Here peace and quiet prevail amidst the beech and pine woods of the Crimean reservation, where rare plants and animals flourish. It has prevailed in this place for many centuries. A long time ago this was the territory of the monastery of SS Cosmas and Damian, and later became one of the favourite hunting grounds of the Russian Emperors. Mountain goats were brought here from Daghestan, deer from other parts of the Caucasus, and aurochs from the Belovezhskaya reservation in Byelorussia.
After the Revolution the hunting ground of the tsars was made a reservation. But it was only in 1923 that the reservation received its full legal rights, when on the initiative of Lenin a decree was adopted “On the Crimean State Reservation and Forestry-Biological Station”.
Today the Crimean reservation, with an area of 30,000 hectares, is one of the most interesting reservations in the world.
Some way before you reach the reservation along the road from Alushta a dark blue line of mountains appears on the horizon—as if the waves of the Black Sea had somehow appeared miraculously far inland. You see the outline of the thick woods on the slopes of the Chamny-Burun, of Babuchan—the father of mountains, and the Konyok Mountain Range. Here, on the mountainside, thunder the cold, foaming River Ulu-Uzen and the Golovinsky waterfall. Its roaring hangs above the heavy moist foliage along the coast and can be heard in the only birch copse in the entire Crimea, on the mountain peak. From here one can see the famous Black Mountain which rises in the very centre of the reservation, or rather its single peak the colour of old silver.
Immediately inside the entrance to the reservation there is a tempting shady green “tunnel”. It is the way to the Kebid-Bogas Pass (“the Narrow Neck”) and on further to the River Alma and the blue mirror-like trout lakes. Here peace envelops you. Peace pervades these thickets of beech trees, where there is not a single tree less than 200 years old; a lonely yew standing at the foot of the mountain as a reminder of the pre-ice age…
The road crosses the central valley and goes up the Chuchelsky Pass. It goes slowly up and up to a height of over one thousand metres above sea level, crossing precipitous gorges and running between the mighty beeches.
At long last you reach the yailas —these are alpine meadows covered with bright tulips, poppies and daisies, now shedding their colourful raiments. Here you might find the rare Crimean edelweiss.
This absorbing journey from one climate to another, from one season to another, takes you through lush forests, thickets of greyish-green juniper bushes, a copse of enormous beech trees whose five-hundred-year-old trunks tower like so many mysterious monuments. In their impenetrable shade it is always cool and dark, and only here and there does one see a faint glow of the suns rays.
Among these powerful, mighty trees, the Crimean pine holds its own. A tall tree covered with needles like the feathers of some fabulous birds, it grows on the southern slopes of the reservation near Uch-Kosh gorge. This is the pine which was once used by Genoese merchants for their swift and sturdy boats; the tree whose healing fragrance made it famous throughout the world.
Suddenly in this green pine-scented peace that surrounds a traveller on all sides a faint fleeting patter is heard—and a deer with its splendid crown of antlers crosses the road.
No less beautiful are the roe, of which there are many in Nikitskyaya, Ai-Petri, and other yailas. In summer the roe is covered with fur that is a reddish colour, looking as though it is slightly singed, but in winter the animal is silvery grey, with a white patch round its tail.
Here, too, lives the moufflon, another denizen of the Crimean forest, brought here from Corsica. The animals did not seem to miss their native country for long, but it was more difficult for them to get rid of an age-old habit from Corsican times of seeking refuge from the rain on the mountain summit, where torrents of water could not harm them. Here in the Crimea where grass is soft and luscious, and where there is plenty of beech underbrush with its slightly bitter skin that the moufflons like so much, the animals were threatened by a different kind of danger—snowdrifts. Driven by instinct, the Corsican guests always went up to the highest point came rain or snowstorm.
In the daytime, especially when it is hot, the moufflons keep to the shady spots by the cliffs or under the trees, their characteristic thick reddish fur decorated with round white spots on the flanks and a black stripe down the back, their heavy prominent heads with big twisted horns thrown back.
There are many animals of various kinds here: wild boar from the Ussuri in the Far East, plenty of stone martens and badgers.
There is a great variety of carnivores, herbivores and various birds. Naturally, such a great number of animals requires considerable attention from the staff, from scientific workers down to gamekeepers.
High above the forests here, the mighty eagle, the master of the sky, can be seen sitting proudly on some high rock.
When one leaves the reservation it is not easy to forget this vision of the eagle —motionless, guarding this quiet ancient land.
The road snakes down to the sea, twisting and turning to soften the steep incline. Not far from the highway are the green woods of the famous Nikitsky Botanical Gargens, a veritable gathering of trees from all over the earth, where you can find the strawberry tree, or a gigantic sequoia from Northern America, or a cedar from the Himalayas beside tea bushes from India.
The Botanical Gardens represent not only an extensive collection of plants from all parts of our planet; it is also a green laboratory where selection experts evolve new kinds of fruit trees and grapes, and entirely new, strikingly beautiful flowers.
It is here that now world-famous Bakhchisarai and Ayu-dagh roses were grown, whose fragrance is evocative of the sea and the mountains.