Around Azerbaijan

From Baku I headed north in Azerbaijan to Quba.

It was only about 2.5 hours but the landscape changed dramatically from desert to spring green, with mountains in the distance.

This area is famous for their apples, and there were fields of trees in blossom.

Quba itself seemed rather dull and dusty after the big city bling. But after a day of acclimating to the slower pace, it was very enjoyable.

Many tourists pass through here to the mountain villages, but in tour groups that don’t stay here.

Lots of Ladas!

Cüme Mosque

Nixami Park

Down the staircase to the Gudiyalchay river.

Over the Arched Bridge to Qırmızı Qəsəbə (Red Village).

Red Village is a Jewish village established in 1742, though there have been Mountain Jews in the area for thousands of years.

Six Dome Synagogue (1888) was the grandest of the three I saw.

Lots of elaborate buildings. Houses?

The rain gutters had interesting corner pieces.

Quba 1918 Genocide Memorial Complex (2013) had an excellent guide as well as explanations in English.

A mass grave was found at this site in 2007. There were 400 bodies of men, women and children that had been massacred in 1918 by Armenian armed forces along with the Russian Bolsheviks.

This was part of an ‘ethic cleansing’ to eliminate Muslims. 50,000 were killed across Azerbaijan in five months; about 25% of the population.

40 symbolic black memorials are in different heights to represent men, women and children along with apple trees of the region.

It is subterranean with the only natural light coming from above to illuminate the black memorial that is etched with faces and barbed wire.

I liked the headstones in the cemetery.

One day I hired a driver with a 4-wheel drive to take me to Xınalıq (Khinalug) in the Caucasus Mountains.

The first part of the trip was through lovely shaded picnic and tea shops. It’s April so the leaves are just coming out.

Then the road became much narrower as it went through a canyon.

The switch backs and climbing began in earnest!

It’s still early spring so the grass on the slopes is just starting to green up.

Xınalıq (Khinalug) was chilly, spitting with rain, and deserted. I think I’m a little early in the season!

At 2335m, the altitude is less than the 3827m I experienced in South America this spring. But it is the highest elevation for a village in Europe. And I felt it!

20 km to the Russia border, as the bird flies.

The houses look like they are stacked on top of each other while clinging to the top of the hill.

The local museum.

Sheepskin robe.

Some type of agricultural tool for grain, as far as I could understand.

A very welcome cup of tea at my driver’s home.

My driver’s father and sons.

All the Azerbaijani people I’ve met have been very kind and helpful. In a smaller centre I am more of a novelty, especially at restaurants!

I had a few meals at a cafeteria where you could pick out prepared food. But I always had questions about what is was so I attracted a crowd!

Toyuğn Çiğirtması (chicken, onions, eggs) with Püre (mashed potatoes) and Ayran to drink (yogurt, water and salt)

Et Gulyac, a beef and vegetable stew that was very tasty. I do love dill! I’m sure you are supposed to eat it with rice, but I liked it more soupy with bread.

Dolma – meat-filled cabbage and vine leaf because I couldn’t decide! Served with yogurt.

Buglama – the most moist and tender lamb slow stewed in its own juice with onion (peppers, carrots and tomatoes optional)

Bükmə – Azerbaijani ‘pakhlava’ with a free sample! Not as sweet as I expected, which makes it very appealing!

Then a drive to Şamaxı (Shemakhi). I hired the same driver I had used to go from Baku to Quba. It saved hours of travel to end up 60 kilometres south of Quba!

By bus it would have been 2 hours from Quba back to Baku because there is no road south through the mountains. Then 4 hours from Baku to Ismayilli by the ‘scenic route’. Not counting time at the bus stations.

With Elshad it was 3.5 hours door to door. With a stop for a kebab he bought me at highway stop with at least a dozen kebab stands on each side of the highway.

I also got to stay in Şamaxı (Shemakhi) because I didn’t have to be close to the bus station, and picked a posh 5 star hotel in the country for a cheap rate.

It is a big wine region, with vineyards everywhere.

I didn’t have much time in Shemakhi but did go to the mosque. Unfortunately I was only allowed into the women’s prayer area.

It also put me on the path of my next house owner as he drove from Baku to visit his parents in Lahıc. He offered to pick me up on his way. So door to door to door service!

The last part of the road to Lahıc was spectacular. Huge cliff on one side, and a very deep gorge dropping off the other!

Lahıc is a lovely small and very old mountain village. The narrow streets are paved with river stones.

Sheepskin vests, hats and taxidermy everywhere. It was also a famous copper smithing town.

Dried herbs and flowers, honey, dehydrated fruit leathers and unidentified canned goods.

Museum in an old mosque.

The little house I rented.

The weather turned winterish (only up to 5 oC) so I ate my lunch inside a heated cabin.

Lentil soup

Lülə kebab with grilled eggplant tomato, pepper and potatoes.

Pomidor-Yumurta (tomatoes and eggs) was my favourite breakfast. Beaten eggs are poured into simmering stewed tomatoes and allowed to set before being stirred. It leaves pockets of egg.

I also had Labne and candied fruit.

Labne is drained Greek yogurt (so very high protein) that spreads like cream cheese. My new favourite food!

Then a bus ride to İsmayılkı to connect to Şəki (Sheki). See you there!

6 thoughts on “Around Azerbaijan

  1. Absolutely amazing Leslie again.
    Such interesting countries with a special history.
    I can only imagine the feeling when traveling there.
    Have a safe trip.

    Liked by 1 person

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