Have you ever heard about Nagornia-Karabakh? No? See that’s the problem, Karabakh is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. Its culture, its environment, its people, everything about it amaze me and almost no one knows about this magnificent place. You won’t find Karabahk on most maps. Most maps ignore the fact that Karabakh has its own government, its own army, its own currency and everything else that would make it into a country, instead these maps either incorporate the country into Azerbaijan which Karabakh won a civil war against more than 20 years ago or Armenia which aided Karabakh in their liberation.
Karabakh is a tiny country, only about 140,000 people live there, most of which live in tiny villages on gravel roads. These little villages have been here far longer than you or I and far longer than most of the countries in the world. Before there were gravel roads, tiny single-file herder trails connected them. Trails beat deep into the earth by donkeys and sheep, men and goats. One of these paths, called the Janapar trail, winds its way down steep cliffs, over flowing meadows, through dense and dark forest, down muddy slopes lined with dead trees and old leaves, into abandoned villages and across rivers and rapids. The tail connects 14 villages, each about a day’s walk from the next. Along the way mountain springs, apple and mulberry trees, deep caves, and endless vistas of green virgin forests and grey and brown cliffs line the path.
What’s more unbelievable, and maybe this is why I am so in love with Karabahk, is that every night that I traveled the trail whenever I came to a village, the locals would welcome me in, “come come, eat dinner with us and our families” they would say and we would agree. The dinner was basic, the foods of the land, fruits, cheese, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, home baked breads, and far too much vodka. Each night, as a blanket of stars wrapped around the village and our bellies full, the families would invite us to stay there, to sleep in their homes and enjoy their culture as we talked through the night.