A solemn ceremony of awarding the winners of the National Geographic Traveler Awards 2018 took place in Moscow yesterday. This year the applicants strove for victory in 25 nominations. In two of them - 'Russian Ethnic Leisure' and 'Exotic Leisure' - the main prize was presented by a traveling journalist and TV presenter Timofey Bazhenov. On the sidelines of the ceremony, he told Vestnik Kavkaza about modern tourism in the Caucasus.
- What do you think about the development of tourism in the North Caucasus?
- In my opinion, domestic Russian tourism is developing very well, primarily due to the Caucasian republics. If we talk about ski tourism, then, of course, Ingushetia, Armkhi should be noted. You can't find more beautiful mountains than in the Caucasus. You can believe me, because I visited all the mountains of the world with my film crew. Our Caucasian mountains are good not only because it’s a wonderful beauty, not only because it’s a wonderful air, but first of all because wonderful people live there. I can't say that any my friend from the Caucasus is stupid or a bad person. They are all great people. You can share a foxhole with each of them, each of them can be trusted with a secret, you can talk about the most intimate things with each of them and know that you will be understood.
If we are talking about tourism, it is worth mentioning such a concept as hospitality. The Caucasian hospitality ranks second to none. No wonder they say that the guest brings a thousand joys to the house, and takes away a thousand troubles. People from every Caucasian home want you to visit them and literally drag you to their house. Every traveler in the Caucasus can be sure that nobody will ask him questions, they will feed him with the best food, give the best place to seat and the best bed to sleep. And in my opinion, the Caucasus is the best place for tourism.
- What about the South Caucasus?
- In Azerbaijan it is, of course, Naftalan. Its healing oil is not suitable for making gas from it, but it heals people from severe illnesses. Excellent doctors work there.
Azerbaijan is called the Land of Fire, because it is the only place where you can look at the ever-burning land.
And, of course, Gabala. This place should be visited by everyone who wants to visit the most interesting places in the world. Beautiful mountains, wonderful landscapes, wonderful bison. It has a very good nature reserve, paragliding opportunities, wonderful hotels. Azerbaijan is a great place which is worth visiting.
For more effeminate tourists, we can recommend Baku. Indeed, this country and its capital Baku is not inferior, for example, to the United Arab Emirates in terms of comfort. It has air-conditioned stops, the great Flame Tower, the beautiful promenade. Baku is a luxurious city with very tasty cuisine.
- How attractive are Georgia and Armenia as tourist destinations?
- Armenia is a beautiful singing, male choirs, khachkars, native for us people, not least because of the faith. Travelers from Russia are comfortable there.
As for Georgia, I visited it quite recently, and I can say that it is still attractive, but, unfortunately, not just like it used to. The fact is that the desire of Georgian leaders to get closer to the European Union affected their cuisine. Now it's very difficult to find traditional dishes because they are oversaturated with fats and cholesterol. But wine is still wonderful and Tbilisi is interesting. I am very sorry that young residents of Georgia forget how to speak Russian, or, perhaps, did not even know it. But my peers speak Russian and they are much more welcoming than young people. Georgia is still a wonderful place, but we should not forget about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which must be visited by any inquisitive tourist. Those interested in life should definitely come to Sukhum and Tkuarchal, taste Khachepur there. Georgians pronounce 'khachapuri', and the Abkhaz -'khachapur'. If you want to see burning water spring, that is, water that you can drink, wash yourself, but you also can set it on fire and, for example, boil potatoes on it, then you should go to Ossetia, it has such a place, not far from the capital.
- What distinguishes the Caucasian mountains from others?
- The Caucasus mountains are very comfortable, they allow you to rest almost anywhere wherever you go. Climbing high peaks often means that a person simply has no place to rest for even a minute. You must constantly climb, cling, freeze your fingers, break nails, breathe through the device. It is quite difficult. The Caucasus mountains, even the most impregnable, allow you to walk quite comfortably. In addition, they are really the most beautiful. The perception of the human eye clearly tells me that the Caucasus mountains should be chosen.