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Azerbaijan

2019-03-16 - 2019-04-01
Total distance: 660 km
Cumulative distance: 6743 km

In Azerbaijan, we followed the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountains all the way to the capital, Baku. On the way, we passed by Sheki, where we celebrated Novruz, the traditional New Year celebrating the coming of spring. From Baku, we continued down the coast of the Caspian Sea to Iran, passing by the rock carvings and mud volcanoes of Gobustan along the way.


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2019-04-04

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Photos

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Cycling along the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountains Every town we passed had a massive Azerbaijani flag (or two) - this one is outside the town of Qax Cycling along the foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountains Yuxarı (Upper) Karvansarai in Sheki, one of the two caravanserais built by the Sheki Khans to house caravans as they passed through on the Silk Road. Today, it still serves as a place for travellers to stay and eat, with a hotel and restaurant inside. Yuxarı (Upper) Karvansarai in Sheki, one of the two caravanserais built by the Sheki Khans to house caravans as they passed through on the Silk Road. Today, it still serves as a place for travellers to stay and eat, with a hotel and restaurant inside. Sheki is known for its beautiful and intricate "shebeke" art, multicoloured stained-glass mosaics held together in wooden lattices without any glue or nails Sheki is known for its beautiful and intricate "shebeke" art, multicoloured stained-glass mosaics held together in wooden lattices without any glue or nails The Sheki Khan Palace, buit in 1797 as a summer residence of the Sheki Khanate, has one of the most beautiful examples of "shebeke" stained-glass mosaic windows. We went in and were awed by the intricate paintings (covering every inch of wall) and windows, though unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside. Eating "piti", a soup made with mutton and chickpeas and cooked for 8-9 hours in a ceramic pot. It is eaten in two steps: First, bread is crumpled in the additional plate and sprinkled with a purple mix of spices. Then, the broth is poured over it and the resulting mixture is consumed as a hearty soup. Second, more crumpled bread is added to the same plate and the remainder of the "piti" (the lump of mutton fat, the meat and the vegetables) is poured over, sprinkled with the same spices, mixed together so as to break down the fat and then eaten. With Kanji, a Japanese bicycle tourist we met at the Iranian embassy in Tbilisi, who helped us pick up Heiko's jacket that we accidentally left behind in Tbilisi, and caught up with us in Sheki Bonfire on the eve of Novruz at our hostel in Sheki The owner of our hostel in Sheki jumping over the bonfire on the eve of Novruz. Jumping over fire three times is believed to burn away the hardships of the last year. Dinner on the eve of Novruz with our host, the housekeeper, and her daughter. We were the only guests in the hostel that night. We're eating "plov", a rice dish with egg and chicken. Dinner on the eve of Novruz with our host, the housekeeper, and her daughter. We were the only guests in the hostel that night. Here, our host is lighting the candles on the "khoncha", a festive tray filled with sweets, nuts, and colourful eggs. Trying "qutab", an Azerbaijani dish made from thinly rolled dough filled with vegetables and cooked briefly on a convex griddle known as a "saj" On our way to Ismayilli, we were stopped by a man outside his house who asked us to wait. He quickly ran inside, and came back out to give us these Novruz goodies and a bottle of peach compote. We were so surprised by the generosity! More fake castle walls in Ismayilli, here quite an extreme example, just surrounding a residential area. Also, the old Russian Lada cars like the two that can be seen in this photo are very very common here. Between Ismayilli and Shamakhi, we caught more glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the Greater Caucasus mountains. This is the valley leading to Lahij. Between Ismayilli and Shamakhi, we caught more glimpses of the snow-capped peaks of the Greater Caucasus mountains The toughest stretch between Ismayilli and Shamakhi: this road winds down to the valley below, where it crosses a river and then goes straight up the other side, on the steep road that is visible in the background. Also, there was more traffic than expected when we were on this road, probably because of the Novruz holiday weekend.

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