City at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

Many tourists stubbornly prefer the Azov beaches to the Black Sea ones, and people from all over Crimea come here to see the ruins of ancient Panticapaeum

August 3, 2022

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

The Kerch Peninsula, surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Kerch Strait, the Sea of ​​Azov and the Black Sea, is somewhat isolated from the rest of Crimea , with which it is connected by the Akmonai Isthmus, which is only about 17 km wide.

The local nature is not as diverse and rich in colors as on the southern coast, and yet many tourists stubbornly prefer the Azov beaches to the Black Sea ones, and people come here from all over the Crimea to see the ruins of ancient Panticapaeum.

Kerch

On the slopes of Mount Mithridates, in the historical center of modern Kerch, the ruins of Panticapaeum, the capital of the Bosporan kingdom, were found.

In ancient times, the Kerch Strait was also called Panticapaeum, from the banks of which, according to legend, Andrew Europe.

City at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

    Ruins of Panticapaeum

    Church of John the Baptist

    Stairway to the top of Mount Mithridates

    Obelisk of Glory and the Eternal Flame

    St. Athanasius Church

    Crypt of Demeter

    Melek-Chesme mound

    Yeni-Kale Fortress

    Historical and Archaeological Museum

    Museum of Oceanography and Fisheries

    Picture gallery

In the 8th century, the city fell into the sphere of influence of the Khazars, and in the 10th century, under the name Korchevo, it became the sea gate of the ancient Russian Tmutarakan principality on the Black and Azov Seas.

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After the conquest of Crimea by the Mongol-Tatars, Genoa and Venice argued over the possession of the port.

In 1475, the city was captured by the Ottoman Turks, and in 1772, Kerch became the first of the Crimean cities to become part of the Russian Empire.

The city was badly damaged during the Crimean War (1853-1856), and during the Great Patriotic War it was on the front line four times, two large landing operations were carried out here – Kerch-Feodosia and Eltigen. In 1973, Kerch was awarded the title of Hero City.

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Metropolitan scale: ancient Panticapaeum was decorated with majestic architectural monuments

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Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist, X century

Photo: Sergey Ashmarin (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikimedia Commons

The Byzantine Church of John the Baptist (X-XIII centuries) stands in the square opposite the Genoese pier. According to legend, the construction of the temple on this site was blessed by the Apostle Andrew the First-Called.

Not all historians agree that the apostle really preached in Panticapaeum, but Christians really were here already in apostolic times: one of the the oldest images of the Christian cross – it is scratched on the plaster of an ancient cistern and probably dates back to the end of the 1st century.

The oldest Christian church in the Northern Black Sea region (except for the cave monasteries) has largely retained its original appearance. The main volume of the building is composed of alternating rows of white stone and flat bricks (plinths), forming a striped white-pink masonry characteristic of Byzantine buildings.

The dome rests on four dark gray marble columns with Corinthian capitals, probably taken , from an earlier building. On one of the columns is the date according to the Byzantine calendar – 6265 (757).

In the 1840s, the western part of the temple was expanded and rebuilt in a pseudo-Byzantine style, while several tombstones from the 3rd century BC were installed in the new walls. e. with Greek inscriptions.

The bell tower (1845) was built by the architect Alexander Digby. An Italian by birth, Digby built a lot in Kerch, Odessa and other cities of southern Russia. He also owns the Kerch redevelopment project, which began in the 1830s.

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The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

The most famous creation of Digby  is the staircase to the top of Mount Mithridates (1833–1840, together with Giorgio Toricelli).

As conceived by the city planners, it personifies the connection of times – the ancient past of the region (the ruins of Panticapaeum), the Greek-Byzantine period (the Church of John the Baptist) and the period of the New Age (classic octagonal square, XIX century).

The staircase was destroyed during the Crimean War and rebuilt over a century later. The stone griffins guarding the treasures of Mount Mithridates have also been recreated.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

The mountain, on which the acropolis of ancient Panticapaeum once stood, is completely riddled with tunnels. They were made by treasure hunters who started digging here in the Middle Ages. And today, after the rain, valuable finds happen on Mount Mithridates.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

432 leads to the obelisk of Glory and the Eternal Flame (1944, Alexei Kiselev) on the top of the mountain (91 m) steps of the stairs (however, you can also climb the mountain by car).

From the observation deck, a panorama of the Kerch Strait opens, which Tsar Mithridates probably admired.

Mithridates and Farnak

Mithridates VI Eupator (134–63 BC) is one of the most famous characters of antiquity. Mithridates united under his rule all the Black Sea states, including the Bosporus and Chersonese, competed with Rome itself and at the same time found time to study languages ​​(he spoke 22) and natural history (he wrote several books).

But most of all, Mithridates is known for his experiments with poisons: afraid of poisoners, he took microdoses of all poisons known at that time and gradually developed immunity to them.

And when the king was betrayed to the Romans by his son Farnak, Mithridates could not pass away painlessly: the poison did not work, and the king asked to be stabbed with a sword.

After the death of Mithridates, his kingdom fell apart, and the traitor Farnak received an honorary title from the Romans “Friend and ally of the Roman people.”

However, he soon betrayed the new owners, again won back part of his father's possessions and tried to defeat Julius Caesar himself in battle. But to no avail: it was about the battle with Pharnaces that Caesar sent the famous message to Rome: Veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”).

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Museum “Facsimile of the fresco painting of the Crypt of Demeter”

Not far from the Mithridates Stairs and the ruins of Panticapaeum is St. Athanasius Church (XIX century). To the left of the foot of the stairs there is the museum “Facsimile of the fresco painting of the crypt of Demeter”.

