A wonderful part of being in the mountains are the cabins, or chalets. In Scotland we have mountain bothies, where you can stay a night or two, or three free of charge, then continue your journey. A lovely way to spend some days in the mountains.
I miss the trees though, in Scotland, and sometimes accordingly miss the wooden cabins. France has the alpine chalets in the Alps, and there’s no place I’d rather call home, though I do feel the same feelings in the Tatra mountains of Slovakia, and over the border in Poland, in Zakopane, with its very distinctive wooden housing.
There is always the view, the feeling of being in nature and the whole mountain culture, which is everywhere, in conversations, and all activity — and food, too, though it can be heavy.
In Azerbaijan I stayed with Gulnar, a friend of another Azeri friend, in the time-honoured Azeri way. Gulnar lived up on the mountainside above a village, in a cabin he’d built himself. He’d piped the water from a stream across the mountainside two hundred metres away, grew all his own vegetables, and hunted for the rest of his food. The area he hunted he shared with a wolf, and knew when she was around, or when she had been by, pointing to the wolf prints and still sharp edge of the prints in the snow, and unfrozen mud within the print, all showing she was just ahead of us.
We trekked the mountains for two days, seeing off dogs guarding sheep with stones on a couple of occasions, and reaching above the fauna level to stony cliffs, with him carrying food to grill for two days and four people on his back in his rucksack.
Those few days of trekking and hospitality remain special recollections. I never met a fitter, more peaceful man, who’d given up on life in the city, and I often saw a novel to be written in him. His mountain cabin was near the border with Armenia, a border where the Armenians often shot anyone who came close—the two countries are officially at war. But Gulnar loved the mountains, and had strayed close to bullets a few times, and I often wondered if the novel that has yet to be written would feature an absolutely tragic ending. I hoped not.
built with the same passion
as a haiku