Dombay - the soul of the Soviet tourist

Russian Federation

This year in the Caucasus was not only lazy. Covid opened this region to Russians, and the Caucasus had to get used to the influx of tourists. Back in July, we started planning our autumn vacation at KMV. At first they wanted to drive from there to Dombay, Arkhyz or Elbrus without spending the night. But as we worked out the route from the beautiful, but boring cities of the KMV, we leaned more and more towards the wild nature of the republics. At first they allowed one night, then they realized that this was not enough. A week before the trip, we had only two days left for Kislovodsk, but they had to be canceled. Glorified by Vizbor, Dombay from the moment of its discovery for tourists did not cease to be a magnet for them. And even despite the fashion for downhill skiing and the updated cable car, Dombay is still a place not so much about skiing as about a guitar by the fire, canned stew, freedom and romance.
1. Acquaintance with Karachay-Cherkessia I got, like a year ago with mountainous Serbia, sudden. The sun went away early, in the boring steppe and not too cozy eastern part of the Kuban, somewhere near Armavir. We covered almost two hundred kilometers in the dark, not seeing the appearance of mountains on the horizon, nor the first folds of the relief, nor the grandiose gorge into which we finally arrived, nor the cliffs from the edge of the road. It's just that in the dark the road was straight at first, then began to wind and climb somewhere. But, waking up in the morning, we saw something fantastic, radically different from what happened yesterday at sunset:

2. Dombay hits on the spot. Surrounded by mountains on all sides, in a shady hollow, it presents visual images that are completely unusual for Russia.

3. Buildings here, of course, are chaotic and stupid in places in the southern way, nevertheless, they try to maintain the front facades in the style of "European". On the central street of Dombai, the houses are clean, without any ripped eyes. Thanks to the stunning backdrop, that's enough to make it beautiful.

4. Even though this settlement appeared already under the USSR, there is no historical heritage here, so all the buildings are relatively new. And there is no need to regret the loss of any architectural monument or stylistic dissonance.

5. Only a couple of modernist hotels built in the best trends of the late USSR will pass for architectural sights here. They only add to the atmosphere of good Soviet tourism:

6. Unfortunately, their condition forces me to make a choice in favor of modern private hotels, although I would really like to live there, in the scenery of a ceremonial Soviet resort. It is a pity that they are not being repaired. And the best of them, the Amanauz hotel, which was planned to be commissioned in 1985, was never completed at all:

7. Another attraction of Dombai will soon be a new mosque. Its construction will definitely be completed:

8. Although Dombay is probably one of the three most popular ski resorts in the country, this is not the only or even its main profile. The lower station of the pendulum cable car with a pretty bas-relief, in the best traditions of our south and the Caucasus, is clamped on both sides by later buildings:

9. Although the sign says that it is closed for preventive maintenance, there is a complete feeling that the cable car is simply abandoned. Imagine our surprise when the next day she drove as if nothing had happened:

10. The difference between Dombai and other ski resorts is that it is largely also an excursion object. Here and in the off-season, in October, there was no desolation. The village is crowded, bustling; the hotels are not one hundred percent, but full. Routes for every taste diverge in all directions - to lakes, to waterfalls, to gorges, to caves. Automobile, hiking, horseback riding, overnight stays, etc.

11. UAZs offering excursions are scattered throughout the village. Due to their large number, they fight for clients with their appearance. Some of them look brutal, like tanks, while others are a direct road to the exhibition of retro technology, they are so carefully restored. There are also individual Hummers and GAZ-69s, but the apogee of this off-road competition, perhaps, is a rare East European truck from the SVD era:

12. Another man-made beauty of Dombai is the pedestrian cable-stayed bridge over the Amanauz River. The photos do not convey this, but under it is a very impressive abyss. It seems like the center of the village, but the height difference is solid.

13. Near the station of the new lift - a small market with all kinds of souvenir belongings. I must say, as in all our southern resorts, the service is quite intrusive here. Everywhere offered some kind of nonsense for money. Moreover, it seems to me that the locals are competing who will come up with a more useless and ridiculous service for tourists. However, in comparison with the South Coast, where all kinds of sellers and barkers naturally do not give a step, everything here is very civilized and tactful.

14. And here is the main "new" lift. It was built in the late 2000s. consists of three phases and ultimately delivers to an altitude of 3200 m.The village itself, as can be seen from the inscription, is at the level of 1590 m.

15. In other places we have already climbed to such a height by means of cable cars, but here our path is just beginning.

16. The first stage is represented by comfortable imported cabins, as at Rose-Khutor:

17. Actual problems of Dombai:

18. On the second floor, all cabins are thoroughly watered. I don’t know if this is due to the pandemic, or it’s always like this:

19. The village remained somewhere below:

20. There is enough mess and unsightly views. At the height, no one guides the marafet:

21. However, everything pays off with natural landscapes. It is difficult to pick up epithets for how beautiful it is (not only at the lift stations, but in general in the vicinity of Dombai). All this you want to somehow pick up, take with you, bite off a piece.

22. Seeing enough is impossible. Realizing that in a couple of days I will have to leave, I want to cling to the ground and stay here:

23. It is impossible to stop making an endless number of unnecessary and monotonous photos. Every turn of the head, every step, every angle I want to photograph. It's pointless, but you just don't know how else to physically express the delight of beauty.

