Friendly people of Altai

Traveling through Russia’s Altai region felt like being teleported to Bavaria. Gorgeous mountains and pastures reminded us of Germany a bit, but the fields sprawling to the horizon were so endless, nothing we had ever seen before. We noticed the importance of Altai already in the very beginning of our journey through Russia – it supplies the whole nation with its delicious cheeses, dairy products and most of all honey.

The people we met here were very friendly and not afraid of strangers. They called us over, inviting us for tea or to pick some apples from their gardens. Sascha and I saw a lot of smiles, unfortunately a rather rare thing when in public in Russia, but it exists.

On our way across Altai we stayed a few nights in the famous spa town of Belokurikha. It is on the foothills of the Altai mountains, the Altai Karlovy Vary 🙂 Our purpose though was not to soak in the SPA and drink mineral waters, but to meet the locals. We were lucky to find a couchsurfing host there, a friendly family of 4 who live in their own house, have a real wooden Russian banya (sauna) and a garden. Plus 3 more family members: 2 dogs and a cat. Semyon’s occupation is a forester and his wife’s Lena is a kids masseuse, very suitable professions in this touristic location. Semyon is very interested in archery, so as a hobby the family runs a shooting range where their daughter and niece work during summer and the tourists can try to shoot arrows from a bow. To pull a bow-string is very hard as we found out ourselves. I had a lot more luck with the cross-bow. Back at the house we also tried throwing knifes and the homemade swords.

Next morning we went for a hike with Semyon and his niece to check the forest and the view from mountains that start right behind the city. It was a nice hike and I picked some medical herbs for tea. Semyon knew all herbs and their curing properties.
After the hike there was a banya session to wash off the sweat, Semyon gave Sascha a proper “massage” – gentle slaps on the skin with a bundle of birch twigs to create stimulation of the pores.

Later Semyon and his son Lev cooked a nice meat soup over the open fire. The table looked very colorful: the veggies and fruits of course came from the garden, dairy is homemade, honey is from the neighboring mountains. Such a luxurious meal! In the evening we shared stories over a glass of excellent beer brewed in the town. We try beer in each town that has a brewery and Belokurikha is so far leading on our list. Altai cheerful, kind and hospitable people and its gorgeous landscapes definitely created lasting memories. Recommend to visit! 🙂

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