πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ί Vladikavkaz and the heartwarming people in Russia’s dangerous south

Diary Entry

Our original plan was to drive from Germany to Russia in our old Soviet combat bus “UAZ” made in Russia. Unfortunately, the solid car broke down after just 73 kilometers. We spontaneously decided to use our Russian visa anyway and fly to Saint Petersburg. From there we will fly to a completely different corner of Russia. To the border of the Caucasus, to a tourist-untouched city called Vladikavkaz.

From this city we want to set off on a journey through the Caucasus, including Georgia and Armenia. We can find out why only a few tourists come here from our government’s travel advice:

Do! Not! Go! There!

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.”

AuswΓ€rtiges Amt, as of 2017

We would never have thought of visiting this city if Uli didn’t have friends here. Three years ago, he and a friend were riding through this city on motorbikes when his bike broke down. A driver happened to stop and spoke to the two of them in Russian – to no avail. He tapped on his mobile phone, dialed and held the device out to Uli. On the other end was the driver’s sister, Aleksandra, who was able to ask them, first in English and then in German, what the couple’s problem was.

She translated for her brother Alan. He said he had nothing better to do anyway and took them to the nearest garage. After the motorcycle’s death was officially confirmed, he invited them to stay with him the following week. Uli and his friend Stefan had to find a replacement vehicle and bought a car with enough space for the two machines. Alan and his family helped with this and also offered them food and accommodation.

Uli has already experienced true hospitality here in the past

Now we meet Uli’s friends again. We are greeted with joy at the airport by Alan and Aleksandra and our hungry bellies are filled with a decent amount of shashlik and strange pizza in a restaurant. There is no vodka with it, but a green woodruff lemonade, which we will see more often in the next few days.

Although only Aleksandra can translate and Uli can say a few words in Russian, we can always communicate. Alan’s wife Angela and their little son Tamilan were with us.

Our hosts take us to an apartment other than their own. We get a whole apartment just for us with a kitchen, bathroom and internet. The old mamushka, who seemed to own the apartment, just stressed that we should please be very quiet, as there were a lot of workers in the building who had to get up early.

It’s crazy! We wrote to Alan just a few days ago to say we were coming to visit them. The family says a warm goodbye and will pick us up again the next morning. We want to go on a trip to the mountains. I spend the night sticking 55 stamps on my 11 postcards.

We even get our own apartment!

In the evening we take a walk with Alexandra into the center of Vladikavkaz. Once again the clichΓ©s about Russian fashion are confirmed. Like most women, Aleksandra has put a lot of effort into looking stylish. That’s something that can’t be said about the men. We like to be the exception and want to make a better impression. In addition to the typical outdoor clothes, I even have a jacket with me. We drink kvass, the malty beer of Russia, and tea, and walk through Vladikavkaz and its parks in the glow of the night.

Alan calls in between and is worried. He doesn’t like the idea of ​​us walking through the city at night. Aleksandra also says it’s not exactly safe.

At least it’s clean and we don’t see any rubbish. But apart from a small fight between young people, we don’t notice anything worrying.

In the morning, Uli and I still have some time and before breakfast we take a walk to an Orthodox church in the hot summer temperatures. Since it is Sunday, a service is taking place there.

There are headscarves for women at the entrance. They must cover their heads inside the building.

The Caucasus adventure begins. With Alan we visit the mountains and catch a glimpse of the highest mountain in Russia, perhaps even Europe: Elbrus.

We also see an old necropolis of the Narts. This people buried the dead in open mortuary houses and their bones are still there.

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