Finding pleasure in Azerbaijan after 1 month

June 21, 2010 at 3:52 am 1 comment

So I’ve been too lazy to post updates about my life in Azerbaijan….but I’ll give it a try.

Last Friday evening we had a party in our flat.  It was a birthday party / going away party for two of my housemates and the invitees included the Azeri German-language students of one housemate and the foreigner friends of the others. Most of the Azeris came at 8 o’clock and left by midnight (when the last metro runs), while the foreigners came around 11pm and stayed until 2, when an angry neighbor threatened to call the police if we didn’t stop making noise. So after a brief clean-up we piled out of the house and into “Crossroads,” the pub/club two blocks away.  This club attracts a befitting mix of foreigners & Azeris; males & females (although males still dominate), and a few prostitutes.

On Saturday I went to Lənkəran, a city in southern Azerbaijan approx. 40 km away from Iran. I traveled with an EVS volunteer from Czech republic who’s spending the year in Tkibuli, Georgia. We met when she couchsurfed my place one night on her way to a youth conference in Oguz.

Lady of showing strength (the sword) and hospitality (the cup of tea in her right hand)

In Lənkəran we were hosted by Aaron, a peace corps volunteer whose blog I found by chance and wrote to asking if I could visit… The special thing about peace corps volunteers is that they speak Azeri and are relatively integrated into their communities. Due to their long term placements they are able to develop insights that tourists and short-term visitors like me rarely develop, and their American approach makes for an interesting perspective of local life and current events.

As Petra and I walked around Lənkəran on Sunday, underdressed in our shorts and tank tops, we met an Azeri man who invited us for tea, gave us a tour of a fortress, and fed us lunch. He spoke Russian well and told us interesting tadbits about Azeri life, such as the fees parents must pay for each delivery and his experiences working as a mechanic on an a government owned oil ridge in Baku once every other week.

Road through mountains, Lerik

On Monday, we traveled to Lerik, a town in the mountains about 60 km from Lənkəran. There were 6 of us: Petra and I, Aaron, and three other peace corps volunteers, two of whom lived in Lerik and knew the mountains and villages around. One of the volunteers is working on a homestay project, trying to help a few local families generate income by providing unique cultural homestay experiences for tourists. For 15 AZN a night, a tourist can make bread, milk cows, harvest fruits with a Talysh family, as well as sleep in their home, be fed, and go hiking nearby. The Talysh are a minority ethnic group who live in southern Azerbaijan and northern Iran, speak their own language (partially intelligible with Persian), and live by farming (most common) and skilled craftsmanship.

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Hiking in Lerik

Bread making...

I scored some fresh bread...

Taxi and mud volcanoes

On the way back from the south we stopped by Gubustan and visited the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs which were (surprisingly) were more interesting than I expected. According to this source: “Mud volcanoes are one of the visible signs of the presence of oil and gas reserves hidden deep beneath land and sea in the Caspian region. Gas seeps are a related phenomenon and occur when a pocket, filled largely methane gas under the ground, finds a passage to the surface.” There are over 400 mud volcanoes in Azerbaijan. The petroglyphs are over 30,000 years old and depict a variety of animal and human images drawn by the people who inhabited the area all those years ago.

30,000 year old art

Last Friday evening I went to the ballet at the state run opera-ballet theater. The performance “Don Qixote” was better than I expected and I look forward to going to the theater again. Unfortunately most of the performances run on Friday, Saturday and Sunday which are days that I’m less likely to be in Baku.

On Saturday I hosted 3 couchsurfers. A girl from Finland who creates comic books about her travels, a guy from New York (a Russian Jewish immigrant like me) who’s come to Azerbaijan to work for Euroasianet.org, and guy from Khazakstan who wanted to spend an extra day in Baku after his UN conference.

Several weeks earlier I had decided to organize a couchsurfing event since there were none in Baku and I wanted to meet more people. With some logistical help from Afitab, a girl at my work, I arranged a picnic at the botanical gardens. At noon, my small army of couchsurfers met outside the Elmlar Academiyasi metro station and proceeded to the gardens, where we ate, played mafia, and had an all-around very pleasant time.

Couchsurfers & friends

Boys play rough ;-)

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Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , , .

Update 3 Video update

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Genadi  |  June 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Thanks for very interesting tale and photos.

    Reply

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