Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lahic instead of picnick

I was offered to join bunch of people to go for a trip to a region called Ismayilli, north west of Baku. The drive to that place was to take around 3 hours, so the departure time was 7am (auch). There was a minibus hired and all 15 people climbed in and off we went. I was sitting in front with Asif (my collegue), so kept on chatting the whole way.

On the way we stopped several times in order to buy food for our picnick. We bought vegetables, fruits, bread and got a sheep cut on little pieces for shashlick (meat grilled on coal) later on. We bought all this from the villagers who were having their stands along the road.

There was supposed to be a picnick place close to the city of Ismayilli with forest and a little creek. The place was truly "lovely" and by the amount of garbage lying everywhere I guessed that we were not the only ones to choose it for a picnick. This always stuns me so much! But it is a huge problem of Azeris, soon there won't be any nature to be seen, you will have to dig a hole through the garbage to sit on grass.

We decided to leave the place and try to look for another one. We also needed a place where we could rinse our food, so presence of a water spring was the main criteria for our further search. We decided to head in the direction of Lahic that was some 30km away from Ismayilli. Unfortunately the road was really bad and the driver gave up some 15km from the actual place! We found really cool spot, close to a restaurant, on a little hill, surrounded by trees, with a table and a place to do the shashlik. So nothing to complain about... BUT... LAHIC was so close! And so far away in that moment!

Lahic is a village hidden in a valley surrounded by amazing forest
mountains with the river Girdimanchai passing by. The village was built around the 5th century and the locals actually still keep Tat, a dialect of an old Persian tongue, as a primary language . The village itself is extraordinary historical place with houses build from wood and stone to prevent the frequent earthquakes to destroy them. There is number of mosques, historical museum, bath-houses, medieval water-supply and sewage systems. While passing by the old cobblestone streets one sees number of workshops where locals produce and sell artifacts such as jewelry, copperware, carpets, pottery, samovars, iron tools etc.

Having this picture in my head, I decided with Asif that we will somehow get to the village. We helped preparing lunch, ate fast the shashlik (I helped preparing it, though women are not supposed to touch it :o)) and then we went down on the road to try to hitchhike. The rest of the group just stayed at the picnick place to relax and chat. Asif found out a scheduled bus is supposed to be going to the village so we waited for the one to come. The problem of the bus was that it reaches Lahic and then leaves within 5 min. That is why an alternative way of going to Lahic would be better in order to take the bus back.

Well, anyway we ended up in the bus. :o) And that was an ADVENTURE! The bus was packed with locals coming from the town with their weekly shoppings. The seats were all taken and one could not even stand in the aisle as there were huge bags with food supplies. I was offered a seat though :o) and Asif was pretty much hanging above me. The trip started. We had 15km to pass, approx. 45min timewise. The bus looked it will fall apart any time, the road was extremely bumpy and I kept on bouncing up on the seat while taking photos of the gorgeous mountains along the way. The path was no more than a roughly hewn ledge and the drop to the river-basin was some 30m deep. Oups :o). We stopped in a few villages on the way and that ment handing not only the people out (hihihi) but also their endless number of bags.

We approached the village of Lahic around 4. The bus turned to go back and me along with Asif decided to risk and try to get a drive with someone else back to our restaurant later on. We entered the village and were walking up the "main street". We have not visited any of the famous sights as we were worried about the time. But just absorbing the atmosphere was excellent, visiting few workshops along the way.

By the way, if you ever get to Lahic, ask to go to the toilet... (I am surprised Lonely Planet has not mentioned this amazing sight in their Azerbaijan edition!)

We managed to get a ride back with one minibus, had an excellent company of 5 women from different countries working in Baku for various organizations. We got out of the bus some 10 min before the restaurant as we spotted a suspension bridge across the river-basin. So we went to play there for a little and then went back to the group.

We ended up having second shashlick for dinner and within an hour we packed and headed back to Baku. So quite unexpectedly this was one of the best trips that I had so far in Azerbaijan.

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