A Travellerspoint blog

June 2014

Explore Azerbaijan: Sheki

A travel guide for Azerbaijan

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During my first months in Azerbaijan I decided I wanted to explore as much of the country as I could. Azerbaijan is certainly one of those countries you can call "off the beaten path", so I wanted to share some of the hidden destinations you can find in the land of fire.

So first off lets venture off to "Sheki" (Şəki). Sheki is a small picturesque city situated in Northern Azerbaijan, by the lower parts of the Caucasus mountain range. The city is enveloped by green forests with snowcapped mountain tops in the background. Its a wonderful break from the semi-deserted capital, if you want to see some more lush nature and fresh air.

It was long past dark when we arrived in Sheki, and with the lack of street lights we could only see the outline of dark shapes and the sound of animals barking, mooing and bleating. We had been on a trip to meet an organization in Ganja, and as the meeting came to a close , we took a spontaneous decision to venture off up north. 40 AZN (≈40EUR) and 3,5 hour taxi drive later we arrived in this northern gem.

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The following morning we woke up early and going outside we were met with the marvelous sight of a lush mountain village. Not wanting to waste any time we set out to explore the city. As we were walking about the city we realized that the city had been redecorated to showcase its rich history; the streets were meticulously tidied and the houses renovated to showcase the traditional architecture and its rich history.

Sheki has a long history, dating back to 700 b.c when the Iranian people "Saka" came to settle the region. Since the original settlement the city was invaded several times and a variety of people have been ruling the city from Persian, Roman, Albanian and other rulers. Because of the invasions around the city most of the architectural remainders are only from the last few hundred years, but the city is a architectural pearl.

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From the center we walked the winding way up to the Palace of the Sheki Khan, which was the summer residence of the Khan. Built in 1797 it and its gardens is now the only remaining building from the Khan's fortress. The two store building is lavishly decorated with neat wooden decorations, and inside there are colorful glass mosaics and rich frescos.

After visiting the palace we walked back down to the center and passed by another remnant from the Khan; the Caravansarai. The building was built to house the caravans traveling on the silk road from China to Europe. It was the largest caravansary in the region and the building is still functioning as a hotel and restaurant. Its a nice place to visit to get a chance and a good hotel option if you want to follow in the footsteps of traveling merchants many centuries before.

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We only had a few hours in Sheki so we didnt have the chance to do more in depth exploration, but it was well worth the travel. If you have more time there are also some excellent hiking trails near the city. Its a beautiful place to visit whether you are just looking for a place to relax, or exploring Azerbaijani history and art.

Posted by CamillaS 22:52 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged travel guide azerbaijan caucasus sheki travel_guide off_the_beaten_path şəki Comments (0)

Day 365 - Celebrating one year abroad

One year in Azerbaijan

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Tuesday 2nd of June marks the one year anniversary of arriving in Azerbaijan, so I thought to note down a few reflections of the year abroad.

I vividly remember arriving at the airport in Azerbaijan, nervous, excited and full of wonder. It was a dizzying thought that this foreign country would be the place I would call home for the next year.

Standing in the shuttle bus at the airport I was looking at the people around, a few solemn looking businessmen looking bored and tired, an old woman leaning heavily on her son as the bus started driving, a little girl with pigtails and big brown eyes excitedly pointing at everything happening around. It seemed like the girl was the only one sharing my emotions of wonder and excitement for arriving in Azerbaijan. Her mother was wearily looking out without enthusiasm. Perhaps it was also the girls first time in Azerbaijan, or she was just happy to be back home, at any rate she was just as excited as me to finally be in Baku!

Now one year later I would probably be more like the bored business men arriving at the airport, the romantic honeymoon stage of my journey is lone gone, and has been replaced with routine of ordinary life. But I still remember and treasure the first few weeks when I was experiencing Azerbaijan for the first time.

One of the things I love with being abroad is the wonder of it all, how you can be like a child again exploring and discovering the world. Okay, I admit, that might be a bit of a romantic take on it, at times adapting to a new country is more a feeling of frustration, embarrassing and helpless. But for sure

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My experience somehow came to a full circle at the 365th day (That would be Tuesday 2nd June 2014). I was showing an intern around the city and to her new work. The girl had just arrived a few days earlier and all of this was very new for her. I took her around to her new work, took her out to lunch in one of my favorite restaurants and talked about the experience of living in Azerbaijan.

Over the last year I have gotten used to many things I couldn't understand in the beginning. For example when the bus we were supposed to take to the city suddenly changed its route and started going in the opposite direction. A year ago, I would be lost, but now I had gotten used to the roads and paths and managed to find our way from his strange route. Dealing with narcissistic businessmen (who of course were late for our appointed meeting time by 50 minutes). Who arrogantly told us “yes, yes, we can negotiate the working hours”, though we already have a clear contract on it. I found myself firmly repeating the same contract to him and what they had agreed on, I have started to understand the language of business now and learned the hard way that every condition, deliverable and requirement needs to be stared clearly. (And to always have a wide buffer in the timeline, as nothing will happen on time.

The last year has been a (for the lack of better words) rollercoaster. It has been amazing, frustrating, perspective-changing exhausting and unforgettable experience. Its not over yet, I still have 28 more days to go, and I plan on making more memorable experiences! F758041E2219AC681719A6C2A04DA066.jpg2013-06-24_21_32_15-1.jpg2013-06-24_20_09_25-2.jpg

Posted by CamillaS 22:05 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged picture reflection baku azerbaijan abroad living_abroad 2014 one_year_abroad Comments (0)

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