Humane treatment of horses, sound therapy, and masterclasses in felting are top healing pastimes in the most touristy spot in Altai.
Every traveller knows that the real value of tourist destinations lies in the diversity of to-do lists that they provide, whether cultural experiences, sports or good old shopping. In the vicinity of Chemal, there is a plethora of entertainment of all kinds – beaches, museums, rafting, even gastronomy. But there are also authentic and eco-friendly places, a visit to which will not make you part of the tourist crowd but will highlight the face of true Altai in the ‘anthill’ of human souls.
Village of Craftsmen
The village of Askat was nicknamed the Village of Craftsmen, because it is here, in this quiet forest pastoral, that the most famous Altai artists live and work. In the ethnic galleries, the most curious of which is Strela Sartakpaya (Sartakpay’s Arrow), you will find tambourines painted by Nikolai Chepokov (Tarakay), ocarina whistles of various kinds and purposes, felt carpets, and wrought iron pieces of crazy beauty. And in the Glade of Singing Winds, you can buy unique handmade souvenirs, many of which could be considered works of art – and make something entertaining with your own hands: they hold masterclasses on felting, sewing and pottery there.
A handmade ocarina, whose name, by the way, translates from Altai as ‘a voice in the gorge’, will take its rightful place in any collection of gifts for loved ones – right next to blood sausage, and camel wool socks.
The Gamayun National Theatre of Askat, whose actors are gifted local residents, gives performances in the building of the local club and tours throughout Altai. And, in 2002, Askat became home to a Buddhist retreat centre, where they organise retreats with travelling teachers, among other things. The verdict is: Askat is the Altai Provence with distinct Himalayan notes.
Sarlyk Shop on Ulitsa Pchelkina
The counters are only stocked with products from local farms, blissfully unaware of any achievements of the chemical industry. They do not sell beef from large national producers or pork sausages made outside of the republic. What you will find here instead is an impressive selection of Altai tea, home-roasted coffee, wapiti meat, organic sausages, mouth-watering cheeses, and the best dairy products for miles. Make sure to try the decaf latte made right in the store with spring water and fresh local milk.
Another Sarlyk shop can be found in Elekmonar village, not far from the Dragon's Teeth Bridge.