The Tsesishoe gorge
“You know, there is a gorge in Osetia, people are of Alanian bloods. There are out of number alps as well as traditions and they are protected by Tsei. Two glaciers there like two tongues Sakharnie, in white snow. Monah invite you to Tseisky and Skazsky glaciers”.
Tsei… The area of magic beauties: powerful snowy alps, rough and rash mountain rivers, frothy waterfalls, snowfields and glaciers, reserve coniferous and mixed forests, alpine and subalpine meadows, clear ozonized air, magnificent landscapes. Tsei gorge is a pearl of the northern Caucasus.
Tsei gorge is well lighted by the sun as it has eastern direction. The sunrise is early and the sunset is late here. The gorge lies on the northern slopes of Side Caucasian ridge. The deep Tsei gorge amazes first-comers by its severe beauty. Beginning at Buron settlement at height of 1,300 m, in 23 km it ends with an arc of mountains, height of which is 4,000 m, headed by top Uilpata – 4,646 m. For a year quantity of sunny days makes up on average 2256 sunny hours.
Climate and natureClimate of Tsei is alpine, characterized by low average annual temperature during twenty four hours. It is typical that the climate here differs from the climate of a flat part of Osetia and even from nearby mountain areas. In winter the climate forms here in conditions of mainly east European air and in summer – in conditions of the quite moist marine one which comes from Atlantica area. As a result of large restraint of the gorge, a local mountain-valley circulation is formed. As a rule, in such cases, during the day the wind blows up the valley (eastern valley wind), and during the night – down the valley (western mountain air).
The climate of Tsei is alpine, which is characterized by low, Duration of blanket of the snow in the gorge fully depends on height above sea level, air temperature and expositions of slopes. In early spring at first slopes at the entry of the Tsei gorge crop out, and in the lower part of the resort zone of Tsei the snow comes off only in the end of May or at the beginning of June. The snow in the alpine area, i.e. in the area of Tsei arc of mountains, remains much longer, and at heights of 3,400 m the snow doesn’t thaw at all. Considerable height of the area above sea level, large moisture with abundance of precipitations create large variety of high natural belts of vegetation. Large variety of vegetation is observed in the gorge. There are many edible mushrooms, fruits, berries: bilberries, red bilberries, raspberries, strawberries.
HistoryFirst scientific researches in Tsei gorge were carried out at the end of XIX and the beginning of XX centuries by academician Veljyaminov, professor Pel, doctors of medicine Grigorjev and Sokovnikov, scientist-silviculturist Markovitch.
After frequent visits of Tsei with aim of studying timber resources of this gorge scientist Markovitch wrote: “…No matter ho difficult the ascent is, ascending higher and higher, you forget that it would take much energy to reach it. However, how easy it is to breathe there, how wonderfully water flow by numerous jets by flutes and cracks! It seems, I would drink this crystal-clear water endlessly. Grandiose rocks around, the clear blue mountain sky above and a pine forest, often coming up to the very glacier make the atmosphere of the glacier charming”.
Doctor Phirsov observed sick men, who received medical treatment in Tsei, during four years. Afterwards on the basis of his observations he noted: “…I saw wonderful results from tubercular patients’ staying in Tsei and it is in spite of the most unfavorable life conditions: lack of a normal comfortable accommodation, medical observation and organized food…”
By application of professor Chechetta an engineer and a doctor, to whom studying possibilities of building a road to the resort, was charged. Prince Golitsin, who was a tsar’s deputy in the Caucasus, refused money for building of the road, therefore measures on organization of the mountain resort were left on paper.
A year later a new Caucasian deputy Vorontsov-Dashkov ordered to vote three thousands rubles for repair and improvement of a mountain path, which had been made along the Tseidon river by patients, coming here for treating, and numerous tourists, who, during travels along Military-Osetian road dropped in here to look at Tsei beauties. It was permitted to use a local forest for building a small accommodation for numerous holiday-makers and tourists, coming to Tsei.
