Written by HobWahid on 11 Nov, 2005
I rolled into the Baku train station early in the morning after 14 hours on a rickety Soviet-era train from Tbilisi in neighboring Georgia. I had barely slept, was groggy, and still nervous after my run-in with the Azeri border guards earlier that night. All…Read More
I rolled into the Baku train station early in the morning after 14 hours on a rickety Soviet-era train from Tbilisi in neighboring Georgia. I had barely slept, was groggy, and still nervous after my run-in with the Azeri border guards earlier that night. All I had was the name of a hotel and a whole wad of Georgian Lari in my hand. The Lonely Planet, a worthless piece of junk, provided me with little information on how to get to my hotel and said that I could anticipate the crowd of touts, money changers, and taxi drivers that awaited me as soon as I stepped off the train. Still, though, I was excited. I had always wanted to get to Azerbaijan. After a long time in Turkey, I was anxious to see just what their Turkic brothers were like, and I had longed to see the Caspian Sea. So, after gathering my bags, I hopped off the train.Years living in the Middle East had prepared me for these sort of “shock” welcomes, the ones where the taxi drivers (both legal and illegal) pounce on the foreigner as soon as he appears, attempting to extract as much money as possible, but it doesn’t make it any easier. A friend of mine who had previously been to Baku warned me to be weary of the police who like to grab foreigners and drag them off for “bag searches” that invariably leave the traveler $10 short. In preparation, I put on my sternest face, looked straight ahead, and did my best to look like I knew where I was going. It didn’t help. The money changers flocked, as did the taxi drivers. I tried my best to shoo them away using my Turkish, but more and more came. Finally, I decided to stop. They only way I’d be left alone was if I chose one of them. I stopped and was immediately surrounded by money changers. I asked the rate for Georgian Lari, and they immediately decided to squabble. It became a veritable auction for my patronage. Finally, one guy won out. I gave him my remaining Lari and he changed them. He then asked in Azeri, “Don’t you have any dollars? I want dollars.” I told him that I didn’t have dollars. I told him I was Turkish and therefore didn’t carry dollars. A policeman started to walk over noticing the hubbub, but as soon as he got a few feet away and heard us arguing in Turkish, he backed off. I grabbed and taxi driver and walked away. It seems I had escaped.The taxi driver led me to his car, brushing off any discussion of price, but I insisted that I wouldn’t get in unless he told me a price. The surrounding cabbies leaned in, intent on listening. “Ok, Ok,” he said, “$20.” I laughed and told him that was ridiculous. I offered him $5. He said $10. I repeated $5. “I will only give you five if you give it to me in dollars,” he said. I agreed and we were off. I later learned that the appropriate price was $2.The taxi driver immediately entered into a conversation. “You speak English, yes?” He asked in English. I played dumb. One, I didn’t feel like being a foreigner today, and two, I wanted to try and pick up as much Azeri as possible. The language fascinated me. “No,” I don’t speak English, “I’m Syrian.” I returned to my default ethnicity when abroad. It always works, since Syrians can look like anything. “Oh, Syrian,” he responded, “so you are Muslim! Great! We are brothers then. Anything you want, just ask.”I appreciated his newfound hospitality but decided to give him a cultural lesson instead. “I’m Christian,” I responded. A sense of confusion came over his face, “But, you’re Arab, how can you be Christian!” At that point I gave him a lecture on Christians in the Arab world. “No matter, “ he said, “you’re Eastern, like us, and you are my guest.” His Turkic hospitality began to shine, but then it took a turn for the worse.”Are you from Aleppo?” He asked, and immediately I realized where he was going with this. I told him I was from Damascus. He nodded and then sat quietly, like he had a question he wanted to ask but didn’t know how. Finally it came, “There are a lot of Armenians."Close
For whatever reason, the Caspian Sea always conjured up images of a dark, cold, unforgiving sea full of rusty oil tankers and biting winds. Perhaps it was the product of a Cold War-era primary education, but I had always imaged the Caspian and its surrounding…Read More
