A Travellerspoint blog

P.S Georgia

A entry 1,5month late

Ok, I realize I have been bad in updating this blog. Once I now opened the blog I found this unfinished draft from my first days in Georgia. Since then I have been to Egypt and back to Baku, so I believe its about time to start typing again... Here is the anyway

Beginning of August 2013....

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Exploring a new city is always an enjoyable experience and over the past few days.

Our hostel is quite unique and quirky; firstly its quite difficult to find as there are no other markings than the name spray-painted on the edge of the building (in no way explaining how to get in). The hostel is right above a community college with a dentist office, but the basement, and forth floor is abandoned leaving many interesting places to explore, as most of the building is not in use the facilities are "rustic". For example the elevator needs a kick (literally) to start and you have to press 5 to get to the 3rd floor where we live.

The city also has its unique spots to be discovered for example on one of the old bridges and the surrounding park there is a antique (and everything else) market, so if you are looking for an old USSR passport, family pictures of a Georgian family from 1905, a chandler, a DVD or a swiss knife, this is where you will find it. We spend a good hour walking around without buying anything but I will definitely go back to the market to get some unique souvenir. Nearby there is also a park with some artworks, varying quality of the paintings, but it has a really nice atmosphere.

I even found a Norwegian childrens' book "Karius og Baktus" translated to Georgian, I had a laugh and warm feelings when I could recognize the exact same drawings as back home. and I can almost understand what the pages said, memories from my childhood.

Other than that I have also explored the city surroundings, visiting the sights such as the park overlooking the city, seeing Mother Georgia (a gigantic statue overlooking Tbilisi), some churches. I also managed to get out of the city to Ananuri, a picturesque church by a lake. We managed to have a picnic at the beach before a massive thunder storm caught us and we spent one hour huddled under the umbrella of a nearby cafe.

Georgia is really different from Azerbaijan. It has a more "eastern European" feel to it than Baku. Fresh air, rain, more... rustic feel to the country, while in Baku they put facades on the old buildings, here they let abandoned or old buildings stand with their own unique quirks. Being in Georgia gave me some distance and chance to reflect on my journey so far, the cultural differences I have gotten used to in Azerbaijan became more apparent.

In total I spent over two weeks in Georgia, and exactly one month out of the country. After all this time away I'm happy to finally be back in my sunny Baku with my team, members and friends.

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Posted by CamillaS 03:40 Comments (0)

Welcome to საქართველო

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Can anyone guess from the title where I am at the moment? საქართველო, Sakartvelo, more specifically located in Tbilisi... I suppose for many people this is still not bringing too many associations, so let me introduce my temporary home; Georgia.

To keep a long story short I'm in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia for a few weeks ahead while I await my new visa, I had actually planned a trip here next week, but it was pushed forward thanks so some unforeseen circumstances. Despite missing Baku I'm enjoying the change of scenery and chance to get to know a new city.

If you are not a geography wiz and/or haven't bothered opening a map yet, let me tell you Georgia lies northwest of Azerbaijan. I didn't know what to expect from Georgia, as I didn't know much about the country, but some first impressions its quite different from what I've gotten used to in Baku.

Tbilisi lies long-stretched along the banks of the river Kura with hills and mountains surrounding the city, because of the topography the city center is close-knit and has a nice small-town atmosphere where it is easy to navigate. The city has a rustic feel with many old and abandoned buildings in styles from Soviet, classical and a few odd modern structures combined. In addition we have the orthodox churches marring the city-picture.

Despite being easy to navigate, one thing makes it more foreign than Baku; the language! The Georgian language has its own unique script and alphabet, which I admittedly only saw for the first time a few weeks ago. Russian is also widespread (a heritage from USSR), but its declining its use. But lets go back to Georgian, it deserves a chapter on its own. The pretty rounded characters of the phonetic alphabet are quite beautiful and interesting, it reminds me of some "secret code language" exercises we had as kids. Also the sound is different, and its has very few vowels making it consonant heavy. Its nothing like Azeri (not in the same language family).

I will stay in Georgia for the next 1,5 weeks, so I have a lot more to see and learn

♡From
ქამილლა
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Posted by CamillaS 06:19 Archived in Georgia Tagged georgia tbilisi Comments (1)

Qabala

What to do a free weekend in Azerbaijan? When I had that opportunity last week I decided to go to the buss hall to find the first and best ride out of the city. With a bag of toiletries, fruit and overnight clothes we boarded a minibus headed for Qəbələ, a small city north-west in Azerbaijan. I'm getting used to these long-distance trips in crowded non-airconditioned busses, so the 4-hour trip didn't feel too bad, though it always feels good to stretch after sitting cramped in a small seat for those times.

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As we were late out that morning we arrived around 15:45 in Gabala (or Qabala), without a place to stay or much knowledge of the city. After a delicious kebab (think BBQ grill-spear, not shish-kebab) lunch in a garden restaurant we headed to find a place to stay for the night. We were lucky to get in touch with a cheap hotel, but when we arrived they told us to find another place, as we didn't have a marriage license (required to get a hotel room in some places). So we ended up in a more expensive room in a international hotel.

