afraid to expose to the profane gaze of men the dyed tips of their finger-nails! In the narrow lanes formed by carts and tents, Greeks, in a no less gay though somewhat different costume from that usually worn in their own country, are haggling with Russian Jews in long black beards, and long black cloaks reaching down to their ankles. It is an even bet who will have the best of such a bargain! Savage-looking Nogais, and Cossack soldiers, are making purchases from Armenian or German shopkeepers. There are large booths, like gipsies' huts magnified, which have no connection with the ragged representatives of that wandering race who swarm at the fair, but which contain quantities of most tempting fruit—huge piles of apricots, grapes, peaches, apples, and plums—of any of which one farthing will buy more than the purchaser can conveniently carry away with him. Besides these booths, there are heavy carts, with wicker-work sides, and ungreased, angular wheels, which make that incessant and discordant creaking familiar to those who have ever heard a Bengal bullock-hackery. Presiding over the whole scene, not in the least disconcerted by the uncongenial forms which surround them, are hundreds of camels, in all sorts of positions, chewing the cud with eastern philosophy, and perfectly submissive to very small, ragged Tartar boys, who seem to have entire charge of them, and who do not reach higher than their knees. Rows of shops enclosed this miscellaneous assemblage, containing saddles, knives, whips, slippers, tobacco-pouches, and Morocco-leather boots, all of Tartar manufacture, besides every description of every European article. It was some satisfaction to feel, as we moved through the busy throng, in plaid shooting-coats with mother-of pearl buttons, that we too were adding another variety to the motley costumes of the fair at Simferopol.
"But the charm of Simferopol does not consist in the variety of races which inhabit it. Though it seems to lie in a plain, as approached from Kertsch, a great part of the town is situated upon the precipitous edge of the steppe, whence a magnificent view is obtained immediately below; and at the foot of abrupt rocks, two hundred feet high, runs the tiny Salghir, dignified with the name of a river, and, if not entitled to it from its size, worthy the appellation by reason of the lovely valley which it has formed in its northern course. Orchards and gardens, containing every sort of fruit-trees, and abounding in rows of tall poplars, line its banks, until the hills, becoming higher and more thickly wooded, form a ridge, which is connected with the Tchatir Dagh (or Tchadyadag),a noble background, and which does full justice to this lovely picture. Nor did a closer acquaintance with the details of this view detract from our original impressions on beholding "it.
"We determined to take advantage of the glorious weather to make the ascent of the Tchatir Dagh (the 'Mountain of the TenV of the Tartars, Trapezus of the Greeks, and Palata Gora of the Russians)....... We reached the giddy edge of the limestone cliff which forms the highest peak, a few moments after sunrise, having attained an elevation of over five thousand feet above the sea. We were well repaid for the fatigue of the ascent by the magnificent view we obtained from this point. Immediately at our feet, and so directly beneath us that a stone might be dropped perpendicularly upon the trees two thousand feet below, lay charmingly-diversified woods and meadows ; curling wreaths of blue smoke ascended from clumps of trees scattered over the park-like scenery, while large herds of cattle seemed from their diminutiveness to have been peppered out upon the rich pasture-land.......
"We soon accomplished the steep descent of the first thousand feet; and, mounting our ponies, attempted to pick our way over the rocks, to some caves, reported to be worth seeing. Our path — or rather where our path would have been, had one existed — lay over a large extent of stratified limestone, of a gray color. The rugged surface, strewn with huge fragments of the stone, was frequently indented by hemispherical hollows, in which grew clumps of trees, and which, had they not occurred so frequently, might have been mistaken far the craters of extinct volcanoes.
"Whatever may have been their origin, they were the cause of incessant annqyance to us as we wound round them — the rocks becoming so sharp and jagged, that we were obliged to lead our horses a great part of the way. At last we descended into one, and the guides pointed to a small under a rock, into which we were expected to crawl, telling us it was the entrance to the cave of Foul Kouba, a view of which is presented on the following page! Armed with a tallow-candle, I forthwith crept into the hole, scrambling on hands and knees amid a quantity of human skulls and bones, which rattled dismally as, one after another, we crawled among them. For twenty or thirty yards we thus proceeded, occasionally obliged to lie down perfectly flat upon the wet mud and bones, and burrow our way along — a mode of entry which reminded me of an unpleasant experience I once endured in descending into an Egyptian mummy-pit.
"At last we were enabled to stand upright and look around. A spacious chamber, about forty feet high, seemed supported by some huge stalactites. The largest of these was at least fifty feet in circumference ; and if the cave had been lighted up with such torches as those used at Adels-burg, instead of with three tallow-dips, I have no doubt their varied colors would have produced a striking effect. I followed a clear stream through a small opening into what appeared another chamber, but could get no one to accompany me on an exploring expedition, as my companion felt too unwell to enter the cave at all. Montandon, however, says that Monsieur Oudinet, a Frenchman, penetrated half a day's journey into this cave without reaching the end. The innumerable skulls and bones lying strewn about in all directions told a melancholy history — a party of Genoese had been smoked to death here, during their wars with the Tartars in the thirteenth century.
"We were glad to get into the fresh air again, and, very hot and dirty, started for Kisil Kouba, another cave not far distant. The entrance to this was magnificent; and, after descending gradually for about a hundred yards, the cave increased to a breadth of thirty or forty yards, while its height could not have been less than sixty feet. Here, however, the stalactites were comparatively poor, though occasionally well-colored. It has never been fully explored; a stream, which we did not reach, becoming too deep to allow of its extent being ascertained."
The celebrated traveller and naturalist Pallas lived for fifteen years in the town of Simferopol. It was his own wish to emigrate thither; and, to enable him to gratify it, the empress Catherine II. made him a present of an estate in the best part of the Crimean peninsula. But, being cut off from the society he had enjoyed in St. Petersburg, and exposed to family annoyances, Pallas became dissatisfied with the country and with the climate he had so highly panegyrized. Having sold his estate, he left Simferopol in disgust in 1811, and returned, after an absence of forty-two years, to his native city Berlin, where he died in the course of the same year.
Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855