Do you ever read about a place and get the feeling that you just have to see it with your own eyes because it sounds so amazing?
We have this feeling with a little village called Xinaliq.
The only information we know: It is the highest remote village in the Caucasian mountains where they speak their own language, which is protected by UNESCO.
How to realize the trip? There are some organized trips which cost a fortune. So we decide to just try to reach it on our own, like we always do (and sometimes fail).
The trip starts with taking our heavy Meindl shoes with us and saying goodbye to the staff of the hostel, we all think that we will see each other in the evening (because we do not have a clue how long it will take us finding Xinaliq). We take the public bus to the bigger terminal and try to charge up on coffee.
In the bus terminal, we start to feel like Asterix and Obelix. Even though Mine speaks Turkish and can understand Azerbaijani, it is a real challenge to only buy the bus tickets, we are sent from point 1 to 10 and backwards, until we finally get some tickets. Next challenge: Where is the bus leaving? The terminal numbers do not correctly display where which bus is going. Men help us to find the correct bus. It is already full, luckily we get some extra foldable seats in the middle. Now we have the feeling that nothing can stop us anymore on our way to Xinaliq.
The landscape is beautiful when awake between the power naps. Finally ( after 3-4 hours) we arrive in the town near to our village. Surprise: There is no other bus going further up the mountains and the last bus going back to Baku is at 17h.So it is already 14h and we haven't even reached the village yet nor know how to get there. Probably we look lost (because we are lost) so the men from the bus station invite us for tea (chai is the solution for almost everything). Mine´s mum gave us before an important advise on the way: Never say 'No' to chai!
They offer to call a cab driver who can drive us up the mountains, so far so good, this means we have a way to go further.
The cab, a really really really old car which makes nontrustworthy sounds while moving, arrives. The driver is an elderly, a bit grumpy looking men.
When he hears that we might go back to Baku in the evening: he says no way, he will show us the homestays nearby. First stop: Home of elderly women with dark and a bit smelly rooms. When we continue the drive, the cab driver says he has to get something from his home, so we should also stop there before we go further up the mountains.
He invites us in for some tea. We both hear our internal alarm bells ringing for a second, but then we had to follow the advise of Mine´s mum and follow him.
Inside the house, his wife and granddaughter greet us friendly. We get our favorite Azerbaijani soup, chai, and cherries. We just love the way you are welcomed in Azerbaijan.
One hour later we continue the drive, with his 9-year-old granddaughter on board.
The landscape is stunning, just the sound of the car, its load breaks and the ticking time is a bit worrisome. We stop on the road for sweets and picture stops.
Finally, we reach the village Xinaliq, consisting of a few stone houses. We get out of the cab and immediately meet Rehman, a local in the village who runs a homestay.
He greets us and asks us if we want to spend the night at his homestay. Looking at the surrounding mountains, the decision is very easy.
At his home, we get more chai and Rehan makes a day plan for us: First he will show us his village and mountain, then we will visit the Mosque and the one-room museum.
We ask him if we can go horseback riding- so he organizes a horse for us. The village is like we imagined, just amazing.
We meet some locals and they speak their own dialect so we can hear how it sounds like.
The highlight though is Rehan himself- his son got him a smartphone so he is constant clicking pictures, playing music and updating his social media channels.
He has so much fun and his happiness is contagious.
The time with him, the horseback riding with an incredible view and the many stars in the night, make our trip unforgettable.
So if you have time, make sure to spend some nights in Xinaliq and stay with Rehman.