Chardaqala & Ilisu

Just when you thought things could not get any better, they just did.

Yesterday I had no idea what I was going to do when I got up. It was not until after breakfast I decided. 1. Walk off up into the mountains following a trail 2.Get the bus to Shaki so I could adjust my schedule later on. 3. Visit two mountain villages. I chose the later, and what a good choice.

The first village was Chardaqala. Site of a perigala (fairy castle) high up on an impenetrable cliff face sealing the entrance to cave dwellings. I managed to find the right bus with the help of some locals. Once I got off the bus I was befriended by a mother and her daughter and two small boys. We all trooped off up the dirt track, the mother and daughter disappeared into their house. The two small boys were going to lead me to the perigala. With the aid of a machete. I know it sounds odd now, but not at the time. They thought I wanted to climb up to it, where as I just wanted some photographs. A fantastic setting high up in the mountains surrounded by heavily wooded hills. How they managed to built the perigala in the first place I have no idea. As the three of us walked back to the bus stop the machete came into its own. The boys started to lop branches off trees. To get at more edible food mainly berries. Purple ones, red ones, walnuts and also a pomegranate appeared from somewhere as well, lovely. We also stopped to say hello to three men repairing their farmhouse wall. We were all invited in for tea and peach jam with walnuts in, very tasty indeed. We said our goodbyes and I headed onwards.

After two taxi rides and one bus journey I ended up at Ilisu. This is the site of two brick towers, 16th and 19th century. Once again fantastic views of the mountains and the dried up river beds. You could see the mountain peak where the Dagestan (Russian) border is. The 16th century tower was the last stronghold of the followers of Sheikh Shamil. Whilst I was walking around this wonderful tower I bumped into the person who was restoring it. His name was Afer I think. After a short two minute chat he invited me to stop at his house for the evening. Which I accepted without hesitation. One bus ride and we were there. Lots of animal skins and sausages hanging up to season along with cheeses etc… .Chickens roaming the garden and the children chopping and stacking the wood. First on the agenda was a snack of cheese, bread and tea with a spoon of cherry jam in it and more fruit. Then Afer and I headed out to a waterfall for an evening stroll not forgetting to eat as we walked, horse chestnuts and walnuts. More food and an evening of satellite television when we got back,including a bit of BBC world news.

This morning after fresh free range boiled eggs etc.. for breakfast. I met Afer’s farther. A fantastic sprightly, spirited and happy 85 year old. I found out he was a WWII red army veteran. He went and got his hat and best jacket and medals so I could take his photograph. If only I spoke Azeri or more Russain I could have talked to him for hours and hours.

What did he do during WWII?. He drove his tank… all the way to Berlin!!!