a secret food paradise series 4 – encounters in the Caucasus mountains

We engaged the founder of Camping Azerbaijan – Cavid to guide us across the Caucasus mountains, and he took us to a villager’s home to spend the first night. He knew them very well because he always brought guests to this house, and last year he skied in Santa Clause’s costume during Christmas to distribute candies to the kids in the Caucasus villages. The house was full of carpets, and we were served with a sumptuous dinner, with watermelon slices as the starter. After we got full, we watched the wedding of the pretty daughter in the house, who had a kid now.

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Figure 2: our dinner at the villager’s home

We continued hiking the next day, passing by many small villages with stone huts. After the last village disappeared, we had to walk on the river bed and cross the rapid icy streams which reached the height of my waist. The shepherd dogs barked aggressively at us as if we were some despicable thieves, and we had to walk close to each other in a calm speed so as not to arouse further suspicion. Exhausted and shivering, we sought shelter from two friendly shepherds who happened to know Cavid. They cooked tea for us and we cooked lentils with nuts to warm up our body. At night they offered us thick blankets but they themselves only slept with their jackets on.

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Figure 3: drinking tea with shepherds

On the next evening, we reached the other side of Caucasus, and stayed with another shepherd family who still stayed at the mountain. Most of them had moved back to the village because of the chilling weather. We were hungry but shy at the same time because we didn’t want to create food shortage for the shepherds, but they showed us a full bucket of sheep cheese in their store room!

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Figure 4: a whole bucket of sheep cheese

At last we arrived at Lahic and celebrated our successful excursion in a resort restaurant before parting with Cavid and his friend Elwin as we decided to overnight at the ancient mountain town. We were served with minced beef stuffed in green peppers, topped with saffron. Elwin ordered lamb rib soup cooked with tomatoes, and I tried so much of it and “helped” him to finish the entire bowl.

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Figure 5: soup topped with saffron

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Figure 6: tomato rib soup

After we made payment to Cavid and booked our hotel, Toni and I ran out of cash and only ate apples for dinner. They were extremely crunchy and juicy at the same time even though there were some scars on the surface and worms inside the flesh. On the next day we hiked up the mountain and discovered many apple and plum trees and wild blackberries. We ate so many blackberries until we started developing stomachache…

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