An inhabitant of Alagirskoe gorge Babu Zangiev made the first attempt to build an accommodation in Tsei in 1909. He constructed a house, consisting of 9 rooms, partially providing patients, holiday-makers and tourists with lodge.
Developing resort and medical resources of Tsei began only with the Soviet Power. A rest home for workers of Northern Osetia was opened already in 1924. In the next 1925 the rest home was turned into a sanatorium for tubercular and pulmonary patients, considerable funds were appropriated for accomplishment of a wheeled road and building bridges cross Tseidon.
The first weather-ground was set in 1926 at height of 2,000 m for more detailed studying climatic and natural peculiarities of this gorge by initiative of professor Tsitovitch, professor-physicist Milin, professor-climatologist Obolensky. Tourist-excursion business in Tsei began since the second half of XIX century. First tourists, excursionists and alpinists came here after appearing of interesting itineraries of scientists, studying Caucasus: Mushketov, Krasnov, Linnik, Pastuhov, etc., - in print. They lived, as a rule, here in the self-made huts, under the rocky awnings and in the tents which they brought. Objects of observation were glaciers, separate tops, waterfalls, alpinists climbed numerous mountains.
Mass tourism and sightseeing began its development in Tsei since 1922-23. Large number of guests from various cities of Russia and even from abroad rushed here. Several small alpinist camps, a tourist center, a rest home and a sanatorium already functioned in the Tsei gorge before the war. For the period of the war the activity of sports, rest, tourism and treatment institutions was stopped. The whole property was given for war needs and camps and sanatoriums admitted wounded soldiers.
A reserve was established on September, 1967 in Alagirsky area of the Northern Ossetian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Central Caucasus, in the basin of the Ardon river. Republic reserve “Tseisky” operated in the Tsei gorge, which was included into the reserve, before it since 1958. With establishing the reserve a part of the reserve was included as a compound of it and a new reserve was organized under this name between the Ardon and Phiagdon rivers. In 1980 republic reserve “Tseisky” passed to administrative subordination of the reserve.
The largest river of the reserve is the Ardon. Rivers the Sadon, the Baddon, the Arkhondon, the Tsazhiudon, the Bugultidon and others began with glaciers, that caused a peculiar regime of flow with spring-summer high water. In the reserve and its conservation zone there are several starved glacier lakes – the Tsazhiutsad and others. At the settlement Zgil there is a mineral rough lake. Outlets of mineral springs are numerous.
Two alpinist’s camps, tourist hotel “Goryanka”, two tourist centers, cosmonaut’s rest camps, a student’s recreational camp of the North-Caucasian state technological university. A new highway, a high-tension line, a water-pipe, overhead chairlift, a waste disposal plants, storehouses and trade outlets, a restaurant. Every year Tsei admits more than 200 thousand tourists, excursionists, alpinists, skiers and simply rest lovers.
Main sight and ancient traditionsIn the Tsei gorge there is one of the most famous historical monuments in the Northern Ossetia – senctuary Rekom. Unfortunately, Rekom hasn’t been preserved in its original form to our time. In 1995 the sanctuary burned down from a lightning stroke. Talks, that the accident was caused by fall of the new generation, which forgot about its gods and a more terrible punishment would follow it obligatorily, emerged. The tragedy in Beslan reminded believers about it.
In order to allay anger of severe Uastirdzhi, inhabitants of Ossetia celebrate a holiday, devoted to this god, in the sanctuary in every year in June. The feasts, beginning of which is signified by slaughter of offerings, last the whole week. However, modern holidays only vaguely resemble those which were celebrated here, say, a hundred years ago.