After settling in we went for a walk in the city. Qabala is a small town, but because of its historical significant and nature its a popular tourist destination, for international as well as Azerbaijani tourists. The city is trying to become a bigger tourist destination and has some nice parks in the center where we were walking around. And the surroundings adds to the relaxing environment; The city is surrounded by green forest clad rolling mountains, the cleaner and not moister-heavy air was a refreshing break from the humid & hot Baku.

Outside the city there lies the famous waterfall "Seven Beauties" at the foot of the mountain. I should have learned by now that the time assessment is not so accurate, so when we were told that the spot was about an hours walk away, we should have guessed it would be longer. We ended up walking in the rural countryside terrain for about 4 hours to get to the village where the waterfall lay.

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Along with hundreds of other tourist we bathed our feet in the cold water, refreshed ourselves on spring water and ate lunch in the valley. After reaching our destination we started walking down toward the main road where we hoped to catch a bus to Baku, luckily we met a nice guy that gave us a ride to the road and actually chased the bus down the road and stopped it for us so we could get on! I truly do appreciate these wonderful acts of kindness from friendly Azerbaijani. Again we were on a 4hour bus ride to Baku and before long the 30-something hour adventure was coming to an end.

5th city I'm visiting in Azerbaijan,
Can't wait for the next one♡

Camilla

Posted by CamillaS 11:32 Archived in Azerbaijan Comments (0)

Forty-Nine Days

Today is my 49th "Anniversary" since I first stepped of the plane in Baku. Time appears differently when you are first moving to a new place, and when I think back it feels like just yesterday and like I've lived here a lifetime.

Yesterday I had a short Skype chat with some other "international" MCPs (Presidents of AIESEC), meaning someone who are MCP in a country that is not their own, and we were discussing the challenges and wonders of being in this unique position. One of the questions that came up was

"Do you already feel like a local?"

One girls answer made me reflect on my own experience in Azerbaijan. She said she still feels like an international, its impossible to not notice how in small and big you are not natively belonging to the culture. But on the other hand feeling at home and comfortable in the city, knowing how to move around and get to where you want to go. And that is how I'm feeling in Baku as well. I'm obviously a foreigner to the culture and society, but I have somehow found my place, there is still loads to discover, but I'm happy I already now know some cafes, restaurants and have gotten some routines.

In my 7 weeks here I have managed to travel to 4 different cities, gone to the beach a few times, stolen apples from a countryside garden, gone sight-seeing in the city, start my term as MCP, gone hiking to a waterfall in Gabala, eaten at 20something restaurants, found what shop sells asian spicy ingredients, met a Chinese speaking Azeri guy, been to company meetings, gotten rejected at a hotel for not having a marriage certificate, danced at a construction site and learned some Azeri. Those are just a few of the moments I have experienced over the last weeks in Azerbaijan.

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Posted by CamillaS 02:16 Archived in Azerbaijan Comments (0)

On the Road again: Visiting Tovuz

Once again we took to the road and decided to visit some new sights. We decided to go outside Baku and Travelled to Togruls families house by Tovuz, a small city located West in the country, only an hours drive from the border to Armenia.
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I'm again getting used to taking long-distance transport per bus, train or car. Since we were travelling in the night, we decided to take the train to Tovuz, the trip takes 11 hours and we were lucky enough to get the seats by the toilets (It was a bit of a smelly trip), but despite unappetizing odors we managed to sleep quite well through the night. And however we feel about the the trip was the days in Tovuz were definitely worth it!
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Tovuz was a new exciting experience (especially for all the internationals). We were staying in a village a few kilometers from Tovuz in picturesque surroundings. The house was surrounded by rolling hills with forested mountains a bit further away. The house was enclosed with a beautiful orchard with fruittrees and flowers. We spent most of the days in that garden talking, drinking chai and eating delicious home-made food!

The first day we got the chance i visit a spring named after Togruls grandfather where we had a bareque (goat which was butchered and skinned in our garden by the way). We also got to try homemade vodka, fresh springwater, dancing rollcalls with two kids in the minibus on the way back from the mountains,
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The next day we drove over to Tovuz center seeing a newly constructed park before going to the forest, drinking tea by the river. Our driver Sasha (Togruls cousin) was apparently infamous on the streets of Tovuz, not too bothered with following the speed-limit or rules. He proudly showed us the place where he smashed his car a few months before, but he apparently was driving nicely (after insistent calls from his father). Still this was not the rides we were used to; we were 7 people in the car (3 in front, 4 in the back), no seatbelts of course, driving 140km/hour down a dark country road. He closed his eyes, left the car at one point while we were driving. Exciting experience.

We were only there for 3 days, but it was a nice break from Baku. On the way back we stopped in Shemkir, a small town in which they are building a Youth Center. The center was incredible and we were invited to oversee the construction and talk about potential partnership with the organization.

I'm always enjoying seeing more of the country and look forward to traveling again soon.

From Baku!

Posted by CamillaS 20:36 Comments (0)

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