Travelling In Azerbaijan
A Country of Contrasts and extreme wealth
We landed in Heydar Aliyev International Airport Baku in the afternoon and our Airbnb host had arranged a car to collect us, which was a nice change from the usual public transport struggle.
Our apartment was right on the edge of the walled UNESCO listed Old City the historical centre on Baku. The age of the old city is a little hazy but researchers believe it dates back to the 7th century. It is very old, very beautiful and full of hawkers trying to sell you something which we dislike immensely. It is a little reminiscent of Istanbul
We did have a good look around the Old City which has great views across the Caspian Sea and we ate one overpriced meal there, but pretty much after that we avoided the Old City and plunged into the newer part of the city which has lovely sandstone Italianate buildings and lots of restaurants charging ‘normal’ prices
Azerbaijan and Baku has enormous oil and gas wealth which is evident in the new buildings gong up around the town which many compare to the buildings of Dubai.
By now it was very hot so we decided to catch a bus to Sheki a town at the base of the Caucasus Mountains hoping it would be a little cooler. Our friends decided they wanted to hire a car/driver and tour around Azerbaijan, we did not. We have an absolute aversion to tours, rushing from one town to the next seeing much but in actual fact seeing little is not how we like to travel. We prefer to find a nice town and stay a while, drink coffee in the local cafes, visiting the markets, talk to the locals, this for us is how to experience a country, not rushing around in a hot car being taken to places a tour guide thinks you should see.
So they went off on their tour and we caught a bus to Sheki.
The journey took most of the day and initially travelled along the coast of the Caspian Sea which is dotted with oil rigs we then went through many kilometres of dry flat sandy desert with hundreds of oil derricks pumping oil, in many cases this is causing environmental damage and in some areas catastrophic environmental damage. We then entered a high mountainous desert without a tree or blade of grass, just sand and rocks as far as the eye could see. Eventually we arrived in a green valley with trees and grass and rivers which was a relief as I was starting to worry we would end up in a dry dust bowl.
Our bus eventually pulled into the bus station and we ran the taxi driver gauntlet to hike off to our guest house in the boiling sun.
Our guest house was more like a home stay run by a delightful Nona who served cups and tea and cake all day and at every opportunity. The thing I love about Azerbijani houses is while the streets are hot and dusty once you walk through the gate set in high walls you are surrounded by lush gardens with fruit trees, flowers, herbs and vegetables and lots of running water. They are a little cool oasis in a hot climate.
Sheki is a nice town built back in the 1700’s by a rebel Khan who set up an independent state here and built a castle high on the hill which has great views over the city. Sheki was a centre for silk-weaving and an important stop on the silk route.
During our time in Sheki we would often get on a passing mini bus and see where it went. One day we ended up in a park where men gather to drink tea and play backgammon, another up at the castle and another at one of the Caravanserais that are in the area.
Everyday we ate tomatoes, cucumber, meat BBQ’d on a stick and cheese in every form you could possibly imagine.
We liked Sheki, there were very few tourists and the people were friendly and curious about us however after about 5 days there we decided it was getting too hot and that it was time to head to the mountains of Georgia.
For Information on Travelling In Azerbaijan Read Our Azerbaijan Travel Guide