For whatever reason, the Caspian Sea always conjured up images of a dark, cold, unforgiving sea full of rusty oil tankers and biting winds. Perhaps it was the product of a Cold War-era primary education, but I had always imaged the Caspian and its surrounding cities to be dark industrial wastelands covered by oil refineries and ripe with the dank smell of rotting fish. Baku, I was happy to discover, is anything but, especially on a sunny March day.One part of my preconception did hold true, and that would be the winds. Baku, it turns out, is famous for its howling winds that come rolling off the Caspian and sweeping through the streets of the city. All the residents talk about it with a sense of odd pride, but the winds are the only thing that seem to ruin the otherwise warm atmosphere of the city. The area around Baku has been inhabited for millennia, and evidence of its ancient history (like the nearby petroglyphs) is all around, but within the city itself, it is the towering walls of Medieval Baku that constitute the city’s best attraction.In recent years, with wealth generated from Azerbaijan’s oil boom, the city has invested a lot of money in refurbishing the old city. They have repaired the walls and houses and installed electricity, water, and all the modern conveniences. All of this has created a sort of sterile museum-like atmosphere that makes the old city of Baku not nearly as culturally interesting as the ones you will find in the Middle East, but its sandstone walls and cobbled streets that slope towards the Caspian still give it a quaint feel and act as a shelter from the oil boom towers of the modern city.Like all good old cities, the best way to approach old Baku is to just walk. There is a metro stop just outside the walls, and a large gate will take you into the northern part of the old city. From here you can just walk and enjoy the lovely streets and occasional views of the blue-green Caspian.In terms of sights, the old city has a few major ones. The first and foremost is the Kiz Külesi, or Maiden’s Tower, a Medieval tower with a strange “ying” shape. A set of stairs will take you to the top, where you will find the best views of Baku and the Caspian. Beware of the wind.Next to the tower there are the remains of an old bathhouse that now contains a number of souvenir stands mainly specializing in carpets.Farther back into the city you will find an old Persian Palace dating to around the 17th century. A lot of restoration has gone into the palace, and some of it is still continuing, but the amazing stonework on the doorways and the great views of the Caspian make the palace well worth a visit. Guides are available in English, but many rooms are labeled, so you won’t really need them.That about does it for historical sights in the Old City, but that is not all it has to offer. The Old City is still the hub of Baku nightlife, and you will find most of it found around Fountains Square, a landmark you should learn quickly ,as almost anytime you meet someone in Baku, they will say, “Meet me at Fountains Square.” Thanks to Soviet ideas of modernization: much of the old city was forcibly modernized during the Soviet era, and Fountains Square is the best example. A large park and fountain complex, Fountains Square is the real heart of Baku. Here you will find the best shopping in the city, as well as some of the best restaurants, although the first thing you will notice is the large McDonald’s in the center. It is home to a wonderful Indian restaurant, Maharajah, as well as some jazz and dance clubs and the inevitable expat pub. All around the square you will find shops selling illegal DVDs and CDs as well as numerous street vendors selling trinkets for tourists. Another thing you will surely notice, especially on a warm Sunday afternoon, is the parade of chic young Azeri girls strutting by in their short skirts, heels, and tank tops.Close
The landscape of the Absheron Peninsula, surrounding Baku, is enough to make even George Bush think twice about the environmental disaster that drilling for oil can be. The peninsula is an almost completely barren stretch of small hills covered in mud and dirt. Small towns…Read More
The landscape of the Absheron Peninsula, surrounding Baku, is enough to make even George Bush think twice about the environmental disaster that drilling for oil can be. The peninsula is an almost completely barren stretch of small hills covered in mud and dirt. Small towns of brick houses compete for space with the perpetually turning oil wells. The oil wells have seemingly been placed indiscriminately around the peninsula. You find them everywhere, even in people’s backyards. Undoubtedly countless people have been uprooted from their homes in the name of drilling. Oil spills out from the pumps, covering the ground in a thick black film. “Now this,” I thought to myself while driving around the peninsula in my hired taxi, “is what I thought the Caspian would look like.” When I brought it up with the cabbie, he gave me a frank response, “If you think this is bad,” he said, “you should have seen it under the Soviets.” When I pressed him about