The Altai Mountains | A Trip to the Very Center of Asia

Discovering the Altai Republic, the magestic Altai Mountains and the very center of Asia.


Note: This is an imaginary correspondence of Enkela Vehbiu, the author of this blog, with the late Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes.”

Hello Andy,

The world is a different place since July 2021, when we started our European adventure. And I am not talking about COVID. Things are more complicated.

Half of my family hails from Russia. As in every war, the rifts among family members, supporters vs. non-supporters of Russian – Ukrainian war, are inevitable. I feel that at this moment, being a Russian anywhere in the world is the synonym of an aggressor. But, as a person who has visited Russia on several occasions, I can attest that Russian people are neither better nor worse than any other nation in the world. Are they all good? No. Are they all evil? No. People on both sides of this unnecessary war are paying the price – now Ukrainians, and later Russians. I remain hopeful that one day this will come to an end.

And when that day comes, and these two countries will proudly show their beauties and tradition, I invite you to discover a part of the world that is rarely seen on film — the Altai Republic, home of the Altai Mountains in southeastern Russia and in the very center of Asia.

The construction of Чуйский Тракт/Chuyskiy Trakt or Chuya Highway, about 600 miles, in the 1920-1930s by gulag inmates changed the face of the region that, at least until July 2021, was a domestic tourist destination with direct flights from Moscow and St. Petersburg to Gorno-Altaysk, the capital of this ethnic republic. The most beautiful road in Siberia and the fifth most beautiful in the world, Chuya Highway connects Novosibirsk, the third biggest city in Russia to Tashanta, the last stop on Russian side before crossing to Mongolia.

Once in the area, you can enjoy rafting on the Katun river, fishing, horseback riding, skiing during winter, or shopping local goods.

Also, don’t skip a visit to a bee farm. Altay honey is some of the best in the world, produced in one of the cleanest spots on the planet. We traveled as a family, and two members who suffer allergies, never had to use their medication when in Altai, not even once.

I wish you were here Andy and help me make sense of the situation. I fear, I dread, I cry, I laugh, I smile and then I drift to a wishful sleep, naively hoping that in the morning things will be different.

It will take time, but history shows that humanity prevails. I am not sure when, but it will. And when that day comes, Ukraine is on my list.

‘til next time Andy,


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June 12, 2022

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