Nagorno Karabakh

The self-proclaimed Republic of Nogorno Karabakh is not recognised by anyone, according to international law it is still part of Azerbaijan. De facto a part occupied by Armenia and for those living here it is 100% Armenian and always has been. There is nothing to discuss. That is a daring thesis, since an independent Armenia has not existed very often. Of course, the Azeris and Kurds are no longer living here since the war. Even after more than 10 years of ceasefire, there are still many ruins of shot-up houses, and the front line is still crackling.

The funny thing is that, for me, Azeris and Armenians are quite similar, apart from religion, of course, which is losing importance in both. When I think of the gold teeth, the kebabs, the headscarves of the older women (only in remote villages), the fashion of the younger ones… but it’s better not to say these things too loudly.

But the enclave is also a symbol of wild isolation. For this reason, I hike for two days on the Janapar Trail, which, according to Lonely Planet, is “well marked” and leads from the south to the north in 14 days. But it is not so “well marked” after all, as soon as I leave the village of Ptretsik the signs stop. It goes up through beautiful wild beech forests, with small rocks peeking out of the tops. The higher I get, the more difficult it is to find the path, as it keeps disappearing in the meadows. But it only gets really difficult on the other side of the pass, where I have to fight my way through dense brambles and nettle bushes, when I just hadn’t lost the “way”. The second stage was then much easier. I also pass a dilapidated monastery perched on a hill. In the courtyard, a rotting sheep’s head hangs in the tree, also a skull and sheep’s legs. Obviously pre-Christian traditions mixed in with the “new” faith.

Finally I come to the monastery of Gandzasar, which I did not find as impressive as some monasteries in Armenia. Supposedly, the head of John the Baptist lies under the church, because the builder had brought it back from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Presumably, in the 13th century, you could buy something like this in the souvenir shops there…

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Backpacking trip Middle East and Caucasus 2008
Tatev and Noravank
Haghpat and Sanahin