Today we added another country to our list. Officially it is called The Republic of Mountainous Karabakh (NK) and nobody knows it. It has not been recognized by anybody but Armenia, it is not a member of the United Nations, but it is doing just fine. Formerly inserted into Azerbaijan by Stalin in spite of being populated mostly by Armenians, it liberated itself in 1994 at the cost of 30,000 lives and ruining Armenian economy. To get here you have to drive a newly built road from Goris (Armenia) to its capital Stepanakert (NK) built with money donated by Armenian diaspora, because Armenia cannot afford it. You drive this road occupied mostly by dense local traffic, over the high mountain passes, along the mountain streams and the nirvana of expansive views of the mountains and beautiful meadows full of poppies, still not discovered by Californian hippies, patchwork of colorful fields, pastures and forests. As it is common with small countries, the smaller the country, the bigger the visa sticker in your passport, but to give them the credit, the visa fee is very modest and it applies to all countries evenly not like some others that are not charging some and charging others exorbitant amounts.
This land was settled by God loving people building Easter Island style sculptures to their grandmas and grandpas (mamiks and babiks in local dialect) and filling beautiful vistas with blooming living crosses and katchkars (Irish looking decorated stone slabs with intricate carving patterns and crosses), people, who built their churches and monasteries hundreds and hundreds of years ago and they now take good care of them. Here is one, hidden in the north behind a tall wall at the end of a long winding road, a seat of their archbishop guy with a modern heliport and sitting chopper ready to be used next to it (no kidding) even it is for money of others including USAID (I guess US taxpayers money at work). They love their history and they love to show it. In this region where neighbors‘ DNA cannot be more different, frequent disputes were not settled peacefully and one side’s patriots and celebrated heroes were, and still are, called terrorists and murderers, depending on your perspective and side you are on. But they cherish their heroes and save their weaponry to remember them by and for future use.
People are kind and pleasant, knowing their tools of trade like how to do their lavash bread with work(wo)manship to admire or shashliks and kebabs and coffees even in the most unexpected roadside places and fill you in matter of minutes with a symphony of smells and tastes even if some services, while in incredible setting of a breathtaking landscape may lack some stability and flushing water but do provide a lot of space for improvement in the near future. Knowing Armenians it may be in next tourist season!
Perhaps a special project of USAID or LA Diaspora Fund?