The main reason we diverted north, just over the border into Russia, was to track down the resting place of Anita’s granddad, who was killed there in 1942, when part of the German Army sent to capture the Caucasus oilfields.
We learnt that the town of Alagir was where he was buried so that’s where we headed as soon as we could.
With the help of our taxi driver and a young woman he knew locally who spoke English, we tracked down an old Red Army veteran who had seen action in the War and would know where the German soldiers were buried.
This war hero lived in this block of flats in Alagir.
And what a nice touch to name the building after him; surely something council estate block could have done in the UK in the 60s/70s rather than giving them incongruous names like ‘Wordsworth’ or ‘Jasmine’.
Fantastic to meet this guy and to be invited into his apartment to hear his reminiscences of those old days.
And we got to find the area where Anita’s granddad is buried, though all the headstones have been removed now. A lovely peaceful spot, and very moving to be there.
This woman was a local victim of one German officer’s outburst when he killed her and most of her family after occupying their house. The major battle around the town happened just a day after Anita’s granddad had died – November 1942 was a key month round these parts.
This area is proud of its Ossetian identity. This, we were told, was an Ossetian fighter, towering over the main road.
And then in Vladikavkaz, we found this example of a soldier from 1810, presumably the Napoleonic wars (??).
Lenin still has hero status round here; or at least enough to warrant several statues and busts to line the streets even today.
From Vladikavkaz we drove through Chechnya to Makhachkala in what might once have been a luxury coach. Grubbiest transport we’ve had on this trip but friendly enough crowd on it, and got us to the coast in one piece.
We had planned to stop in Derbent (UNESCO heritage site) but the night train to Baku proved too tempting
At least our wait in Derbent Station waiting room was a delight – not many UK waiting rooms as grand as this
Best thing about Russian trains must surely be the samovar at the end of each carriage. Don’t forget your thermos – and your tea – because there’s hot water on tap throughout the journey. Bit dark here, but this gave us very welcome cuppas before bed and for breakfast before Baku…