Couchsurfing in Grozny: welcome to Chechnya!

Some names of cities are so closely tied to historical trauma in the head immediately brings the scene of war. Sarajevo. Mogadishu. Aleppo. And Grozny. In the course of two wars, Russian forces leveled the capital of Chechnya to the ground. The photos of those times — the tanks between the bombed houses and piles of rubble where once were roads. In 2003 the United Nations called Grozny the most heavily destroyed city in the world.

Today terrible not to know. Polished marble floors surrounded by a mosque named after Akhmad Kadyrov, is designed for 10 thousand people. Behind it rise the blue-white skyscrapers, which are likely more suited to Abu Dhabi than to the Caucasus. One of them is a five star hotel. The shrubs are so carefully aligned that it is not sticking, no leaf.

The city was cleaning out billions from Moscow, Putin street in the city center surrounded by a delicious pastry shops, fashion stores and food from the restaurant Hollywoodl to Cafe del Mar and Cafe HalAl Pacino.

Dreams of the tourists

Teacher Murad* sees investment of political calculation. “The Russian government sends money to show — if you cooperate, you’ll be fine. Maybe Putin wants to bribe us to be quiet,” — says 37-year-old man with serious look but playful smile.

The shirt and jeans, he sits with me in the cafe Spontinni, we took the two 42-inch pizza Mexicana.

Murad dreams of working guide. But the Ministry of foreign Affairs of Western countries recommend to refrain from trips to Chechnya because of the danger of terror and violence and because of the Republic’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who with an iron hand and a private army known for holding the Republic in fear and order. “Yet among the tourists — experienced extreme-travelers, for example, people who are trying to visit all regions of the world,” says Murad. However, the number of visitors from their own country is growing every year.

He shows me the Avenue “Visit Chechnya”, which depicts the Deputy head of the travel Agency Tour Ex with a huge knife in his hand. Under the photo is written — he who travels with him is the guarantee of a comfortable stay. Perhaps over the advertising materials need more work in the future to attract more visitors.

The father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

The ruler of the clan of Kadyrov in Grozny and surroundings is everywhere. Father Akhmat, who was killed in 2004 during the attack, and the son, Ramzan, who came to power shortly after the death of his father, looking at his country with numerous posters. In uniform or a tie, with the cult of personality, as is typical of many autocratic countries. The images are often visible and Putin. “It used to be more pictures, which depicted all three of them together,” says Murad. “But then they began to call the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After people began to laugh at them, many of the posters removed.”

A lower susceptibility in the sense of humor the head of the Republic demonstrates in his Instagram, Kadyrov where more than two million subscribers. He is posing with guns in a combat stance and cursing their enemies, the fights in the river with the crocodile. In other photographs of it on the treadmill at the gym or with Pets on hand. Not typical for the head of the Republic, it seems the number of Emoji in some of his posts and the fact that he often looks like a Chechen tourist, everywhere making a selfie. And now on the casting show he is looking for new employees.

But this picture is deceptive. Kadyrov, who in the past fought against the Russian, and then moved to their side, is considered a ruthless despot who intimidates people. Human rights activists accuse his government in kidnappings, contract killings and rapes.

A bit like black forest

We’re going to Toyota Murad at the crystal clear city streets, then get on a steep gravel road leading to the mountains. For Benoy-Yurt, West of Grozny, the countryside becomes greener, the wild Caucasus resembles the black forest. But true Chechen give the appearance of a mosque on the outskirts of the roads and huge Palace with armed guards, high stone walls and a red domed roof with metal tips, a little reminiscent of the helmets of the police.

We stop at Yusuf, redheaded friend Murad, invites us to his home for dinner. Reassuring meatballs and goat cheese, he said that Kadyrov had recently established a special unit composed of hundreds of people, apparently, to protect the visitors of Chechnya. “I have a small tourism project in the mountains. Come on, we’ll go later”.

Along the way were incredible. To capture those unforgettable moments with you to be sure the camera.

A couple of miles above Yusuf in a clearing opened shop. On the gray wall says “shop” and “kebab”. Next, between the trees, stands a barbecue grill. Tree branches swaying in the wind, birds chirping.

I was the first foreign tourist here. When you look the family members of Yusuf, one of them brings out a huge gun shop. “You can kill a bear,” says he happily. “Welcome to Chechnya!”. He puts the rifle to my shoulder, takes aim at a point above the crown of the trees and makes two deafening shots. Then suddenly becomes very quiet. “We hope that soon we will arrive a lot more tourists,” — says Murad.

*real name changed by the author to protect everyone.