Ritsa Nature Reserve
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Lake Ritsa (Abkhaz: Риҵа, Georgian: რიწა, Russian: Рица), located in the northern part of Abkhazia, is a lake in the Caucasus Mountains, surrounded by mixed mountain forests and subalpine meadows. Its water is cold and clear. Mountains with heights of 2,200 to 3,500 m surround the lake. The region around Lake Ritsa is a part of the Euxine-Colchic deciduous forests ecoregion with a fairly high concentration of evergreen boxwood groves. Many specimens of the Nordmann Fir, which reach heights of over 70 meters (230 ft), are found around the lake.
In 1930 the Ritsa Nature Reserve (162.89 km²) was established to protect the natural state of the lake and the surrounding land. The road from the Black Sea coast was built in 1936. The lake was an important tourist attraction during the Soviet period. It is still frequented by Russian tourists.
Lake Ritsa is one of the deepest lakes in Georgia (116 m), and is rich in trout. The average annual temperature in the area is 7.8 degrees Celsius (January −1.1 °C, August 17.8 °C). The mean annual precipitation is approx. 2,000 - 2,200 mm. Winters are sometimes snowy, summers warm.
Lake Ritsa is fed by six rivers and drained by one, the Iupshara River. The resort of Avadhara lies to the north of the lake. The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had one of his summer-houses (dacha) by the lake. Today this dacha belongs to the Abkhazian government.
In ancient times there were a valley and a river at the site of the modern lake. A girl named Ritsa lived there with three brothers Agepsta, Atsetuka and Pshegishkha. Ritsa used to pasture her animals in the valley and her brothers hunted in the high mountains by day and returned to the valley in the evening, where they ate, sang songs, and admired their sister.
Once the brothers went too far into the mountains. Ritsa missed them and sang. The forest robbers Gega and Iupshara heard her and decided to kidnap her. Iupshara caught her and rode down the valley, while Gega covered his flank. Ritsa's brothers heard her crying and came to the rescue.
Pshegishkha threw a sword at the robbers, but he missed and the sword flew over the river. The valley was filled with water and turned into a lake. Ritsa broke from Iupshara's grip, but fell into the lake. The brothers couldn't save her. Then Pshegishkha threw the robber Iupshara into the lake, but Ritsa's water wouldn't accept him and threw out him over Pshegishkha's sword and the water carried him away to the sea. Gega ran after Iupshara, but he didn't manage to rescue him.
Out of grief, the brothers turned into mountains, and today they are still standing here to protect the resting-place of Ritsa.
In the 1930s, during the construction of Stalins's dacha, soldiers carried building materials by the lacet. Once, in the most dangerous place, one truck fell down from the lacet. As the truck was falling, the driver cried: "Goodbye, Motherland!" ("Прощай, Родина!"). So, today this place is named "Goodbye, Motherland!" among drivers.
Tourists boating at Ritsa
Mountains surrounding the lake
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