NORTHERN AZERBAIJAN: LAHIC-IVANOVKA – SHEKI – ZAGATALA

The trip north involved a lot of traveling by public transportation and was fun except for having to carry the luggage.  I envy the backpackers; it seems so easy just to have your luggage on your back. We did try it once but for me it wasn’t convenient and as heavy as the luggage.  So I’m constantly struggling with my 12 kg luggage and want to get rid of unnecessary stuff.  A lot of it seems unnecessary until the next rain or cold wave when I wear everything I have and then it doesn’t seem unnecessary any longer.

In any event we started with a marshrutka/bus going to Gebela.  We wanted to take the one to Ismayilli but it was full.  Actually, you can ask the driver to get off anywhere, but you do need to pay the entire fare. So, we got off at the turn to Lahic and took a taxi to our first destination, Hotel Lahic Yolu, which I already described as unsuccessful in my hotels review.  From there we took another taxi to Lahic Guesthouse.

Lahic is a very cute village located in a picturesque setting.  I read someone’s blog where she described it as overly commercial. We actually liked the fact that we could wonder on the main street and pop into artisanal shops. So far we have not actually seen many souvenirs and it was fun to look and to chat with the locals.

By chance we met a person who was in charge of the tourist information office accompanied by his brother who was in charge of the local museum.  Both places were closed already but they opened them just for us.  The museum, a small building was full of local artifacts, artisanal tools and photos of famous people born and raised in Lahic.  We also had a nice conversation with the tourist information guy, he gave us some brochures and it was all good, but he also gave us some misleading information regarding wine tasting due to which we wasted half the next day ( and cab fare) going to one of their known wineries –Shato Monolit.  He said they have wine tasting and a hotel there.  Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t operational and people at the winery didn’t know anything about wine tasting….Unfortunately, information for tourists in Azerbaijan is not readily available and tourist offices are not equipped to properly respond to questions. We were told that they are trying to develop tourism industry in Azerbaijan, and they do have a long way to go…

By then it was getting very cold; the village is high in the mountain.  We went to a local café which was not heated and finished a whole bottle of vodka between both of us. We must have eaten a lot also because the bill was very high but we were too drunk to look into it. So we went back to our guesthouse and crushed.  It was a long day.

rustam 3

lahic Guesthouse (Rustam’s)

The next day, Rustam, the owner, organized a taxi for us. The driver was also extremely nice and he ended up driving us to several destinations.  We also stopped several times to take photos and even crossed a hanging bridge down from Lahic while he patiently waited.  First, we went to Ivanovka, the last Kolkhoz in the former Soviet Union.  Despite raving reviews in every travel guide and other blogs, we found it extremely disappointing. Yes, there were some Russian people walking around but so what? Some people said that they felt the Soviet era as soon as they got into the village.  We didn’t see anything of interest except for theWWII memorial. It listed all the names of the fallen soldiers and we noticed many similar last names so it seems like multiple brothers and relatives form the same families were killed and it was really sad.

around lahic

Right after that we were on our way to the unsuccessful wine tasting in Shato Monolit and wasted couple of hours on first finding it and then driving back. However, the way there and back and the view of the mountains is very beautiful.  Our driver was very nice and felt our disappointment.  He brought us to an intersection in Ismayilli where we waited to catch a bus going up north to Sheki.  Some buses have come but they were full so after about an hour wait we got onto a bus going to Gebela, an hour and a half south of Sheki.  Our driver was trying to convince us to wait for the right bus but we were getting impatient and just wanted to make some progress.

The bus brought us to an intersection in Gebela where we waited for a ride to Sheki.  It was very entertaining.  I was standing on the road trying to flag down a bus or a marshrutka while Roman was hanging out with the taxi drivers who were trying to convince him to hire a taxi.  A lot of numbers were thrown around, the prices were going up and down, and they were competing among themselves claiming to be a better driver then the others.  Meanwhile some buses came thru but they were also full.  Finally a private car stopped and offered me a ride for a very decent price, 10 manat.  I bargained him down to 8 and then pointed out to Roman as my companion.  The guy had no choice but to take us both.  Actually he was just a young guy going to Sheki to meet some friends and he was happy to get his gas fare paid and to practice some English.

In Sheki we checked into Isaam Hotel and Spa.  I used their hamam and we both got massages.  It’s a small provincial cute town. Its main attraction is the fort which is kept in a very good condition and the authentic Karavansarayi Hotel.  We also went to the bazaar, a lively loud place with a lot of live animals, mainly poultry of different kind.  Roman got a haircut for 2 manat, which was the cheapest haircut he ever had!

Sheki bazaar                     Sheki Fortress               Karavansaray

There was nothing left to do in Sheki and we took a bus to Zagatala, our last Azerbaijan destination.

Zagatala is even smaller then Sheki.  There is a nice park and the Old Town up the hill.  It is about 2 km between the center square and the old town which makes for a nice walk.  We explored that part first and then went to dinner to one of the places I found in Lonely Planet, called Qaqas.  There we befriended one of the owners who gave us many tips on Georgia (our next destination).  The next morning we were waiting for a bus and he happened to drive by and gave us a ride to the village of Car.  For some reason it is famous.  It is clean and green but we didn’t see anything extraordinary.  We did enjoy the walk back to town and together with popping into an old fort ( nothing to see there as well) it was probably a 10 km walk.  On the way back we again got ourselves really good massages by a very profession masseuse. The best massage yet.  After the massage we had our last tea in Azerbaijan and caught a ride to the border with Georgia.

zagatala park

Zagatala Park

car village

Car Village

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last photo in Azerbaijan

 

Good bye Azerbaijan hello Georgia!!!

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