Village In The Sky: The Road To Kurush (Part 1)

Po-Hsien Liu on his trip to Kurush.

Village In The Sky: The Road To Kurush (Part 1)

Kurush is the highest human settlement not only in Russia and in whole Europe. It is also the southernmost village in Russia, near the border with Azerbaijan. It was not only a journey to me to go there, but also a wonderful adventure.

The first time I heard about Kurush was from a German documentary which depicted how the villagers of Kurush climbed up to Shalbuzdag mountain. I was immediately intrigued by such a pilgrimage from the village, located at an altitude of 2600 m, to one of the most important Muslim shrines of the Caucasus. Legend has it that the righteous Suleiman, also identified as the King Solomon in the Bible, was buried on the mountain.

Kurush is the highest human settlement not only in Russia, but also in whole Europe. It is also the southernmost village of Russia. The beauty of village Kurush and the Shalbuzdag Mountain that I saw in the documentary captured my soul, and a sense of adventurism immediately prompted me to my own “pilgrimage”.

Getting to the southernmost village in Russia is not an easy task. It is located in the border zone, 5 kilometers from the border with Azerbaijan. Accordingly, to visit the village, it was necessary to draw up a border pass at the Border Patrol Sector in village Akhty.

The border patrol of Akhty outpost informed me that foreigners can get a border pass no earlier than in a month ... Well, I left the outpost disappointedly.

At that very moment, the door of the outpost opened. A soldier came out and said,

We will give you the border pass now.

It seems that the Russian bureaucracy is always beyond my expectations, as it is subject to the Will of the Providence.

I set out to Kurush from Usukhchai. Minibuses do not go to Kurush, so I had to catch a ride that could take me to my destination. I did not find anyone going to Kurush, but I caught a ride to the village of Mikrakh, which is on the way to Kurush. I got into a ragged car and in 20 minutes we arrived Mikrakh. In Mikrakh, I couldn’t find anyone bound for Kurush, so I went on foot further.

I walked along the mountain path on my own. The road seemed to stretch to the edge of the earth. There were no cars and no people. All that I saw were only floating clouds. In the silence, the sound of my steps was especially clear. After a while, huge and sublime, somewhat similar to the Noah’s ark, Mount Yerydag came into my sight. It became huger and huger by every step I took. I felt that I was approaching not to the mountain, but to the promised land.

 I almost reached the village of Tekipirkent, which was the last village on the way to Kurush ..

Suddenly, a car stopped around me. The driver got out of it and began to fix the luggage in the back of his car. I decided to take a chance, so I went up to him and asked if he could give me a ride to Kurush. However, his whole family was sitting in the car, and there was no place for me.

The car was gone. Well, I thought that I would get there by myself! However, only a few seconds later, the car stopped again. A guy got out of the front door of the car, opened the back door, and got into the car. The driver waved to me and shouted,

Hey, let’s go!

To be continued.

Text by
Po-Hsien Liu