Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

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18 travelers at this place:

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  • Day19

    First off we visited a bazaar your standard Asian market fruit, vegetables, fresh meat alive and freshly killed. A hard life for some, all these little old ladies lined up selling one or two products from their gardens and home-made products and also larger stalls.

    Along the road to the Georgian boarder there are so many tobacco fields with leaves hanging up to dry. Also there are fields after fields of hazel nut trees, with people picking the nuts up from the ground. The land is state owned with locals renting it off the government.

    It was dodgem cow again today. You don't see many motorbikes on the road. The road hasn't got any better, worse actually even though the limit seems to be 90 we're only going about 70.

    Testimate to how bad the roads are, though it was a semi gravel road, there was a bang and we lost a hub cap. The driver and guide went running out of the bus to find it in the field, which they successfully did.

    In 2015 the currency devalued by about 50 per cent because of the oil crisis, that is significant can now understand why there are so many empty buildings.

    Random notes on Azerbaijan
    Caucasian Albanian times 4bc to 7ad - though nothing to do with current Albania.

    1941-1945 1 million Azerbaijans died / were killed in WWII.

    Crossing the boarder into Georgia
    Well we were told we would have to walk about 100m to get to Azerbaijan's boarder security then about 150 for Georgia's try more like 500m, but at least there were no issues

    So Georgia has a boarder with Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. It's text dates back to before Christ.

    It is a semi-presidentual country. It became independent in 1991, first election in 1993, a revolution in 2003 when they reduced the president's power and also created a new flag and anthem. Elections are held every 5 years. There are 9 regions and two regional republics.

    It is the third country for Christianity to reach. In the 11 century the church split off between orthodox Christians and Catholics, however most people are orthodox.

    Most famous time in the region we are in is September when they are picking grapes - the region is know for its grapes. They have many types of wine about 500 - red, white, semi-sweet. Traditional Georgian wine is made by not separating skin and juice. They also have a vodka not called vodka made from grapes. Peaches and nectarines are popular in the region. Every family would have a piece of land to grow grapes and fruit and vegetables.

    Lunch
    We had this amazing lunch at a local's place. So great food, eggplant, bread, cheese, tomato, pork, meat on cabbage, baby capers, potatoes,
    Also home-made wine, grapes and cognac.
    Still can't get over how good the food was. Then these two girls played the violin for us.

    Kvareli
    Koncho & Co
    So we visited this winery which was established in the 16c when it was a royal winery until Russia took over. They make their traditional wines in these really big clay pots under ground with the temperature about 14 degrees. Their traditional wine is always dry. Pressed grapes are pot in a clay pot which is underground with thr lid off for 2 months and stirred every day then sealed for 8 months if red wine, 6 if white. The seeds skin etc sinks to bottom. The largest pot is 4800 litres, is 2 meters deep.

    European wines are stored in massive containers covered in foam to keep them at -2degress. Is from Soviet times. They are 20 tonnes.

    They produce 2 million bottles of wine a year, they export about 80percent. Their bottles are made in Georgia and corks in Portugal. 2005 best year recent even 2012. There were these massive barrels of brandy I think 7 tonne oak barrels.

    Chach boiled. Is usually white unless aged in a barrel. Tastes like grapper but stronger not for me thanks.

    While we were tasting the wines for musicians sang and play traditional Georgian instruments, what amazing deep voices they had.

    We then visited Gremi the capital in the region of Kakheti for 100 since 1466. In the middle of the 17c all Kakhetian cities were razed to the ground by Sha Abbas, from Persia. Vine and mulberry trees were rooted out by the Persians so no agriculture could be recovered.

    The making of copies of calligraphy books occurred in Gremi including thr Georgian Chronicles - Queen Anna's list in Kartlis Tskhovreba. Gremi had a closed market area, it covered 1,400 square metres. At one point there were 30 closed markets in town, it was a gathering point for local and foreign traders. They stayed at caravanserais which joined the markets.

    Two roads connected Gremi to Persia and other countries of the East. It took 10 days to travel 30km, Gremi to Shemakhi.

