First imPressions of Azerbaijan
Greetings from charming Azerbaijan! We arrived in Shaki a bit tired and tumbled, after a long journey from Batumi. But it feels great to be here! It’s again a totally new country for us, but it actually feels quite homey already. All the locals we have met have been super-friendly, starting from the customs officers in the border, who welcomed us with smiles and hand-shakes. In general people seem to have very positive and open attitude towards visitors. When walking around, we are constantly greeted and offered help with finding our way. Same continues in local eateries and pubs, as well as in our hostel, that is the most hospitable ever (more about that in another post later).
Here are some other first impressions of (northern) Azerbaijan. It’s peaceful and sparsely populated, and very beautiful at this time of the year, when autumn colors decorate the mountain slopes. Huge pictures of former president and national hero Heydar Aliyev are a common sight on street sides, and there are huge amount of squares and public buildings named after him. Price-level is very affordable, and fuel is cheapest we have seen anywhere (diesel 0,30 €/l). Majority of the cars on the roads are Ladas; they are literally everywhere. Even most of taxi cars are old, run-down Ladas, which is somehow really cute. There are some other old Soviet cars as well, and also most of the trucks are gorgeous oldies. Life in countryside looks simple, with traditional methods still in use in farming.
Shaki (Sheki, Seki, Saki) is a small town on the southern part of Great Caucasus mountains, surrounded by forested mountains and snowy peaks. This is a nice base for exploring the more rural side of Azerbaijan. Quite many foreign travelers who come in Azerbaijan only visit the capital Baku, but also Shaki has started to see more visitors during the past years. One reason are the cultural monuments that can be found in the old part of the city. Shaki is also easy to reach, as it’s on one of the main routes between Tbilisi and Baku, near the famous Kakheti region of Georgia. For those planning a trip to Caucasus, check out a post about how to get from Batumi to Sheki via Tbilisi and Qax.
Have you been in Azerbaijan? Share your feelings and recommendations in the comments!