One of the heroes of Haruki Murakami's work liked to travel very much, learning something new in process, broadening the horizons: "It happens to me either. I look at the map – and suddenly there is a wild desire to go goodness knows where. As far as possible from comfort and benefits of a civilization. To see with my own eyes what landscapes are there and what happens in those regions in general. To fever, to a shiver. But you can’t explain anybody how this desire appeared in you. Curiosity in pure form. Not explainable inspiration". Did you recognize yourself in this description? Suddenly that wild desire to take a suitcase thrown on the top shelf appeared again, to collect all necessary stuff and to go right away? But before the travel, it is necessary to choose the direction.
Today we offer you to go to one of the most picturesque and most ancient republics of the North Caucasus – Chechnya. We chose for you top-7 places which cannot be avoided in any way if there is a strong wish not only to get acquainted with the culture of the local people, but to plunge into history and, perhaps, to be transferred several centuries ago and to appear side by side with proud and ambitious Caucasians. Well, let’s travel!
What is Chechnya? It’s improbable beauty of the primitive nature, the ancient patrimonial towers directed in heaven, majestic castle complexes and settlements. Together with keeping traditions and history, Chechnya represents the republic where there is also a place to modern architectural constructions and the last trends of world and eastern art. However, despite time and weather outside the window, a situation in the world or own problems, traditional hospitality is an invariable component of the Chechen people.
Mosque "The Heart of Chechnya"
We will begin our travel with the cathedral mosque "The Heart of Chechnya" which was located in the capital of the Republic - the city of Grozny. Opening of the long-awaited Muslim temple was in 2008, but the idea had appeared at the end of the 1980th years.
In 2013, the mosque "The Heart of Chechnya" became one of nominees of the All-Russian TV project, which asked to determine by interactive vote top and ten symbols of the country. The architectural perfection of the Chechen shrine was estimated by millions of TV viewers. And in 2015, the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in “the Symbols of Russia” collection series rapped out a commemorative silver coin of 3 rubles with the image of the Grozny mosque in Moscow Mint. The circular inscription reminds that the mosque bears a name of Akhmat Kadyrov. Now this coin is of numismatical rarity.
Photo: social network about the photo of photokto
But it is much more interesting to go deep into an architecture of the mosque which looks majestically and fascinating absolutely from any point of view. The blue dome rises by 32 meters, it is surrounded by four more semi-domes. The roof of irregular shape is decorated with less domes, they lean on drums with arch windows from where sunlight gets into internal rooms. The arch of the central dome is illuminated by scattered beams of bluish light within, as a reminder that it symbolizes a firmament. The arch is decorated with the sura from the Quran glorifying Allah.
On sides of the square building four 63-meter minarets intercepted by ring balconies rise. The arches support columns with the elegant arches from blocks of white marble and red granite, which are laid out serially. In light the ayahs from the Holy Quran shine with gold on the walls, the Arab ligature is written out filigree by master calligraphers. Marble floors are covered by handmade carpets. Interiors are lit with 36 chandeliers made of bronze. Details of lamps are gilded and decorated with the crystals reminding semiprecious stones. Designers gave to chandeliers of an outline of the well-known mosques in the Muslim world located in Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.
The Argun gorge
Our following stop is the Argun gorge. It’s not just a center of unique watchtowers, but a cradle of ancient nakhs, these are inexpressible with a simple language, but the most hidden corners of landscapes of primitive beauty. Steep rocks, bottomless abysses, impassable thickets. The untouched nature and rich fauna will surprise even the most spoiled travelers. Extent of the gorge is 120 km. For a long time here there was a way to Georgia and Dagestan.
To see all sights, which are hidden in the subsoil by the gorge, a car is not enough here, and it is necessary to walk only on foot, especially upon transition on mountain tracks or via narrow bridges.
Impassable thickets, narrow footpaths, steep walls brought glory of the unapproachable mountain country to this place. During the travel to the Argun gorge, it is possible to see many interesting sights, it is a lot of fighting watchtowers, ancient settlements and hydrosulphuric springs soaring on all surface of the territory; the cleanest Chanty-Argunsky spring gives crystal healing water; the picturesque (Nikhaloy) Falls will fill with vivifying force; the most beautiful Vashindaroyevsky falls (near Shatoi) will leave indelible impressions; Ushkalinskiye's Twin Towers bewitch; the falls in Itum-Cali (near Itum-Calais) differ by the unique beauty; the city of the dead Tsoi-Peda can’t leave anybody indifferent.
It is difficult to overestimate value of these two towers in the history of the Chechen people. Masters located towers in rocks where the rock served as the base for construction, and often became one of walls. Ancient builders skillfully built the massif in towers, which demonstrated eminence and richness of the family living there.
Usually in only one entrance, which was located quite highly – at the level of the second or third floor led to the fighting tower. It was possible to get to the tower only with a ladder, which was taken away by defenders of the tower in case of danger. Such tower had several floors, on the first floor captives were usually held. The tower was narrowed up and ended up with a pyramidal roof.
In the mountains of the Caucasus in a hard-to-reach spot of the Argun gorge two towers stand for centuries. Constructions are dated approximately the 11th century A.D. Towers belong to fighting type, are built skillfully in deepening of the rock, so one of walls is the rock, and a roof is a stone peak of the massif.
Northern and Southern towers differ from each other by the sizes, and the entrance to towers is at the level of the second floor, above an entrance the loophole is located for their protection. The small window is on the top.