it more, he hinted that nobody in Azerbaijan seems to mind, simply because oil and gas have been the economic savior of a country struggling to repair itself after war and Soviet rule.Oddly enough, this peninsula that now looks so repugnant and undesirable has mystified travelers for years and has been the object of veneration by locals and even traders from India. Long ago, the Zoroastrians, whose religion dominated the area before the arrival of Islam, worshipped fire as a metaphor for God, and in the Absheron peninsula they found something that could only have a divine explanation--flames shooting out of the earth. Zoroastrian worshippers soon decided to build temples over these gas jets, creating a monument that contained within it an “eternal flame” long before JFK ever died. One of these still remains today in the outskirts of Baku, the Ateshgah temple.The date of construction is unsure, but most put it in the 6th century AD, although the structure you see today was likely rebuilt by Indian traders in the 14th century, as is evidenced by the Gurumukhi and Sanskrit inscriptions still found on the doorways. The temple consists of a large courtyard with a small structure in the middle. This structure surrounds the source of the gas leak and channels the gas not only into the center of the temple but up the sides of the wall as well so that flames shoot out of the four corners at the top. Sadly, gas died out in the 1800s and the Indian pilgrims have stopped coming. Today, though, you can still wander the grounds and see the interesting museum that shows some of the rituals Zoroastrian pilgrims would go through. However, if you are having trouble imagining just what flames shooting out of the ground would look like, you can just hop a taxi over to Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain). Don’t be fooled; it’s not a mountain, but rather a small hill, at the base of which natural gas leaks out of the earth, catching on fire when it hits the air. A large stream of fire flows around the base of the mountain, charring the ground around it. Next to the fire there is a small tea house where you can get some tea, grab a chair, and warm yourself next to the flames. The whole thing is admittedly a bit underwhelming. When I first heard about Yanar Dag, I imagined huge towers of flames shooting out of the ground. These measure only a few feet but are still an interesting sight, if only for a few minutes, and it is easy to see why the Zoroastrians would have been so mystified by the mysterious towers of flame shooting out of the ground, especially when you think that there were probably more of them back then, since the gas wasn’t being pumped. Today, however, almost all of them are gone ,and that gas is now heating your home, and who knows; within a few years Yanar Dag itself may disappear as well.Close
Written by BlindGuardian on 13 Mar, 2005
I visited Nagorno Karabagh during my nine-week alone trip around Armenia, Karabagh, Iran, and Turkey. Nagorno Karabagh was little crazy ...
My plane from Moscow landed in Yerevan, Armenia, at about 4am. Three hours later, I was driving in a car with three Armenian guys I…Read More
I visited Nagorno Karabagh during my nine-week alone trip around Armenia, Karabagh, Iran, and Turkey. Nagorno Karabagh was little crazy ...
My plane from Moscow landed in Yerevan, Armenia, at about 4am. Three hours later, I was driving in a car with three Armenian guys I had only just met on the way to Nagorno-Karabagh, placed between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Entering the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh is not considered to be wise for my nationality, Polish, or indeed for any other citizens. Even OSCE officials are not actually allowed to enter. To enter this Karabagh "state", you need a visa. However, I had not had enough time to apply for it, and I decided that the payment of $25 was too much for me. Moreover, my new Armenian friends argued that even if Karabaghi army or police asked to see my visa, I could pay them a few Drams and continue my trip.
After that, we decided to leave the capital of Stepanakert and head "into the country". The first army officer that asked me about my visa received a reply that every office in Stepanakert was closed. Another one asked if everyone in our car was Armenian. Mihran, my Armenian friend, answered, "Of course!" and we were allowed to continue our travel.
Using this explanation, we traveled by the region, which according to the legal situation, is still a war zone (there was no peace treaty after the Armenian-Azeri war, and there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries). Sometimes soldiers and policemen even helped us (like changing our car wheel); I think I was the first tourist in some parts of Karabagh for many, many years.
