Above the Earth in Ossetia

by Polina Zabolotskaya

Have you ever travelled around Russia? I bet it is wonderful! I would have never learned that if not for my groupmate and friend, Lera. This August I jumped into a chance to travel to North Ossetia-Alania and spent 7 unforgettable days there.

I will not torment the reader with facts, traditions, and travel tips, as you can easily find all the information online, plus the “Orel and Reshka” program has been filmed there recently. I will better try to tell you an aspiring story of one day of my trip, after which, I hope, you will give this region a chance.


We decided to go to the mountains by car with a company of Lera’s friends - 2 boys and a girl. We aimed to reach a bench, which stood blissfully alone over the cliff of a precarious bluff.

It was popular among the tourists for the picturesque panoramic vista and the inscription "Happiness is not behind the mountains, but it is in the mountains" right on it.

Having spent a lot of time getting together, we started our journey late, at 4 p.m. The road was pretty long and we had to stop here or there often- at the gas station, at the shop to buy some freshly baked flatbread, the smell of which would make us drool. We also stopped at a scenic pasture to take some cinematic shots against the background of dozens of grazing horses and cows. I was captivated as a child by seeing calves and foals.

By the time we started to drive up the serpentine, darkness was dancing slowly around the mountain peaks, swelling by every turn. Dusk comes early in that region. An enormous herd of sheep sprawled grandly on our way. They were returning home under the supervision of a shepherd and his kind-eyed herding dog. The mountainside, covered with kelly-green grass, was literally teemed with animals, creating a chorus of strange natural sounds.

It was about 8 o’clock when we were higher than the clouds. The world around us was mysteriously blue and dark purple. The lights of the city were faintly sparkling in the distance. The road was becoming narrow and steep. Suddenly we realized that none of us knew the accurate location of the bench. We were literally somewhere in the sky, searching for a mysterious place while the majestic mountains were deepening down into the darkness.

The girls, Lera and Dzera, started to panic, as they were not allowed to be outside that late, a conservative rule for young girls in Ossetia, but I tried to keep calm and calm down the others. I wasn’t scared for a second and even enjoyed the spirit of adventure in this incomprehensible situation.

We left the car, as we couldn’t drive anymore and turned on our iPhone flashlights, though they were not strong enough for night adventures in the obscurity. I was only wearing a short skirt, a top, and a translucent shirt, and the others had something similar. It was pretty cold, and going up for a long time was difficult because of oxygen deficiency, though I didn’t pay attention to that due to overexcitement It was darker and darker with every minute, and our flashlights were as useless as our light T-shirts.

We wandered around for an hour or so, experiencing a terrifying total silence. Soon not far from us, we heard loud cheerful sounds of joyful company of people. The people must have rented a birthday house, so high above the ground, with such stunning views, changing every second. "This is my dream! That is how I want to celebrate my birthday once", I thought. This situation is probably typical for Ossetians. I generally noticed that incredible mountain landscapes do not inspire admiration in them as they are already used to seeing them often.

I wanted to continue searching for the cryptic bench, but realized that it may be really dangerous, as the only normal light source was the huge moon. We had to surrender because everybody was nervous.

Our way back was something out of mind. We turned on the spellbinding M83 music. Everybody sitting at the back fell asleep, and I was watching August shooting stars, my head out of the window. I was feeling utter pleasure. It seemed as if only space was above me, I swear. That moment was worth the whole trip, it was unforgettable. I wish everyone to experience that at least once.

We returned to the city, exhausted but full of amazing emotions, and wrapped up the trip with a true Ossetian late-night dinner- tasty meat, fresh salads, dzikka (wheat flour, sour cream, and cheese cooked in a cast iron), and of course, Ossetian pies with meat, cheese, and beet leaves.

We were completely exhausted but totally satisfied with the trip. Aiming to reach a famous silly bench, we found something bigger, ethereal, and more important.