Nearly there!

Posted by on 27, Jun 2010 in 2010 - The Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Caucasus, Europe

Nearly there!

The Khan’s Palace at Säki was our first tourist site in Azerbaijan and it is certainly an impressive way to start. All that remains of the Palace is one small two storey building made out of wood and stone. No glue or nails were used in its construction and it took 2 years to build and 8 to decorate – and before you ask, no it was way before my sister in laws time! It is covered in highly detailed bright colourful paint work on all but the floor and originally this would have had a carpet that reflected the patterns on the ceiling. The painting is of flowers, animals and scenes from battles and hunting and is incredibly impressive. The windows are made of thousands of small wooden blocks with coloured glass in each block, they are then joined together to make an entire wall of colourful windows, all made without nails of glue!

Sadly all of the rest of the palace inside the castle walls vanished under communist rule and they nicked the only remaining carpet too which is now in St Petersburg. It is an amazing building and almost worth the trip just to see it alone.

We stick to the edge of the Caucuses as we headed onto Baku and the scenery is a merry-go-round of different landscapes. One minute you will be driving along a french country lane with large deciduous trees lining it, then you’ll be in the New forest driving through tunnels of trees and bushes with cows wandering the road. Turn the corner and you emerge into the open corn fields of Ukraine before finding yourself in a bleak Yorkshire moors landscape. All the while the towering mountains loom ominously off to our left, the clouds gently building for the evening storms. It is a fascinating drive. We spent the night at a cafe by the confluence of two of the numerous rivers that snake down the mountains on route to the Caspian. The rivers are no more than streams at the moment, a dark grey colour, but the river beds themselves and large banks sometimes are 100m across or more. When the snow melts these will be mighty rivers and after a torrential night of rain we see just how powerful when we drive through a village underwater from the overnight downpour. The diggers are clearing the river bed and the entire villages menfolk stand on the bridge watching them work. There’s not a woman in sight so they all either drowned or are clearing the mess up on their own whilst the 200 men supervise the two diggers! It was very sad to see how much damage can be done when the river was not in flood.

Our next overnight was also at a cafe and we did our usual of asking if we could stay overnight and then buying a drink in the cafe. We decided on the Azerbaijan wine which was ok and got talking -sign language and the odd word of Russian – with the manager and his brother the cook. There was also a lady washer up, two male table cleaners and an older guy whose role we never sussed. This outnumbered clients by 2 to 1 all evening! They were again lovely people. We ordered the wine and got to try a cassis vodka free, we ordered some nuts and diced apples too. We dolled out 2 of our England baseball caps and were rewarded with tea and honey cherries and the next morning a going away bottle of wine and brandy! It almost makes you not want to give them anything as they are so generous when they already have so much less than us.

We arrived in Baku before lunch and were confronted by the sight of thousands upon thousands of nodding donkey oil wells interspersed with pools of oil and a smell of hydrocarbons. The air is hazy and your throat gets a slight sore after awhile but you do get used to it. It was also the hottest day of the trip so what do we do? Head for the Atesgah Fire Temple where natural gas vents had had a temple constructed around it hundreds of years ago possibly more. Naturally all the staff wanted to come out and see Taffy and then they went to get their friends to bring back to have a look too. It was great fun as they giggled and laughed. Again, they were such nice people.

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