Have you ever thought really deep? What do you think is hidden under your feet, under a thin layer of soil?
A large part of Ukraine lies on the so-called Ukrainian Shield. This is a powerful stone slab, which is already more than two billion years old. The shield crosses the bed of the Dnieper River. Where the granite slab ends and the Black Sea depression begins, there are rocky ledges that used to make the Dnieper unnavigable, the famous Dnieper rapids.
Now most of the rocky rapids are hidden under the water of the Zaporozhye reservoir. But the island of Khortytsya remained, the center of Cossack culture and one of the seven wonders of Ukraine. The island is connected to the city by two bridges, and it is worth visiting for several reasons.
The microclimate of the island is different from the climate on the coast: the humidity is higher and the air is cleaner. Therefore, its own, special animal and plant world was formed here. In the uninhabited parts of the island, trees and bushes have grown into impenetrable lush thickets. Several hundred species of birds live on the island, rodents, roe deer periodically swim. Hunting is prohibited here, but walking through a real forest within the boundaries of an industrial city is a pleasure in itself.
Lovers of antiquity can find on the island the sites of the most ancient sites of Paleolithic people – twelve thousand years ago, is it a joke! From later antiquities, the remains of the Scythian settlement in Sovutina Balka are of interest. The Scythians lived on Khortitsa in the 7th century BC, it was they who poured more than a hundred burial mounds on the island.
During the time of Kievan Rus, merchants traveling down the Dnieper and from one river bank to another found shelter on the island. To be honest, the robbers who lay in wait for the caravans also often hid in the forest thickets. The crossing at the narrowest point of the river was called by the Turkic word “kis-kash” – “the shortest”. It really was the most convenient route for many kilometers around. The name has been preserved to this day: the area of Zaporozhye opposite Khortitsa is called Kichkas.
The rulers of Kievan Rus also paid attention to the natural fortress. The island was used for collections of ancient Russian nobility, princes and their squads. Carolingian swords were found here – such a sword was called the “ideal killer” and was very expensive, especially since only a few masters minted it in Western Europe. In Russia, only the richest or most skilled warriors could wear such swords. Such finds, by the way, speak in favor of the version that it was on Khortitsa that Prince Svyatoslav died.
All over the island there are traces of ancient sites and temples where gods were worshiped in pre-Christian Russia. Of course, the ancient idols have not been preserved, but brand new wooden statues are being installed on the sites of the old sanctuaries. Lovers of antiquity and fans of paganism gather here.
Capital of the Cossacks
The first Sich appeared on the island in the 16th century. Dmitry Vishnevetsky himself, the famous Baida, built a wooden fortress here to hold back the raids of the Turks from the south. For two hundred years, the impregnable island was the capital of the Cossack freemen, survived many wars and battles, the Sich Cossacks gathered here to make the most important decisions, until the fortress was destroyed by order of the Russian Empress Catherine II in the 18th century.
Now there is a memorial and tourist complex “Zaporizhska Sich” on the island. It was rebuilt in 2007 for the filming of the film based on the story “Taras Bulba”, and since then the complex has been actively operating. Here they restore the Cossack way of life, observe the spirit of the Cossacks. For guests, they organize performances with a demonstration of Cossack martial arts.
In the post-war period, when the Dnieper HPP dam was restored, recreation centers and boarding houses for the workers of Zaporozhye began to be built on the island. Now on the island you can find a place to stay for every taste and budget, from sports bases with campsites to modern air-conditioned rooms. The island has several beaches where locals and visitors enjoy swimming.