24. One of the attractions for tourists, not yet the worst one, is a photo on a swing near a cliff. Those who did it here on the second "floor" will be disappointed. At each next level there is the same thing, only there are cooler views.

25. There are two objects at once, for a photo with which they take 100-200 rubles. Yak and inscription. And if a photo with an animal somehow fits into my picture of the world, then giving money for a frame against a background of wooden letters is absurd. But there are a dozen of such installations. "I love Dombay", "Only mountains can be better than mountains", just hearts with frills. Some, apparently unclaimed, sometimes lie somewhere behind the sheds. But for a photo with each one is offered to pay.

26. There are actually two Jacob, they are changed from time to time, apparently, so as not to overheat. While one is working out, the second is resting in the shade of the lift, the same spare as the yak itself. I can't even believe that these cabins will go tomorrow. Who will use them when there are new ones nearby? Just to save money?

27. But the second and third stages are still part of the new ... True, they are already not so fashionable and comfortable, but, one way or another, they are also quite nothing.

28. Ski slopes and snow cannons in anticipation of the season:

29. There are also numerous small lifts awaiting the season, which are mostly needed by skiers. In the off-season, some of them also work, but they all go mainly along the main three-step route. Curiously, it is loaded very well. Those who want to climb to contemplate the mountain views on a weekday autumn day with interest, even for a very immodest price.

30. Service village at the crossroads. In winter there is movement. The route of the main lift bypasses it, but there are a couple of secondary cable cars. On this clearing is the main architectural symbol of Dombai, a hotel in the form of a flying saucer, donated to him back in the 60s by a Finnish architect:

31. At the third station of our ski lift there is a similar cluster of cafes and souvenir shops. The food here is not cheap, and the serving is no frills - everything, including water, is delivered to such a height by the same lift, so no one is particularly aesthetically pleasing.

32. We were tempted to tea with a view of the mountains. Well, for khychin, of course - the national Karachai pie. In Moscow (rarely, but met) and in some pop places in the republic itself, you cannot distinguish it from Ossetian pies, but in most places in Karachay-Cherkessia it still has its own unique features.

33. The catering here is generally very homely, like in Turkey. They take it out almost from their kitchen, they cook it differently everywhere. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, we were fed here very tasty and inexpensive. And what is most surprising, even here, at the lift station, where the traffic of people is huge and there are almost no regular customers, the food was of high quality and tasty.

34. Although it would still be worth working on the appearance of infrastructure and services. Many people are purely visual.

35. On the third "floor", as well as on the open lifts themselves, it becomes noticeably cold. The wind blows prickly and piercing. My companions, who giggled at me when I was dragging my autumn jackets downstairs, where the temperature was about twenty, expressed their gratitude.

36. As I understand it, this is the so-called. "Russian Polyana", one of the easiest trekking directions from Dombai:

37. Valley of the Amanauz River. The only road connecting Dombay with the outside world runs along it. On the sides there are mountains, and in the other direction, after five kilometers, there is the blank border of Abkhazia:

38. Because of this, the border zone begins immediately outside the village. Almost all directions for hiking and trips from Dombai require special passes from the FSB. Fortunately, for the sake of tourism development, obtaining them is noticeably simplified here. On the most popular routes, they are issued right at the entrance to the route. Often, however, no one is there, and there is simply no one to get it from, and in this case, when you continue to move, you become a formal violator. But on massive trails, nobody seems to be fined.

39. Mountain lake somewhere below, at an altitude of three kilometers:

40. The third stage is quite small. It leads to the top of Mount Mussa-Achitara, on the slopes of which all ski action takes place in Dombai:

41. Here, at an altitude of 3200 meters, there is already snow. Children, as if bewitched, immediately go to him, touch:

42. From here you can see Elbrus, located, for the most part, in another subject of the federation:

43. This is the first time I have climbed to such a height. The body made it clear that I am not twenty years old and I should have thought about mountains earlier.

44. It seems so, at first glance, nothing, but it is worth at least a little to accelerate the step, begins to give in the head.

45. There are also enough objects for a photo for 150 rubles. A snowboard throne, "I love Dombai", a stuffed mountain goat, as well as the flavor of the modern Caucasus are quite a real automatic weapon.

46. ​​One last look around, and we go down.

47. Inside:

48. Unexpected cultural program:

49. Greetings from the builders of Dombai:

50. Due to the fact that Dombay is surrounded by mountains on all sides, the light here is very specific. Perhaps claustrophobes will feel uncomfortable here for a long time. This is not a camera artifact, it looked also live:

51. Non-touristy, everyday Dombay looks like this. It is very small - the permanent population here is a little more than five hundred people:

Dombay, as expected, turned out to be an excellent place to get acquainted with both Karachay-Cherkessia and the nature of the Caucasus in general. This is a cozy and sincere place with its own special warmth. The number of directions for all kinds of outings here is such that in Dombai it is quite possible to spend a two-week vacation, even without skiing. In the next story, we will make a similar sortie. Only its character will be completely different - the goal will not be nature (although its presence will still be felt), but the city. And although the resort of Teberda differs little from the neighboring villages, it is quite suitable for the first acquaintance with the color of the settlements of the republics of the North Caucasus Federal District.