Altai Mountains – Russia

6 am our plane was on the landing approach above the night sky over Novosibirsk, the city looked like an impressive big mining yard, one smoking chimney after another. We left Novosibirsk and drove with a little bus 16 hours to the southeast of a village named Kurai. The next morning we woke up and in front of us the whole Altai Mountains where looming above yellow grassy meadows in the first rays of sun. An old soviet Truck was waiting for us and we took this Taxi ride for 3h ours over a pretty impressive adventurous road to Valley called Aktru- a little tourist destination for people from Novosibirsk. In the middle of the arolla pine forest we found some huts, which were ruled by Valerie and his crew. After a stormy first day we scouted the first mountains and camped a night on the glacier. The skiing was incredible and either was the Mountain scenery. After a little brake we stayed for nearly ten days on the glacier skiing until all our physical reserves were empty.

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Totally crashed we arrived at the huts of Aktru and were welcomed by Valéry, Vladimir, Larisa, Slava, Mjrgen and all these other wonderful people. Larisa and Slava who where the cooks of this resort fulfilled all our dreams and Vladimir entertained us with a ton of good stories. We stayed a few days in the base, eating, discussing and sweating in the russian bania. In those days we grow together with those people like I never witnessed it before. We were sitting together nights long joking, laughing. We where discussing serious topics about the relationship between western countries and Russia. About past times and the situation for Russians and Austrians nowadays. After this few days it felt really hard to leave our new won family.

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Now sitting in front of the computer and watching what’s going on right now between Russian and the Ukraine. I´m speechless ones again. It felt hard for me to say who is evil and who not and how all this can be stopped, I´m sure I will never find it out. But what comes into my mind is a sentence ones the great Journalist and Picture editor John G. Morrison said “People can live together in peace when they know each other”. I will remember our days with our Russian friends forever.

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Caucasus – Georgia

Christmas 2013: Johannes Hoffmann was calling and willing to go to Georgia in the first week of January. Short decisions and soon we were all sitting in a plane to Tbilisi, which is the capital of this little republic. After a hard landing and a hard time finding an off road rental car we drove a couple of hours until we arrived on the feet of the first Caucasus Mountains. There we crashed down totally tuckered out into an old hotel to get some sleep. The following day we drove for twelve hours to reach the little town named Ushguli at the back of beyond oft the Caucasus.

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It seemed that the clocks have been stopped ticking hundreds of years ago. We found ourselves in a labyrinth old stone houses with hardly any isolation, straying dogs, and unbelievable some people. One of them was Themur, who would be our host for the next couple of days. Soon it became clear that Georgian people are no sorry figures. After a few minutes in the guesthouse he offered us the first glass of cha cha, which is the local Georgian wine and we would not have stopped drinking until the end of our trip. Barley understanding each other we were nonetheless on the same page. Days passed by and so we found some interesting terrain to ski and even more interesting stories to listen. Themur worked as a border guard on the Georgian Russian border and accordingly to that he spoke very emotionally about the Georgian Russian relationship. About Georgia’s opening of their borders for Russians but not vice versa, about his deep identification with his country, but also about the autonomous regions like Abkhazian and south Ossetia. About his country’s strategic location to run pipelines from Azerbaijan to Europe and Turkey and about the good Georgian wine.

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A few days later we left Ushguli and drove to a ski resort in the middle of nowhere called Mestia. What a beautiful city spiked with hundred of old war towers, leftovers from the crusades through Georgia. We got some good powder in the little ski resort behind the town and met local ski bums. It hasn’t taken us long and we ended up drinking ones again in their little guesthouse. It was great fun being silly with those guys all-night and together we came to the conclusion that Georgian people are happy people. It was just a week full of adventure, but it felt like a month.

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