Three Ossetian pies appear on the table – no local celebration goes without this dish. Number three is not occasional. Three pies symbolize the earth, the sun and water. When two pies appear on the table, it means that people gather on grievous occasion – to organize a funeral rite. It means that the sun has disappeared for the dead forever. Even in the shortest feast three toasts should be said obligatorily. Glasses or horns of offering animals are filled, as a rule, with beer, which is a traditional Ossetian drink and boiling in large coppers. Formerly coppers were placed near a sanctuary and in great holidays the drink was prepared just in the glade. Now coppers are kept in the funds of North-Ossetian state united museum of history, architecture and literature.
Now the sanctuary is restored and looks very well-groomed. The complex consists of male and female sanctuaries, situated in a small distance from each other and also several objects of cult destination. From the glade, where main constructions are located, good landscape of Skazsky glacier opens.
Glade “Rekoma phaz”, where the sanctuary is situated, is bounded with rocky ridge Tseirag from the north, the Tseidon river, rushing on the very steep thalweg, - from the south. Tsei valley (“Rekoma phaz” is its part) geomorphologically represents a well developed trough – a result of glacial activity. The area is uncommonly picturesque. It is covered with a coniferous forest and framed with ridges and icy tops Adai-Khoh, Uilpat, shining in the sun, Tseisky and Skazsky glaciers. About in 3 km to the north from “Rekoma phaz” there is a settlement Upper Tsei.
Researches of the sanctuary suggest several variants of name “Rekom” origination. It could be originated from “iron kom”, i.e. Ossetian gorge, which was turned popularly into “Irekom” with subsequent secession of initial “I”. By the other version, Ossetian name of the Tsei gorge “Hurikom” (“Sunny gorge”) gave the name of the sanctuary in apocopic form “Rikom” – “Rekom”. Besides, there is a version that name Rekom is originated from Georgian “rkoni”, that means “oak-wood”. Perhaps, an oak-wood could grow in the glade in antiquity and the most ancient building of the sanctuary could be constructed of oak.
It is considered that three consecutive periods can be pointed out in the history of Rekoma functioning. Many researches incline to the fact that Rekom appeared initially as a pagan sanctuary, which was turned later into a Christian church and then the last one transformed into a pagan sanctuary.
Near settlement Upper Tsei, in the square of an old country graveyard, there are ruins of a wooden sanctuary Uastirdzhi, in many aspects presenting an analog to Rekom. There was another wooden sanctuary in Lower Zaramag, near Magkaev tower. Its construction remained infamous but its existence is quite reliable – at the entry of the sanctuary there were three graves, one of which belongs to Georgian tsarevitch George. The famous Ossetian sanctuary Sidan was a wooden framework. Traditions of wooden architecture in the Tsei gorge were so unique that the only Northern Ossetian wooden church of Holy Trinity was built at the settlement Upper Tsei.
At the entry of the reserve there is the protector’s figure – Saint George. Saint George symbolizes protection and patronage of all living creatures of this beautiful nook of Caucasus. Perhaps, it is difficult to name another place in Caucasus where lush alpine meadows, mixed forests, eternal snows and glaciers are located so near to each other like in the Tsei gorge.
Routes and liftsOwing to its unique natural conditions, Tsei is a junction of various difficult tourist, alpinist, ski and excursion routes. People of different ages and professions come here from all over the world to see beauty and grandeur of this pearl in the depth of the Northern Ossetia mountains with their own eyes.
Two black, two red, two blue high routes are built for skiing lovers. Lifts: two chair lift; a double chair ropeway (1,600 m, 210 chairs); 5 bar lifts.
There is also a karaoke-bar for rest, a billiard-table, table tennis. Excursions about reserved places of the Tsei gorge are organized. In the gorge there is one the most famous historical monuments in the Northern Ossetia – sanctuary Rekom.
The unique location of recreation centers, alpine climate with the purest air attract tourists to Tsei. Tsei is wonderful in any season: in winter and early spring – it is a Mecca for skiers, is summer it strikes all, who prefer to spend their rest actively, with profit to their health, by its natural beauty and the unique mountain landscape