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17 Aug, 2009 09:48

Travel in the North Caucasus: challenging the curious

For those tourists in the North Caucasus who seek out more unusual attractions than spending time swimming in the Black Sea or hiking in the mountains, the region can suggest some extraordinary experiences.

Kremlin – gift for a sweetheart

It looks like the Kremlin, but it’s not. What began as a farm surveillance system eventually became a local landmark in the small southern Russian village of Novy, in the Krasnodar region.

The replica of the Kremlin tower is just six meters tall, but is equipped with powerful lights, a video camera and a remote control.

Retired engineer and now farmer, Mikhail Shurov, built it as a gift for his wife, but it stands guard over a farm.

“In April we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary,” Shurov said.

“So we made an album called ‘Moscow’. There were close-up pictures of the Kremlin tower in it. So this is how I came up with the idea”.

News about the makeshift monument spread fast. The neighbors often thank Mikhail for its giant clock, which can be seen from just about every house in the village. Now the owners hope to turn it into a real tourist attraction, so that others can check Moscow time many miles from the capital.

Scary ruins

For those who prefer something more authentic, there are guided tours of an abandoned Soviet-era prison camp in Novosadovy village, also in the Krasnodar region.

Despite its horror movie atmosphere, the camp doesn’t scare visitors away. Far from it!

Konstantin Merkulov, a tourist from Siberia, said he wanted to see for himself something he hopes not to experience in reality.

“Life isn’t easy. You have to know things. Or at least be prepared, so that you don’t end up in a place like this”.

Almost “military” flight

And for those who crave altitude and adventure, there’s always the airfield near Pitsunda, in the Republic of Abkhazia, neighboring to Russia – it’s giving visitors the unique thrill of taking off in a military plane.

When the skies are quiet, the pilot has permission to entertain tourists with flights on the delta plane, which has been used by the Abkhazian air force in real combat and reconnaissance missions.

Vyacheslav Khromykh, one of Abkhazia’s few military pilots, said that in clear skies, tourists and locals can appreciate the beauty of the coast and mountains.

“Even Abkhazians themselves, when they get up in the sky, say “I knew that this country was gorgeous, but I never imagined how beautiful it really is,” Khromykh noted.

Eduard Maigov, a tourist from Moscow, was on the beach with his family when they saw the plane. They immediately swapped the seaside for an aerial adventure.

“You can see everything as if it were on a 3D-map,” said Maigov.

“It’s fun to fly. And when the engine is off – it’s so quiet”.

So if you’re one of those circling the globe for something you haven’t tried before, you might consider the northern Caucasus for your next travels.