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Mount Opuk and Rocks-Ships

Recently – and deservedly – Mount Opuk was declared a state nature reserve. Its geology, plant communities, bird world and archaeological remains are truly remarkable. Opuk is small – 185 meters. It is an ordinary oblong bare mountain, disappearing into the sea like a medium-sized bear. 

Fr om a distance it seems grayish-purple with green gentle flares at the bottom. The only place of nesting of pink starlings in the Crimea is located here. These amazingly beautiful birds with a pinkish breast and back nested to time immemorial in a single location – on the slopes of Mount Opuk overgrown with blackthorn, wild rose and hawthorn. In the recent years, the number of the colonies on Opuk doubled. 

To those who come here in spring, Opuk will give another color miracle: yellow, white, crimson, purple and even black tulips... Flying outlines of taut sails can be seen far away in the sea... A group of four islands, “Rocks-Ships” – that’s what it is! They are aside, still unrecognized and inaccessible... 

The biggest “ship” rises above the sea for more than 20 meters. An inquisitive tourist will see the remains of the capital of the legendary country Cimmeria here. The ancient town Cimmeric existed for nearly a thousand years – from V century BC to IV century AD. Excavations revealed the ruins of a powerful citadel, houses, storage facilities for grain and water. And recently Opuk pleased researchers with a unique find... 

A stone stele found on Mount Opuk with an engraved inscription of four runic symbols and a cross in a circle became sensation in the scientific world. It was the kind of writing that was used from the second to the seventh century AD, i.e. before the Viking Age. Authors of the finding suggest that the inscription on the stone discovered on Mount Opuk belongs to the second or third quarter of IV century. Then, on the mountain, a fortress was built that could have been defended by Heruli – Ancient Germanic caste of warriors-mages who served Bosporan kings. 

The word “rune” comes from one of the German dialects and means “a secret”. They say that the runes are not so much the letters of the Ancient Germanic alphabet as magical symbols that allow penetration to the underworld. Possession of formidable mystical powers allowed a person during the fight to turn into a huge wolf, invulnerable to the enemy. 

Maybe the stone was part of the altar in the sanctuary, wh ere initiation to warriors-mages took place. The stone from Mount Opuk is the only find of actual evidence of the presence of semi-legendary “berserkrs” in the Crimea. 

Opuk Nature Reserve is located in the south of Kerch Hills, adjoining the Black Sea. It was founded in 1998 and covers an area of 1592.3 hectares, including the islands of Rocks-Ships and surrounding marine waters. 

Mount Opuk is one of the highest on the Kerch Peninsula (185 m): it is composed of Meotian reef limestone, as well as the islands of Rocks-Ships in 4 km (there are four of them). Top of Mount Opuk is flattened, and the slopes are rich in ledges, crevices, bluffs – witnesses of long interaction between the internal and external forces of the Earth. The vegetation is dominated by steppe species of grasses; shrubs are also found – wild rose, blackthorn, hawthorn, buckthorn, privet. 

Opuk is the kingdom of birds. Here 43 species of birds are recorded: laughing gull, cormorant, red-backed shrike, owl, peregrine falcon; the population of pink starling is particularly interesting.

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