We traveled through this poor place, forgotten even by God. The country is ruined, even though the war ended 10 years ago. Everywhere are signs of military operations - destroyed military equipment, abandoned homes, and whole villages (mainly Azeri) with mines on both sides of many roads. The level of poverty is hard to describe.
One of my strongest memories was visiting Shushi. This huge, old town is situated on top of a mountain, with views across the valley to Stepanakert. There are remains of medieval city walls and a citadel where you can imagine the greatness of this city in past times. On the other hand, you can see the modern infrastructure of the city, which was completely devastated by the last war (Shushi is located on a strategic peak and suffered from heavy bombardment by both sides). The only thing that survived war is the 19th-century cathedral.
Even in such a conditions, everywhere you can experience Armenian hospitality and a friendly attitude to foreigners. Even within such extreme poverty (I visited houses without any beds), every family will invite you to their home, offer a sleeping place, dinner, and vodka.
Tradition plays a very important role in the lives of Armenians. Traditional dance and song are very popular (mainly outside Yerevan, which is becoming a European city). I think Armenians were born to dance - they are great dancers and do it at any opportunity. Other traditional rules are respect for old people and women (the rules of picking up girls are not as rude and direct as in Europe). Most girls in Armenia are virgins until they marry.
After several days of my illegal presence in this Republic, it was time to leave. We decided to exit via the north, which according to the official data was closed because of the danger of occasional sniper activity. To make this last part of our trip even crazier, we decided to visit Taq Jur, a place with a geyser of warm water. It was quite easy with my friends, who were, like all Armenians, very spontaneous and unconcerned.
There we were, in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night in a war zone: four guys taking a bath in a warm geyser and drinking wine...
Finally, we left Karabagh. During this last phase of trip, I decided not to provoke fate on these problematic territories guarded with many soldiers and various paramilitary groups. I just wore a big hat on my blond hair and prentended to be asleep.
For more details, see my site about this trip:
As I found out, winter is not prime tourist season for Azerbaijan. While Baku maintains a relative warmth, the rest of the country, especially as you head north towards the Caucusus, retains a bitter cold, and many of the attractions I wanted to see were…Read More
As I found out, winter is not prime tourist season for Azerbaijan. While Baku maintains a relative warmth, the rest of the country, especially as you head north towards the Caucusus, retains a bitter cold, and many of the attractions I wanted to see were unavailable to me due to impassible roads. One attraction that I did manage to get to, however, was the town of Sheki in the fertile valleys of Azerbaijan’s north, near the Georgian border. The 7-hour bus ride was long and cold, not to mention lonely. It seems that the huge numbers of Azeri tourists who flee the oppressive heat of Baku in the summer flock to Sheki for its cooler climes, but I was one of the few crazy tourists who decided was heading up there now and the Azeris let me know it. “Why are you coming to Sheki?” One of the few bus patrons asked me, “I live here so I have to come, but you… ?” I told him I was a tourist and only had 2 weeks in Azerbaijan, so I wanted to see it. He shook his head, “But summer is so much better…” I am sure it is.I rolled into the city just before dusk, which was a veritable ghost town, but a lovely one at that. The city is located in a small valley on the banks of two rivers, Gurnjanachai and the Kish. The surrounding mountains were lush, even in this cold, and the city, a small little maze of cobblestone streets and crumbling old shops, was enveloped in a thick mist that I was told lingers throughout most of the winter, when rain is the norm. Combined with the nearly empty streets, the mist gave the city an eerie beauty.I had read about the various accommodations available in Sheki, and everyone seemed to indicate that the Caravansaray Hotel was the best bet. It was a hotel set in a converted caravansaray from the 18th century. According to the guidebook, the hotel was in the $50 range and reservations were almost always necessary. Walking through the desolate streets, though, I had the feeling that the hotel wasn’t going to be