๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Visiting the Crisis Area of โ€‹โ€‹North Ossetia around Mount Elbrus


Diary Entry

We spontaneously visit Uli’s friends in Vladikavkaz in southern Russia. The morning after our arrival, Alan picks us up in his car and takes us to his apartment. There, Angela, Tamilan and Aleksandra are waiting for us with a sumptuous breakfast.

Refreshed, we get into the car. Alan suggests that we drive into the mountains. He wants to show us nature. And so we drive into exactly the place that the German Foreign Office warns us about.


My first glimpse of the legendary Caucasus



Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe?

Elbrus, with a height of 5642 meters, is the highest peak in the Caucasus and the highest mountain in Russia. It is a dormant, heavily glaciated volcano whose last eruption took place around 2000 years ago. The mountain with double peaks (western peak 5642 m, eastern peak 5621 m) is not yet classified as extinct. The Russians here in North Ossetia tell us that Elbrus is of course the highest mountain in Europe.

Whether Elbrus or Mont Blanc (4807.73 m) is to be regarded as the highest mountain in Europe depends on the definition of the inner Eurasian border. Since there is no clear marine border between Asia and Europe, there is no definition of this border line under international law. However, it would not be unequivocally wrong to claim that Mont Blanc, as the European representative, is one of the seven highest mountains instead.

Wikipedia


I am very happy to finally see the mountains of the Caucasus. The wildness of these mountains is legendary. And yet I had hardly any idea about them. Especially not about what is on the Russian side.

We drive through narrow gorges and beautiful valleys. Above the peaks of the other mountains we see the snow-covered peak of Elbrus – the highest mountain in Europe, but which hardly anyone knows about.

Alan has a lot of fun driving us through the countryside in his SUV without any dents. We stop in a village where Aleksandra seems to know people. Only a few people live here.

We stop for lunch to eat pelmini and shashlik. Of course, Alan insists on inviting us.

Nearby we visit a special sight: a necropolis of the Narts.



Travel warning!

North Caucasus:
Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Chechnya: The personal safety of foreign travelers in these regions cannot be guaranteed by either the central authorities of the Russian Federation or the local security authorities. The authorities’ options for intervention are also very limited in cases of domestic violence (e.g. child abduction by a parent, forced marriage or forced admission to a psychiatric clinic). The risk of kidnapping for ransom also exists for foreigners – as does the risk of becoming involved in terrorist attacks or uprisings by militant groups. For example, one person was killed and eleven injured in an attack in the old town of Derbent in Dagestan on December 30, 2015.

Travel to the republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Chechnya is not recommended.โ€

Auswรคrtiges Amt, as of 2017

We get very close to the border with Georgia and Alan decides that it would be fun to just drive across. However, the family doesn’t have their passports with them and the border guard obviously won’t let us pass without documents. Uli and I are heading to the other side in a few days anyway, so we don’t regret seeing more of the Russian side first.

Once again, Uli and I are surprised at how clean Russia is. We didn’t see any rubbish in St. Petersburg, and it’s clean in Vladikavkaz and even here in nature. We’re happy that our prejudices are not confirmed here.

Russia is surprisingly clean!





Aleksandra comes up to us a little uncertainly: “It’s Angela’s niece’s birthday today. It’s probably boring for you.” But quite the opposite, we assure her. But she thinks we’re kidding her. But we’re really excited to be part of a Russian children’s birthday party.

We drive back into the mountains to a barbecue hut that is apparently available to rent here. Friends and relatives have come in large numbers for the shy, newly turned 15-year-old. We have a pack of Haribo gummy bears as a gift. We are greeted very warmly by everyone, young and old alike.

The former really wanted to take photos with us and follow us on Instagram – which we don’t have. We are amazed that some of the girls are no longer girls at all, but are already over 30 and proud mothers of some of the children running around. The women look very young. There are no fathers, though. That seems to be very common here.

While the grills and the meat are being prepared, we amuse ourselves with the young ladies on the nearby river bank by taking photos and having interesting conversations. They speak a little English, but find the German language incredibly sexy.

in Russia the German language is sexy!



We are the stars of the party!



There is plenty to eat: pelmini, salad and of course shashlik and cheese flatbreads. To drink there is arak – home-brewed spirits similar to raki, vodka (everyone waves us off and says we only have a little) and tea. In fact, there is only one person who drinks vodka. Otherwise, everyone is surprisingly abstinent. It is customary for the host to give a short speech and only then does everyone drink something at the end of the toast.

After eating, we burn off the calories by playing volleyball until it gets so dark that we can no longer see the balls hitting the ground. Then Alan drives up in his car, plugs in his iPhone, and in no time everyone is dancing to the music of Enrique Iglesias in the mountains of North Ossetia at night.




This is the last impression of this wonderful country. We will have to leave early the next morning.

Early in the morning, Alan calls just before 6 a.m. and asks if we are up yet. Russians actually use the dashcams known from YouTube quite a lot to be able to play back what happened in the event of an accident and thus avoid costly bribes.

He brings a rickety Lada with an old driver who will drive us to the border. Saying goodbye to the family is sad, but we hope that we will visit them again one day.



The car will only take us to the border. After that we will have to figure out how to get on ourselves. We are not worried about that. Someone will give us a ride.

When leaving Russia, the older border guard is a bit grim, while a young colleague leans in the doorway and stares at us.

When the lady realises that we are Germans – “pa nemetzki” – she smiles broadly and calls out to us in English: “goodbye my love“. Even the man behind the wheel of our car is amused by this. On the other side we find a taxi that takes us to Stepansminda in Georgia.




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