The crypt of Demeter (1st half of the 1st century) was discovered in the middle of the 19th century on the territory of the private property of the Zaitsevs in good condition (robbers did not get to it, which in itself is a rarity for these places). It is an almost square burial room (2.20 x 2.75 m), decorated with unique frescoes in the so-called flower style, characteristic of Bosporan painting of the 1st-2nd centuries.

The frescoes with the image of the goddess of fertility Demeter, who mourns for her daughter Persephone, abducted by the god of the underworld Hades.

However, the original paintings are still available only to restorers. The monument was repeatedly flooded by groundwater, because of which there was a threat of a complete loss of frescoes. Therefore, in 1997, a museum with a copy of the fresco painting of the crypt was created especially for tourists. BC

The Melek-Chesme mound -an ancient burial structure with a well-preserved monumental crypt -is located next to the bus station. The name of the mound was given by the river Melek-Chesme (distorted Crimean Tatar.   – “source of an angel”) flowing nearby.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

Yeni-Kale Fortress

The Yeni-Kale Fortress (1703–1711) was built by the Turks under the guidance of French engineers on the shore of the Kerch Strait, in its narrowest point.

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The Turkish fortress of Yeni-Kale was designed for a long siege, but in the 18th century it surrendered to Russian troops without a fight

Photo: ANDREW BUTKO (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikimedia Commons

The guns on the walls of the fortress held the strait at gunpoint. From the land, a powerful three-tiered structure was covered by a moat and an earthen rampart.

Nevertheless, on June 21, 1771, Russian troops under the command of Major General N.V. Borzov captured the fortress without a fight, and after the annexation of the Crimea to Russia, it completely lost its significance.

This architectural monument was most destroyed during the Second World War.

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< h3>On the streets of Kerch

On the pedestrian street. Lenin (formerly Vorontsovskaya), the architects tried to recreate the appearance of the city street of the XIX century: they restored the houses, installed copies of pre-revolutionary street lamps. Here you will find cafes, expensive restaurants and fashion stores.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

Historical and Archaeological Museum

The Historical and Archaeological Museum was founded in 1826. Household items and works of art are presented, starting from ancient times and ending with gifts presented to the city by the heads of modern states.

The museum was robbed twice: in 1854 by the British (some of the exhibits are still on display in the British Museum), in 1941 – the Germans. But even what has been preserved is one of the richest antique collections in the world, including a large collection of sculptures and tombstones from antiquity to the 15th century.

Museum of Oceanography and Fisheries

The Museum of Oceanography and Fisheries is located in the Maritime Institute and demonstrates the richest collection of flora and fauna of the Azov-Black Sea basin.

Here you can see animals that have become heroes of various myths (for example, about mermaids), and finally find out the truth Is it possible that a huge octopus can sink a ship.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

Picture gallery

In the Art Gallery, it is worth seeing the exhibition “Masterpieces of Ancient Art” and the permanent exhibition of paintings by the famous Soviet battle painter Nikolai Bout (1928–1989), dedicated to the heroes of Adzhimushkay. The diorama of the Church of John the Baptist is also of interest.

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< h2>Adzhimushkay

In the village of Adzhimushkay, not far from Kerch, there is the Museum of the History of Defense of the Adzhimushkay Quarries. Limestone-shell rock was mined in Adzhimushkay back in the middle of the 19th century.

Subsequently, a Bolshevik printing house worked in the quarries, and in February-May 1919, there was a base for a partisan detachment.

In May In 1942, when German troops approached the city, more than 10,000 soldiers of the encircled Kerch garrison and more than 2,000 residents descended into the Adzhimushkay quarries.

Despite hunger, thirst (they tried to suck water out of the porous walls of the quarries), the lack of light and fresh air, gas attacks, explosions and landslides, the defenders of the quarries fought actively and managed to break their resistance only in October.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

Royal Kurgan

Near the quarries is the Tsarsky Kurgan (4th century BC), presumably the tomb of one of the representatives of the Spartokid dynasty.

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Entrance to the Tsarsky Kurgan, outskirts of Kerch, Crimea

Photo :Investigatio (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikimedia Commons

The burial mound was opened in 1837, but it turned out that the burial had been plundered in ancient times (however, some scientists believe that there was no burial in the crypt at all).

Of particular interest is the 36-meter corridor (dromos), covered with a false vault, laid out from rows of stones protruding one above the other.

In the outlines of the entrance, some see the silhouette of a cypress -a tree symbolizing death.

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Azov Coast

The coast of Azov to the west of the Kerch Strait is not distinguished by its special brightness of colors and impressive landscapes, but it attracts wildlife lovers (it should be borne in mind that local dirt roads become a real disaster during rain).

B 2.5 km from the village of Kurortnoe (19 km north-west of Kerch) there is Lake Chokrak. The lake has the most mineralized water in the world (the amount of mineral substances is 27.9%).

The mud of Lake Chokrak was exported to Mediterranean resorts in the 19th century for use in medical procedures.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

After the lake, the so-called general's beaches begin, which in Soviet times were accessible only to army commanders.

Clear water, cozy bays (some of them are accessible only from the sea) and one of the best on the coast, a wide shell-and-sand beach justify the difficult road. The bus to Kurortny is usually crowded, and then you have to walk for a long time.

By the way, Kerch travel agencies organize trips to the “general's” beaches by bus.

The city at the junction of two seas: the most detailed guide to Kerch

Sandy beaches stretch for 25 km along the shores of the Kazantip Bay along the villages of Nizhnemorskoye, Zolotoe, Novootradnoye and Peschanoe. The length of the beaches of the Arabat Spit is 110 km.

In the 1990s, the annual music festival “Kazantip” was held at Cape Kazantip. The festival's main party was traditionally held each year at the unfinished nuclear power plant across Lake Aktash.

Announcement photo: mpolyakov (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikimedia Commons

Material published on the site “Around the world” in December 2015, partially updated in August 2022

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