full and that I could probably get a discount. When I arrived at the hotel, I pushed my way through the large wooden doors of the entrance and found myself in a cavernous reception area. Inside was no warmer than out, and the place seemed dead. Eventually the receptionist appeared, and I asked him about a room. He thought for a bit and then told me $40. I gave him a look like it was a little expensive. He said he could do $30. I told him $20; we agreed on $25. It turned out to be a steal.The hotel is a fantastic old caravansaray with a large courtyard and rooms on two tiers surrounding the courtyard. My room was a beautiful stone room with a large living room covered in carpets and with a wood stove. Attached to the living room was a bedroom and a bath with hot water. The room had no heat, and the receptionist directed me to a pile of wood on the floor. It was fantastic. The quiet, the stove, the carpets... all of it gave me the wonderful feeling of being in a weary medieval traveler at an actual caravansaray.As for sights in Sheki, the major one is the Khan’s Palace, a lovely 18th-century palace with a striking stained-glass facade. Guided tours of the palace are mandatory, as is putting little booties over your shoes. When I was there, none of the guide spoke English and thus conducted the tour in Azeri. She explained the rooms, most of which were elaborately decorated, and then, when it was finished, directed me to their gift shop full of local crafts. I didn’t buy anything, but there was plenty worth a purchase. Sheki has been known for centuries for its fabulous silk, and there are many local shops on the road near the Caravansaray, where artisans still handmake silk, most of which is exquisite. The other famous local product is their helva, a confection sold all over the Middle East and Caucusus, but Sheki has some of the best. It’s not too sweet, a major problem with most helva, and comes in various flavors.Close
“Did you ever see that James Bond movie with Baku in it?” My new Azeri friend asked, referring to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, which was filmed in Baku. “Well, in the end they blow up a large oil rig,” he was preparing himself…Read More
“Did you ever see that James Bond movie with Baku in it?” My new Azeri friend asked, referring to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, which was filmed in Baku. “Well, in the end they blow up a large oil rig,” he was preparing himself for the punchline, “It is said that when one of the ministers found out how much the film crew paid to build a fake oil rig and blow it up, he told them, 'You should have just given me the money and I would have let you blow up a real one!'”His friends erupted in laughter. They’d heard the joke before, and it is symbolic of the Azeri attitude towards the rampant corruption in their country. There isn’t anything their ministers won’t do for money.I got a slightly more frustrated take on it from an development worker friend of mine. He gave me tales of police stopping aid workers in their cars and extorting all sorts of fines for them. “Every time I leave the city in my car, I can count on getting pulled over and paying $50 to a cop,” he said dejectedly, and the other aid workers shared his thoughts. The corruption in Azerbaijan was strangling their ability to get any real work done. Corruption is a fact of life in Azerbaijan, and it specifically targets foreigners, so you need to be prepared. It’s frustrating. It’s inconvenient, but you can’t let it ruin your trip.On my first day in Baku I entered the subway. It was my first time on the subway, so I certainly had that “I’m not quite sure where I’m going” look on my face, and a policeman tried to take advantage. I was walking up to the turnstile and had put my token in when a gruff-looking man in a suit put his hand across my chest to stop me from entering. He flashed his wallet in that FBI fashion, revealing some sort of badge. “Let me see your Identity Card,” he said in Azeri. I still hadn’t mastered the quirks of Azeri yet and thus responded in Turkish, “They are at my hotel.” The policeman was a bit taken aback by my Turkish. He knew I wasn’t Azeri, which is why he was picking on me, but he wasn’t expecting a Turk. “So you’re Turkish…” he said, giving me a cold stare. I told him I was. The officer asked me for my passport. I told him it was at the hotel. He asked which hotel. It went on like that for a few minutes. Other Azeris passed by, giving me a sad look like they knew just what was going on but couldn’t help. He started telling me that he might have to take me in for some questions since I didn’t have identity on me. “But I have to