    We first saw a church in Kremim destroyed in 1616 by Persia. It was an Armenian church.

    Then Turkish Bath houses. Really only the dome roves are left standing.

    Then the King's palace and church, including the first modern toilet. Built 1565, church of archangels and painted in 1577. It was interesting inside. For dark paintings of Christ ect, many rubbing off.

    I then climbed the palace tower. What amazing views up into the Caucuses, about three quarters up the mountains the tress stop and it just looks like dirt.

    So we are staying in this extremely interestimg hotel. It looks like a castle and over looks a lake, which is thee quarters empty though think it would be full in autumn after the snow melts. The bed is hard as rock again, they must love hard beds and my light bulb had blown, I did try to get ot fixed but no luck.

    Random information
    Border of Asia and Europe. They have had many different invaders.

    Russia wanted access to black see, so Russia took Abkhazia in 19c and have always kept it. There is a big Russian fleet there. They also took South Osseita in 2008 as the area wanted independence, is inhabited mainly by Muslims, so Russia stepped in and supported them.

    There are two autonomous Republics. Adjara is an autonomous region, is mainly Catholics there but is Georgian territory and the Georgians have access to it. And Abkhazia is am autonomous region.

    Population 3.7 million. Tbilisi has 1.5 million.
    Tallest mountain 5200 metres.

    Hotel
    Royal Batoni
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  • Day17

    Our first stop was the national cemetery of Azerbaijan. One of the main areas is individual memorials to about 140 civilians killed by Russians on 20 January 1990. Some people were killed by tanks rolling over them, so cruel, so they could never be identified. They also have an eternal flame, but that had gone out.

    I can't believe the wind today. Baku can mean windy place, and it was windy though it did help to cool things down a bit.

    Next was the old city. There are 3 unesco buildings. The wall was built in the 12th century. About 1.5km, 8-10 metres high, 25 towers and 5 gates. Actually there was an outer wall that was a a couple of kilometres away and that was 15 metres heigh and in between the two walls there were trenches with crude oil. Most of the buildings in the old city are new, 19th century.The symbol of the city is two lions under and sun and moon - protecting the city day and night.

    Shivrvanshahs Palace built in the 12 century when they had a King. A lot of it has been rebuilt. In the courtyard you can see bullet holes and even stains from blood where Armenians killed local Azerbaijanians (though Armenia has denied this) about 12,000 in total. In the 12th century the capital was moved to Baku after an earthquake in Smaxi.

    Also in the palace you can see stones from Bayil Castle. When the Caspian Sea went down in 1940 archeologists were able to excavate. There is also an old bath house dating from 1415. They have really strong links with turkey, the alphabet is the same, 32 characters.

    We passed by Mohammed Mosque another unesco site. It was partly destroyed by Peter the Great and never fixed.

    Then there is Maiden Tower, so many stories about how it got its name one being that it has never been defeated another that a man wanted to marry this women and she wouldn't until he built her a tower (hmm a house would do me)!! It's 28 metres heigh they think the bottom section was built in the 5th century and the top in the 12th. It has shock absorbers as part of its structure so may explain why it's never been destroyed. This region must have had a lot of earthquakes.

    There are still old Karavansara around. Rest places for caravans along the Silk Road. They are usually two floors one for sleeping the other for the animals.

    Then it was lunch. i had really yummy dorms - mince meat in eggplant, tomato and capsicum.

    The building for the rug museum looks like a gold rolled up rug. Security is tight, walk through the metal detectors it beeps they just wave you through. The displays of rugs is just brilliant they are so diverse. Is amazing to see one being made the sound is hypnotic.

    About 20 minutes out of the main city is The Temple of Atashgah - Fire Temple. It's totally rebuilt but originally had natural fire from underground gas. The Zoroastrian's worshipped fire here and so did Hindus. Zoroastrianism is the most ancient religion in south west Asia. They believe people have the choice between good and evil - how wise they were. They also believe air, earth and water are scared and let the vultures eat the dead.

