Nagorno Karabagh, Caucasus
Nagorno Karabagh was little crazy …
|An abandoned vehicle on the road|
Entering the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh is not considered to be wise for my nationality, Polish, or indeed any other citizens. Even OSCE officials are not actually allowed to enter. To enter this Karabagh “state” you need a visa. However I had not enough time to apply for it. And I decided that payment of 25 USD was too much for me. Moreover, my new Armenian friends argued that even if Karabaghi army or police asked to see my visa, I could pay them a few Drams and continue my trip.
After that we decided to leave the capital of Stepanakert and head “into the country”. The first army officer that asked me about my visa received I replied that every office in Stepanakert was closed. Another one asked if everyone in our car was Armenian. Mihran, my Armenian friend, answered, “of course!” and we were allowed to continue our travel.
|This fence is constructed from registration labels of Azeri cars, whose owners escaped after the war|
We traveled through this poor place, forgotten even by God. The country is ruined even though the war ended 10 years ago. Everywhere are signs of military operations – destroyed military equipment, abandoned homes and whole villages (mainly Azeri), with mines on both sides of many roads. The level of poverty is hard to describe.
One of my strongest memories was visiting Shushi. This huge, old town is situated on top of a muntain with views across the valley to Stepanakert. There are remains of medieval city walls and a citadel where you can imagine the greatness of this city in past times. On the other hand, you can see the modern infrastructure of the city, which was completely devastated by the last war (Shushi is located on a strategic peak and suffered from heavy bombardment by both sides). The only thing that survived war is the 19th century cathedral.
Even in such a conditions, everywhere you can experience Armenian hospitality and a friendly attitude to foreigners. Even within such extreme poverty (I visited houses without any beds) every family will invite you to their home, offer a sleeping place, dinner and vodka.
|Bathing and partying at the Taq Jur geyser|
After several days of my illegal presence in this Republic, it was time to leave. We decided to exit via the north, which according to the official data was closed because of the danger of occasional snipers activities. To make this last part of our trip even crazier we decided to visit Taq Jur, a place with a geyser of warm water. It was quite easy with my friends, who were, like all Armenians, very spontaneous and unconcerned.
There we were, in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, in the war zone, four guys taking a bath in a warm geyser and drinking wine…
Finally, we left Karabagh. During this last phase of trip I decided not to provoke fate on these problematic territories guarded with many soldiers and various paramilitary groups. I just wore a big hat on my blond hair and prentended to be asleep.
For more information and pictures about my trip around whole region visit my site. Feel free to contact me.
Photos and text © Bartosz Musialowicz. All rights reserved.