get on the subway; I’m meeting friends and I’m late,” I pleaded. He didn’t seem concerned. He asked me if I was carrying foreign currency. I told him that I was Turkish and had only a few Lira and some Azeri Manat. He looked me up and down, thought to himself, and then decided to let me go. I guess he decided I wasn’t worth it.The same thing happened a couple of days later, and I got off again. Talking to some expats, I discovered that this is a common thing. “You’re lucky that you aren’t blond or blue-eyed,” they told me, “You can pass for Azeri.” Many of my expat friends weren’t so lucky and didn’t have the advantage of speaking Turkish. Random police stops were regular business for them. Sometimes they would have to cough up money for a “fine,” sometimes not. Mostly, they said, it was just the police’s way of trying to keep foreign aid workers in check. Corruption is a fact of life in Azerbaijan, where, despite huge reserves of oil and gas, many people still live in poverty while their ministers enjoy penthouses in high-rise apartments. The sad part is that this high-level corruption trickles down to the lower levels of society as well.At a Chinese restaurant in Baku some friends of mine and I checked our coats. We sat down and ate a nice dinner. When it came time to pay, I realized that I had left my cash in my jacket. I went into the coat room to find my cash and discovered that it wasn’t there. I launched into an argument with the owner, who insisted that nobody on his staff would ever steal like that. He was lying through his teeth, as it was obvious and I was out a good $30 in Azeri Manat.At a street vendor’s near Fountains Square I was buying a key chain. It was my first day in Baku, and I hadn’t got used to the money yet. Azeri Manat have a lot of zeros, and the 1,000 and 50,000 bills look almost the same. The key chain cost 3,000. I gave the vendor 150,000. When I saw him look at the money and quickly stuff it into his pocket, I knew what happened. I asked him, in Turkish, how much I gave him, “Three thousand,” he said. I told him to take the money out of his pocket. He did and I found three 50,000 Manat bills. I scolded him and took my money back. A neighboring vendor laughed, and the shopkeeper, a boy no more than 20, just shrugged and gave me a look that said, “It was worth a try!”Scams like that are going to be the most troubling part of Azerbaijan. The Azeris aren’t used to tourism yet, and their ideas of foreigners are wealthy oil workers who probably don’t care about dropping $20 for a cab ride, so likely your cabbie will assume that as well. Don’t let this ruin your image of Azeris. They may be slightly xenophobic, perhaps a result of Soviet rule, but they can be just as welcoming and hospitable as anybody once they warm up to you. It is frustrating, though, and if you are in Azerbaijan, you are inevitably going to be stopped by a policeman hoping for a shakedown. All you have to do is remember a few things.1) Never hand over your documents. Once you do this, they can ask for as much money as they want. Passport copies work well for avoiding this, but the best is to just play the “It’s at the hotel” excuse.2) If you don’t speak Azeri or Turkish, just act as dumb as possible. Pretending not to speak English as well may help.3) Firmly stand your ground. Never follow them anywhere. If they want to search your bag, tell them to do it there. As soon as you move you’ll be done. Likely the more stubborn you are in this, the more they will see that you aren’t worth it and let you go.4) Smile and remember that it’s just a fact of post-Soviet fallout. Don’t let it ruin your trip.Close
It was a Friday, and I was standing outside the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tbilisi. I wanted to get into Azerbaijan as soon as possible, but the guard on the outside insisted that the consular section was closed. He was Georgian and spoke broken English. Eventually…Read More
It was a Friday, and I was standing outside the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tbilisi. I wanted to get into Azerbaijan as soon as possible, but the guard on the outside insisted that the consular section was closed. He was Georgian and spoke broken English. Eventually two guys rolled up speaking Turkish. The guard smiled at them and opened the gate. Before they disappeared into the embassy, I shouted at them in Turkish, “He told me the embassy isn’t open!” The Turks turned around and said that it was and that they were picking up their visas. The guard came over, pointed at me, and said, “You Turkish?” I smiled. “One moment,” he said and grabbed the phone. Soon I, and my American friend, were buzzed in.