    About another twenty minutes is The Mardakan Fortress is in the middle of the suburbs, you could easily not know it was there. Walking up the street there was this fig tree and we stopped to taste some figs!! They were nice not like ours at home. About 250 soldiers would have lived in the fortress and there were tunnels that connectef the fortresses to the old city.

    I didn't realise the Mongols were in this region in the 13th century, I guess though that's not surprising considering their reach.

    All these holes are dotted around the fortress, it was where food was stored. the stairs up to the wall of the fortress were nice and step and unevenly spaced, I would not like to be walking them in the dark.

    And then Fire Mountain, references to it is even in the book of dead. At one stage it is thought nearly the whole mountain was on fire, now there is only about 2 metres, the gas reserve must be significant given how long it has been burning.

    They get their electricity from hydro!! And you should see all the gas pipes on the streets and the outside of homes, the Russian's were lazy and never put them under ground.

    There are so many empty buildings here. In the boom so much was built now they can't sell units and office space though it hasn't stopped them from building more.

    An the buildings are just extraordinary!! The designs are amazing so different. We saw Trump Tower, I don't think he built it but there was some dodgy deal with the Russians to put his name on it was opened 3 years ago by his daughter but has never been used and the name has now come off the building. The gallery of modern art built like a wave all white with giant rabbits and snails in the front lawn.

    Hotel
    Sapphire Inn
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  • Day17

    1025m is the maximum depth of the Caspian sea. The salinity of it varies the further south the saltier it gets. Sturgeon is abundant in the sea, sturgeon is know for caviar but is illegalll to collect any of the eggs. The Caspian Sea has more than 100 names. Prehistoric tribes lived around the sea hence the rock art at Qubostan.

    About 250 Azerbaijan platforms are in the sea - gas and oil about 50/50. 75 percent are owned by the state. 1994 there was a contract of the century signed with 25 international oil companies. They export about 85 percent of the oil. They pump 1 million barrels of oil to the black Sea a day. Baku to Georgia then to Turkey then Black Sea.

    Iranians often come and holiday along the Caspian Sea. Not a holiday spot I would pick, it is like a desert dry and dusty.

    We think we are advanced well even though they are an oil and gas rich state they are forward thinking. The government realising that the oil and gas will one day run out are establishing solor and wind farms, plus they obtain their electricity from hydro.

    It is compulsory to join the army for all men from 18yrs. 12 months if they have been to uni, 18 months if they haven't.

    When you get out of Baku it is so dry, virtually no tress or grass just stone and dirt. About 45 percent of Azerbaijan is dry and arid. A lot of which is around the Caspian Sea, so the land at one stage would have been under water, the land is probably still very salty. Supposedly there are 9 out of 11 climate zones in Azerbaijan.

    Some business men had started to build islands in the Caspian Sea, like Palm Island in Dubai. Cost was
    125 billion, they were even trying to build the tallest building in the world. But a couple of years ago during the oil crisis it went bust. To be honest though it is in the middle of nowhere, near platforms and nothing else!! Not my idea of an island retreat.

    Qubostan national park - 5000 hectares. Many places are named called Qubostan - land of... dry and

    The area has been inhabited continuously from at least 20,000,bc. Rock pictures from 20000 bc. Azerbaijan was near the main emigration routes of early humans. It has a history dating back several hundred thousand years. Animal bones discovered from upper Palaeolithic 35,000-15,000 bc include deer, wolves and leopards. Mesolithic xiii-viii bc mixed forest savannah - deer, gazelle, wild ass, cheetah, goat. Then in eneolithic climate became humid and more forest even pine and oak vi-iv bc become forest so deer, wolves, hares, foxes wild boars, birds. Then iron age ii-i bc semi-steepe and semi-desert arid climate gazelles and ass. There are about 20,000 rock pictures in the park. Famous ones are the Dancing men picture. Hunting men 12,000 bc. Zigzag is rain means fertility.
    Boats 2000 bc like Egyptian boats.
    20 caves

    The folk dance called Yallingup reminds me a bit like the dervishes

    The meaning of the Petroglyphs can have different meanings and thus has been hard for archaeologists to decifer. It is thought some petroglyphs could have been created during pre-hunting rituals.
    Stone ages by rock 10,000bc. Many petroglyphs use natural features of the rock, later on for pictographs they used colour. Some used stone and in iron age iron instruments.

