After we organized a Visa in the embassy of the republic of Nagorno Karabakh in Yerevan (it is around 6€ and possible to get within one day if you come early enough) we catched a minibus (Marshroutka) to Stepanakert, the capital city. You can also get a visa after arrival in the ministry of foreign affairs.
Even if the Nagorno Karabakh war is said to be over since 1994 the self proclaimed republic is still in the middle of one of the long lasting unsolved conflicts on our planet. The reason it is still not recognized as a country by rest of the world (except Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia which are mostly not recognized themselfs) might be the ressource rhichness of Azerbaijan or other important topics between the big players in world politics… but who knows.
Actually the plan was to hitch hike, but it turned out that it is not easy to get out of Yerevan in that way, especially if you have lots of luggage and to lazy to walk a lot to get to an area where the traffic is calm enough so cars are able to stop. Also Information about the bus Station were contradictory. What we can tell you now for sure: there are at least 2-3 Marshroutka from the Kilikia bus Station between 6-8 o´clock in the morning.
Stepanakert was quite interesting and friendly, but also mood was kind of strange. There are lots of people in uniform and political banners which show the militarization of the small country. Also you still find traces of the war in several buildings. People were really friendly and the food was nice but sightly more epensive than in Armenia.
We found a guesthouse with quite resonable prices (~12€ for the room with a simple breakfast), also if promisses and kindness were reduced after the owners realized we did not have enough money to do a tour with them. We still had a nice time and walked around the town and the most important memorial of the Country called “We Are Our Mountains”, also known as “tatik-papik” (տատիկ-պապիկ) in Armenian, “Grandma and Grandpa” in english.
Also everybody involved in tourism promised us that hitch hiking would be really difficult or even impossible, which we prooved wrong the next day and when we hitch hiked all the way to Tatev and Goris (see in the Armenia Post). So the next day we went to the town of “Shushi/Shusha” (people there called it Shushi at least) which was recommended to us by a nice lady in the embassy in Yerewan.
After Shushi was an important cultural center for Armenians as well as Azerbaijanis living in Karabach for more than 100 years it all turned bad within the last century. It most probably startet with the Shusha massacre and was since then showplace of several cruel excesses in the still ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and the armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh. The capture of the town in 1992 by armenian troops is still a really important day for people in Karabach and memorials like a tank in front of the town are reminding about it. The town feels very empty which is due to all the abandoned and destroyed buildings and the population of just 4000 people today – it used to be around 40.000 in the beginning of the last century. Althogh the shocking past is not easy to digest it is really interesting to walk around in Shushi and see all the ruins are taken back slowly by nature while people are trying to live a normal live in between.
Still we did not go to the tourist destinations (curches and museums) but walked a track around the mountain on which Shushi is based on, which we found in GoogleMaps. It is highly recommendable and nearly has everything: ruins, farmland, forest, the stunning “Hunot Canyon”, several old and partly adventurous bridges, ancient graveyards and a mountain village! Defenately worth it if you can spend a day. Also we came across one of the most beautiful waterfalls ever, although it was not really big, but see for yourself.