Inside I met the consul and asked him about visas. He gave me the forms. I filled them out and handed them back with my passport. He looked oddly at my blue US passport and then asked, in Turkish, “Where’s your Turkish passport?” I told him I don’t have one. He asked why I spoke Turkish, and I told him that I lived in Turkey. He nodded and accepted my forms. “When will it be ready?” I asked. He thought to himself and then responded, “Normally it takes 4 days, but since you live in Turkey, I can do it tomorrow,” a sign of the close ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Before I left, he started looking at my passport and then stopped at the page containing my Armenian visa. “You’ve been to Armenia?” he asked. I told him I had to visit a friend. A concerned look came over his face, “You didn’t visit Karabakh, did you?” he said, referring to the currently Armenian-occupied land that they fought Azerbaijan for. I told him I didn’t. “Because, “ he said gruffly, “if you visited Karabakh, you can’t enter Azerbaijan.”My Armenian visa was soon to be the source of even more trouble. Azerbaijan and Armenia fought a bitter war over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Azeris are still licking the wounds of an embarrassing defeat. They don’t take kindly to people who have visited Karabakh.I had assumed that getting the visa would be the hardest part and that would be the end of my troubles, but I was wrong. Somewhere along the 14-hour train journey from Tbilisi to Baku, I was aroused from my sleep by an Azeri border guard demanding to look at my passport. I handed it over and immediately started feeling a sick sense of worry. Watching the Azeri soldier leaf through my passport on the train, all I could do was wait for that moment when he would stumble upon the Armenian visa. I knew what would happen then, what sort of questions would be asked, and I had my answers prepared. He found the visa:"So you visited Armenia?" he said in Azeri. And completely forgetting that I had been warned multiple times never to talk to Azeris police in Russian or Azeri, I replied in my best Azeri-fied Turkish. "Yes, I did."He gave me an inquisitive look and asked why I speak Turkish. I told him that I studied in Istanbul. I figured that that had to get me some brownie points. I was wrong. The soldier told me that he would be right back and left with my passport.He soon returned with an older soldier who told me to come with him. As they walked away from the compartment, I immediately took all the US currency out of my wallet and hid it under the mattress of my sleeper bed. The number of stories I had heard of Azeri officials shaking foreigners down for US dollars were enough that I wasn't taking any chances.After hiding the money, I followed the soldiers into an empty compartment, where they sat me down. Surprisingly, the most obvious question, "Have you visited Karabakh?" didn't come right away, and instead they badgered me with a series of questions about my background."Why did you visit Armenia?" The younger one asked."I was visiting a friend who works there." I replied."What is your friend's nationality?" the older one asked."American. He is teaching at a university in Yerevan." I replied again.
Written by Andrewv41 on 28 Aug, 2006
The city of Shushi, found high in the mountains of Kharabakh, is a beautiful city with a rich history and many sites to visit. Although the streets are unpaved, for the most part, and you see a lot of rubble, you feel the souls of…Read More
The city of Shushi, found high in the mountains of Kharabakh, is a beautiful city with a rich history and many sites to visit. Although the streets are unpaved, for the most part, and you see a lot of rubble, you feel the souls of those who passed away tragically during a war. You also feel the warmth of people and how much they care for life. If you are an avid hiker, locals there can take you on some beautiful, challenging hiking trips next to rivers, or you can walk around the streets of the cities talking to locals. Another great destination is the Church of Amenaprkich Ghuzanchetsots, built close to a 100 years ago.Close
Written by mehmet7215 on 07 Aug, 2009
If you visit Baku City,spare some time for beatiful Parks. The most exciting thing about those parks is that they are full of people chatting,resting,reading and playing nearly around the clockOne night we,three engineers dropped in the Park-Sahil Bagi at 23.00 hrs and could not…Read More
If you visit Baku City,spare some time for beatiful Parks. The most exciting thing about those parks is that they are full of people chatting,resting,reading and playing nearly around the clockOne night we,three engineers dropped in the Park-Sahil Bagi at 23.00 hrs and could not find a single place to sit. There were at least 5oo people enjoying the beatiful BAKU night...My friend told me that:Look at those young people!They are so dynamic and wise.Whatever the newspapers and books write about the future ,I bet that future of this country will be better than ever....Go out of your 5 star hotel in Baku ,drop in the firstPark you see.Sit near an azeri friend.Within five minutes ices will be broken and find yourself chatting to him/herClose