Unfortunately, towers seriously suffered last century. The left tower was completely destroyed in 1944. In the right tower an internal part suffered. This very tower got a hole from direct hit of an artillery charge in 2001.
By present time researchers, archeologists struggle with a riddle: what were those towers built for? Perhaps, they performed sentry function, protecting territory border. It should be noted that towers were almost not vulnerable at the attack, and there was enough water and food for inhabitants of Ushkaloysky towers, so they could sustain a long siege.
Unfortunately, all historical documents, which could shed light on these ancient constructions, were lost in 1944.
At present, the towers are restored both outside, and inside. The robust bridge is built across Argun that considerably facilitates the road to the towers for tourists.
Our following large stop is a tower complex of the Malkhistinsky gorge, at the place of confluence of the river Meshi-hi with Chanty-Argun. On the pointed hump cape hard-to-reach from three sides, and resting by the North side to the rocks of the foot of Kore-Lam Ridge, the large necropolis Tsoi-Pede is located, and it is one of the largest ones along the North Caucasus.
There are 42 solar burial grounds of the XIII-XV centuries, numerous burials were found in each of them. On stones, there are a lot of solar signs, and at the entrance to "the city of the dead" two pagan sanctuaries were located, sacrifices were made there. By ancient beliefs, they protected rest of the dead and brought wellbeing to the living.
Over crypts the fighting tower ("a tower of cemeteries") rises. It was erected to protect crypts from malefactors who could profane graves for revenge. The fighting tower is supplied with a set of loopholes. On stones of a tower, it is possible to find petroglyphs – magic signs, which had to preserve the tower and soldiers from the enemy.
To the south from "the city of the dead" the large tower settlement separated by unapproachable rocks and a strong stone wall was located. Narrow pass was accurately controlled by two fighting towers located on both sides of the gorge. According to the legend, Tsoi-Pede enemies unsuccessfully besieged three months, but could get inside only thanks to the girl who told the beloved from among besieging safe pass from an abyss.
In old times in Tsoi-Pede, once a year the all-Chechen army gathered. Despite how far soldiers lived, everyone had to arrive there to strictly appointed day. The last who arrived after the sunrise was executed. Old residents do not lose an opportunity to tell you one ancient legend, which says that one soldier purposely slowed down a horse and was late. Answering a question of elders of the reason, he admitted that he fad married the day before, but knew that the bride had loved another man, and decided to die to present freedom to the girl. There was another rider who demanded to execute him as the girl whom he loved had married the day before, and he decided not to prevent the marriage. Elders were surprised to nobility of young men, and repealed the severe law of ancestors.
In the southern part of the settlement of Itum-Kala of the Chechen Republic the medieval castle Pkhakoch is located. According to some information, it was built in the 11-12th centuries by ancestors of present Chechens.
What does fortress represent? It includes several fighting and inhabited towers enclosed with a high stone wall. From here, it was convenient to control the road to Georgia and Dagestan. Until recently there were only ruins, but now the tower complex is restored and ready to accept tourists.
As soon as you cross a tower gate, it seems you are transferred to the Middle Ages. Look around! There are big stone buildings, the ancient mill using water and very small entrance doors. In one of the towers, it is possible to find the museum in which household items and weapon are stored. All exhibits are absolute long-livers from hundred years and above.
Nobody knows exact date of laying of a complex. By a legend, it was constructed by the Chechen by the name of Eton, who stopped on this place to take rest after the journey.
Museum of "Scheera-yurt"
If you are succeeded to be in one of the North Caucasian republics, it is absolutely necessary to visit the architectural and ethnographic museum of "Scheera-yurt" stylized as the medieval Chechen settlement. The museum on the outskirts of the settlement of Germenchuk of Shalinsky district of the Chechen Republic was open on August 17, 2014.
Translated from the Chechen language "Scheera-yurt" means "the old settlement". It is the exact copy of the traditional Chechen aul, where throughout many centuries ancestors of Vainakhs lived. The entrance to the settlement has a stone watchtower, which is one of the main family and national properties at Chechens. Its height is about 25 meters.
Besides a tower, the ethnographic complex includes authentic workshops, a smithy, a house of the village elder, an infirmary and a mosque. Each construction is an exhibition hall as well, where the historical situation is recreated and ancient household items of Chechens are stored.
Well, finally we will visit one more tower – Dyore tower. This tower is one of the most ancient in the Chechen republic. It was constructed as a fighting construction still far back in the past in the XII century. The construction was destroyed, overlappings from a tree decayed long ago, but the tower could survive up to now.
This unique building is considered a monument of medieval architecture, which wasn't changed by a modern civilization. In spite of the fact that certain works on overlapping reconstruction were carried out, the tower remained untouched and appears in the original state. Its approximate age, according to local old resident, makes more than nine hundred years. For Chechnya, where there is nothing left practically from the last city since the time of ancestors, this tower is a uniqueness, guarded by all people as a place of interest.
Height of this construction is 23 meters. The topmost tier of a tower served as patrol point from where the panoramic view of all mountain gorge opened, and from top watchtowers transmitted fighting or warning signals.
Near Dyore tower, the settlement where people hold usual and everyday life was located. Exactly here it is possible to hear legends, to plunge into history and to see local color. At the same time, locals will consider for joy to treat you with national dishes.
To be continued …
Photo above by: Magomed Shapiyev