    Many of the mountains around here are flat as they were under the sea. The Russians used them as quarries so they destroyed many rock gravings, got to love what history means to them.

    So my experience in the museum's outdoor toilet was interesting, I shared it with this massive cricket but when you need to go!!

    So we stopped on the side of the highway to change buses, it didn't take long to work out why, they didn't want to destroy their good bus. It took about 25min to travel 5km. Now I understand how in places it can take days to travel short distances. The road was shocking and extremely steep in parts with holes and ridges that could swallow up small cars (as a taxi found out) and the bus well I don't think it had any suspension :-) but it got us to the mud volcanoes. Though would have been safer if he didn't take phone calls.

    So there are about 350 mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan. Mud bubbles away created by sulfar and gasses. I was thinking it would be warm but the mud is cold. There were probably about 10 or so mounds with mud and a little pond which seem to be a mixture of water and mud, it didn't look inviting.

    Driving to the mud volcanoes on the side of the road there are some oil sludges, the oil just must seep up and create sludge ponds, you do see them dotted around the place.

    Driving back to Baku you should have see this car full of watermelons hardly room for the driver and a spare tyre strapped to the boot. So I don't think road rules seem to apply. People don't stick to their lanes, drive down the wrong side of the road, run across the highway, kids aren't restrained.

    So I got to paddle in the Caspian Sea, just need an oil platform. Actually the water was cleaner than I thought it would be and a nice temperature but there was no swimming but it might have helped to cool down.

    I went to Firuz for dinner. They seem to like restaurants in the basement. I had a yummy pancake with meat then mutton with apricots, tomato, onion. I was trying to work out what it was that I didn't like, it's the saffron in the rice!! That's lucky as it's an expensive spice :-)

    Afterwards I walked along the boulevard beside the Caspian Sea, it was so pretty with all the buildings lit up and so many people out. There was a light show on the fire buildings, they have people with the Azerbaijan flag, also the lit up like fires.

    In the courtyard of the four seasons they even had a band playing though they were contending with the traffic noise!

    Hotel
    Sapphire Inn
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  • Day18

    Most of the residential buildings built during Soviet times have now been renovated in the centre of Baku. They are often 3-5 floors, now they actually look like normal unit blocks. The Russian boarder from Baku is about 160km.

    Baku's watet comes from a reservoir that is about 9km and 28m deep. The water comes from north Azerbaijan and rain water (though there isn't a lot of rain).

    On the way out of Baku I spotted an animal rescue centre.

    Within the Caucuses mountains in Azerbaijan the highest mountain is 4400m.

    1918 until 1920 Azerbaijan was independent then became part of Russia until 1991.

    It is so dry and arid. On the road through Qubostan the State has started to plant tress along the side of the road. They have to pipe the water though to keep them alive. Dotted along the way are shepard houses for the winter.

    Diri Baba shrine in Maraza. Was built in 15th century, 1402. Though they don't know exactly by who, may be a monk, they call him immortal grandfather as his ghost has been spotted praying in the shrine. It is considered a scared place, were all your wishes come true. It is built into the hill therefore it only has three built walls to it. To get my wishes I walked around the dome three times and tied my hair band around the scared tree so now all my wishes will come true! It is only Shia Muslims who pray here.

    Drive through the arid landscape it's really strange to see in the middle of nowhere hotels.

    Jum Mosque in Shemakha
    The Mosque was built in 743. It was restored in 2013, though nothing is left from the original. This is called the grand mosque, it is the largest in Azerbaijan, though doesn't compared to Hagia Sophia in Turkey. In 1918 the Russians burned locals alive in the mosque.

    Yeddi Humber Tomb
    Known as the royal cemetery from 14 or 15 century the royal family was buried here but now it's a public cemetery. The mosulium have small doors so you have to bow your head out of respect when entering.

