HomeBEYOND TURKEYRUSSIA & CAUCAUS & IRANCrimea: Tatar Capital Bahçesaray and Mini Topkapi Palace: Hansaray

Crimea: Tatar Capital Bahçesaray and Mini Topkapi Palace: Hansaray

© Photos and Text by Okay Deprem http://www.northtravel.org/

After getting on one of the shabby minibuses departing from both Simferopol’s 2 bus terminals and going in the direction of Sevastopol, I get off at a distance that does not take even an hour. The scenery along the way is quite ordinary and plain. Likewise, if the southern sides are not counted, it is not possible to say that nature treats Crimea very generously.

The whole country is covered with Black Sea-type steppes, savannas, grasslands, fields and small woodlands. I barely get on the Bahçesaray minibus, which takes off shortly after the mini-station I got off, by melting into the crowd of people again. It is almost impossible to find decent public transport once you get into the interior of the Crimea… Even though I thought that only an authentic palace residence would meet me until I got here, I realize that this is a pretty big town as the vehicle rises towards the inner parts of the valley. This is a place that consists of makeshift, neglected and unpretentious 1-2 storey houses, although not as much as the Turkey type cartoonish town house type.

As soon as I see Pushkin’s statue on the left towards coming to a square-like open space, I think that the palace must be somewhere around here. After all, it is known that the romantic Russian poet visited the palace and wandered for a long time. When I see the minarets and thin pointed towers on the left and finally the big entrance door, I get out of the vehicle. And in front of me stands the 2nd Topkapı Palace in the world. In other words, it is a tiny replica of Topkapi Palace.

Hansaray, which is the chief residence of the khans of the Crimean Tatar State, is not much inside, but the second one is surrounded by high walls. A deep ditch runs through the middle of these, which is completely empty and dry today, but which was probably full of water in its time. The main gate of the Hansaray is very modest, simple and resembles a large courtyard entrance.

The exterior facades of the adjoining palace buildings rising above and surrounding the entire palace at the end of the inner wall; It has rectangular wooden windows with light niches, mostly high, single storey and some with bay windows. The lower and upper sides of the window series are usually decorated with geometric, oriental and symmetrical non-figurative drawings and coloring. The flat and tiled roof, which is full of miniature pointed towers, most of which is thought to have functioned as chimneys and very reminiscent of those in the Topkapı Palace, is fringed. As soon as you enter through the main gate, an inner garden similar to the size and type of the 2nd courtyard of Topkapı Palace welcomes you.

Hansaray Museum and Harem

The Hansaray, which was started to be built by the famous Giray Dynasty in 1532, was enlarged and expanded step by step with the addition of new buildings over time and gained its present appearance. The detailed design and minarets of this New Age oriental palace, the center of the political and cultural life of the Crimean Tatars, are the work of Ottoman, Persian and Italian architects.

The inn, the residences of his family and palace staff, as well as the museum section, are located on the left side of the courtyard and can be entered both in groups and individually. Closed living spaces consisting of rooms, saloons, bathrooms, corridors and inner courtyards that resemble the harem of Topkapı Palace; It draws attention with its colorful painting of the walls, modest sofa sets in the corners, magnificent crystal chandeliers, quality marble floors, pointed fireplaces in the corners, wooden columns and sills, high ceilings that are blended with lively tones, consisting of intertwined floors and highly ornate workmanship.

In the Divan Room, where the most important political and economic issues of the khanate are discussed and decisions are taken, the gold-plated throne of the khan still remains in the corner, while the sofas where the members of the council of ministers of that day sit are still in place today. Stained glass windows, upper wall facades covered with colored marble blocks, cushioned ottomans and a small fountain standing in the middle; It gives the color of the basic characteristic of living rooms.

The Fountain of Tears and Pushkin’s Poetry

On the way to the Hansaray’s harem chamber, there are two fountains that appear in the inner courtyards, their fame extending far beyond not only the palace but also Bahçesaray and even the country. The first of these is the Golden Fountain, dedicated to Kaplan Giray Han. A little further on, we come to the second one, the Fountain of Tears, which is identified with Pushkin.

Crimean Khan Giray is infatuated with the Polish princess Maria, who is imprisoned in his harem. Because of this love, the concubine named Zarema, who was the favorite of the harem until then, was pushed into the background. Then Zarema kills Maria. Giray, who put an end to Zarema’s life, had an enormous fountain built for Maria. The famous Russian poet Pushkin, who visited the Palace while in exile, was fascinated by seeing the fountain and penned the famous poem “Bahçesaray Fountain” in 1824:

“… Oh Fountain of Love, oh fountain of sadness
I heard long stories from your stone lips
Oh far away pieces of pain and happiness
But no words came out of Maria…”

According to what is written, the Russian armies that occupied and invaded the Crimea at the end of the 18th century did not touch this fountain, as well as Bakhchisaray, out of respect and love for Pushkin. While the name of the fountain remains in its original form, a bust of Pushkin is erected next to it.

Other main structures of the palace complex: Büyük Han Mosque, Ufak Khan Mosque, Pool Courtyard, Falcon Tower, Persian Garden, Han Cemetery and Yellow Beauty Bath, east of the northern entrance of the courtyard. The Harem rooms, marked by Turkish Baroque, are; It is characterized by a marble stove in the middle, chest of drawers and chests on the sides, cedar inlaid coffee tables, vivid wall paintings, Persian carpets, copper jug, cauldron and tray sets, and instruments.

“This article was published in the monthly journal ‘Hayat Dergi’.”

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