There are only a handful of Muslim palaces in Europe. Most of them are in Turkey, one in Spain (the Alhambra), and one in Ukraine:
In the middle of the 16th century, Bakhchisaray had become the capital of the Crimean Khan dynasty. The palace itself was built around 1532 and is a fine example of Ottoman architecture.
The word “palace” is a bit misleading. In the enclosure you will indeed find the living quarters of the Khan and his family, but there are also gardens, a cemetery, and 2 mosques.
The Crimean Khans had their own state (in Crimea) until 1783. Once a great empire, these Muslims have now become a minority struggling for their rights. The palace is now a symbol of their former glory.
In 2017, a Russian firm restored the palace… with devastating consequences. The Russians had little experience with historical restoration. Some of the features that you can see in our pictures have now become damaged or have simply disappeared.
The most important feature of the palace is the Bakhchisaray Fountain.
The last Khan had fallen deeply in love with a Polish girl in his harem. Unfortunately, she was murdered by the Khan’s former favorite wife. After her death, the Khan became the victim of deep sorrow and grief and commissioned this fountain.
Russian writer Pushkin was so moved by this fact that he wrote a poem about it. It’s probably because of this poem, that the palace still exists. According to tradition, you will usually find a red and yellow rose on the fountain.
Some practical information
- There are lots of road signs to the Khan Palace, you cannot miss it.
- There is ample parking space near the palace; you need to pay a small fee.
- Summers are very hot in Crimea. Apply ample quantities of sunscreen.
- For those of you who like a real driving adventure (from Belgium to Ukraine, for example): crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine can take up to 2 hours!
- We were in Crimea in 2011. At that moment, there were hardly any formalities between the Ukrainian – Crimean borders. That is, we drove all the way from Odessa via Mykolajiv to Sevastopol without having to present a passport or any other papers. Russia occupies Crimea since 2014; check official information before you leave to find out what procedures you need to follow.
- Driving in Ukraine can be adventurous. The state of the roads goes from very bad to quite good. Very old trucks that seem to have survived at least one world war, pedestrians, cyclists transporting large goods, in other words, everybody uses major roads. We even saw a small car with 2 passengers in front and 2 goats on the backseat. Ukrainians like to speed, but we hardly encountered aggressive drivers. Finally, corrupt policemen will stop any foreign car and come up with false allegations in order to get some money from you. Just stay calm and be firm.
- Does your GPS cover Ukraine? If not, buy a detailed map of the country!
What about you? Have you ever visited this palace? Would you fancy driving around in Ukraine and Crimea?
We are back later this week with more travel adventures, somewhere in Europe!