    This area is the first feudal state in Azerbaijanian history.

    We also stopped at a local's home to see how they make yoghurt. There was this lovley older lady doing the demonstration. A little yoghurt is added to sheep's milk is wrapped in a towel and after two hours they have yoghurt.

    Ayran - Sour sheep's milk with dill, cumber, herbs, salt. It is served cold. It tasted a little salty but very nice and refreshing. Then there is the hot version, Dovga with sour milk, egg, rice, parsley, dill cooked over a hot stove - i really liked this one.

    Then village butter. It takes two hours to rock the butter using this long clay pot. And the last Qutab - my favourite, pancakes with dill and parsley inside then buttered.

    The grand Caucasuses are amazing rising up from the flat arid land with white clouds surrounding the top.

    We stopped by the roadside at some little stalls selling fruit, honey and flat dried fruit and I bought a peach one. Hmm it just tasted like plastic!

    It's been one of the hottest summers in the history of Azerbaijan, now I don't get how people can think global warming doesn't exist.

    The roads are definitely getting worse as we head further in. In some sections closer to Baku they are doing kilometres of road works, contracted to a Turkish company. But the further we get out the lanes reduce to one and are very bumpy and narrow. The driver also has to be careful of cows on the road they are either just roaming on the road or being herded along by foot or car!

    As we get closer to the Caucuses the greener it gets. We pass massive rivers which are empty. I could just imagine in spring they would flow so rapidly from melting snow in the mountains.

    Sheki
    The temperature is around -15 to -20 in the mountains around Sheki in the winter.
    The area has a strong Christian history, walking up to the place we see a round church from the 4C. In the 18-19 century a count ruled, Human, and the town was moved after being destroyed. Sheik count established his own Kingdom with its own currency and the palace was constructed by his grandson. The palace was built in the 18 century was made from beech wood, no nails or glue and had these amazing stain glass windows, you would not know they were stain glass until you entered the palace. Wood is used to keep the glass in place rather than it being soldered together. Outside there are these two tall beautiful plane trees. Around the palace is a well, much of which has been destroyed. And inside is breath taking, all the rooms except for thr library are painted with different things including trees, flowers, animals, war!! Google it, you can't take photos inside.

    We visited a Karvansray from 18C it still has the original wooden door, is beautiful. It has 300 rooms, two floors and a basement. Now it's a hotel.

    Random things
    Piti-soup with lambs tail, is very oily.
    Halvasi - is a sweet with walnut, honey, hazelnut, saffron

    Living in a village on the way to Sheki are milk drinkers from Russia, they moved there in the 18 century as they were persecuted. They are a very closed community though many young people have gone to Russia and Slovakian countries.

    Lamb is cheap about $8 a kilo.

    Nagorno-Karabakh - black land, is the disputed land with Armenia. Many Azerbaijans have been displaced and live in a town along the way to Sheki, some still live in tents though the government is building residential blocks.

    First humans 1 to 1.5 million south and west part of Azerbaijan close to Mesopotamia. Central wasn't occupied until 9th century BC. Was then annexed by Persian empire from 6 to 4BC. Then Alexander until 300 bc. That's all I can remember. Turks reached the area in 11 century then Mongols but they destroyed everything. Ottomans ruled the area at a stage. Persia and Russia fought for the land in 1828 it was divided into north and south, Iran. In the north of Iran there is an Azerbaijan federation people there still speak Azerbaijanian. This land has changed hands soany times.

    At the mosque they use a stone from Kabala in Iraq as the second son of Ali died here so the line of session died. Shia think Ali should be successor of Mohammed.

    Hotel
    Seki Saray
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  • Day15

    Coming into Baku dotted along the coast line of the Caspian Sea are so many oil platforms all brightly lit up, they actually look pretty in the dark. And lots of ships.

    The Caspian Sea is still a disputed area, and Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and I don't know which other countries boarder the sea can't agree on where the boundaries are.

    So I arrived after 4am with no sleep on the flight so am tired. Bit thankfully the hotel let me check in!! Is so close to the old city. The rooms are massive and I would say a bit Parisian but the bed is rock hard!!

    I don't know if I am in Paris or the middle east. Some areas you feel like you are in Paris, the buildings are all uniformed and just like Parisian buildings, even the street signs are like the ones they use in Paris. I mainly wondered around the old city and also along the boulevard but it was so hot!

    In the afternoon I came across this small rug museum. The rugs were amazing from all over Azerbaijan. Some have really vibrant colours while others are muted. This lovley girl gave me my own private tour. It can take about a month to make one metre of rug. There are also different techniques. A 2 and 5 means water. They also use the dragon symbol to mean fire.

    Population 10 million, 4 million in Baku
    Is Muslim majority but secular. You wouldn't know it was a Muslim country.
    There are 40 universities with 90 of the population having a degree as education is free.

    Our guide is Ramin and there are 9 people on the trip. Mainly in their 60's

    Hotel
    Sapphire Inn Hotel
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  • Day36

    Went by overnight train to Baku. It was a long ride (4.30pm to 10am), but I slept well.
    In Baku we had to wait for our ship to Aktau (Kazakhstan). As we decided not to take the ship on the next day we stayed another 5 days with our great couchsurfing host Alex from England. We ate a lot of cheap business lunches and could watch wrestling at the 1st European Games.

You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Azerbaijan, Aserbaidschan, Azerbaijan, Aserbaijan, Azebaegyan, አዘርባጃን, Azerbaichán, آذربيجان, ܐܙܪܒܝܓܐܢ, Azerbaiján, Азарбижан, Azərbaycan Respublikası, Азербайджан, Azɛrbayjaŋ, আজারবাইজান, ཨཛར་བཡེ་ཇན།, Azerbaidjan, Azerbejdžan, Ázerbájdžán, Aserbajdsjan, Azerbaijan nutome, Αζερμπαϊτζάν, Azerbajĝano, Azerbaiyán, AserbaidĪaan, آذربایجان, Ajerbayjaan, Azerbaidzan, Azerbaïdjan, Azèrbayidj·an, Azerbeidzjan, An Asarbaiseáin, Acerbaixán, અઝરબૈજાન, Azarbaijan, אזרביג'ן, अज़रबैजान, Azerbajdžan, Azerbajdzsán, Ադրբեջան, Azerbaidzhan, Aserbaíjan, Azerbaigian, アゼルバイジャン共和国, აზერბაიჯანი, Azabajani, Әзербайжан, អាហ៊្សែរបែហ្សង់, ಅಜರ್ಬೈಜಾನ್, 아제르바이잔, ئازەربایجان, Azerbayjan, Atropatene, Azerebayijaani, Azerbaidzjan, Azɛlɛbaizá, ອາເຊີໄບຈັນ, Azerbaidžanas, Ajelbayidja, Azerbaidžāna, Азејберџан, അസര്‍ബൈജാന്‍, अझरबैजान, Ażerbajġan, အဇာဘိုင်ဂျန်, Aderbaidjan, Aserbaidschaan, अजरबैजान, Azerbaidžuanu, ଆଜେରବାଇଜାନ୍, Azerbejdżan, Aserbaigian, ازربايجان, Azerbaijão, Asarsuyu, Azerubayijani, अजर्बैजान, Azzirbaiggian, Aserbaižan, Zerebaidyäan, Azerbaidyäan, , අසර්බයිජානය, Azerbajaan, Azerbajxhan, Азербејџан, Azerbajdzjan, அஜர்பைஜான், అజర్బైజాన్, Озарбойҷон, อาเซอร์ไบจาน, Aserbayan, ʻAsapaisani, Azerbaycan, Азәрбайҗан, ئەزەربەيجان, آذربائجان, Ai-déc-bai-gian (Azerbaijan), Aserbaiyan, אזערביידזשאן, Orílẹ́ède Asẹ́bájánì, 阿塞拜疆, i-Azerbaijan

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