Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Finally I got to travel up north (if we won't count Tbilisi ;o). I was told that there are big mountains, as in the Shaki region there is the beginning of the Greater Caucasus (well, in my opinion it is more like Caucasus in Diapers as it is still really tiny! To all those who got this joke I will bring a candy.)

We left Baku on Friday night. We hired a long distance taxi again. Our driver was quite a happy chap as he constantly laughed and talked, and as well-raised man he would also look at us when talking. I did not entirely appreciate that as sometimes he would also use his hands to explain things... the combination of not looking up front while not holding the steering wheel is not my favourite. :o)
He told us one joke: "Tourist asks a driver - 'how long does it take to get to Shaki?' The driver answers - 'it depends, the more money you give me, the faster we will arrive.' " We negotiated the price for 120 000 Manat. I guess it was a lot of money as the driver was speeding most of the way from 100 - 140 km/hour! Once or twice he had to slow down "a little" in order not to hit the cow or geese that decided to pass the road. I am quite certain that one goose did not sleep well over the night and that her meat will be quite hard when being eaten if she has to undergo such stressful situations every time she decides to pass the road.

Very surprisingly we arrived unharmed but much older to Kish, a village 5 min away from Shaki. We stayed at a homestay which will soon be a "home-hostel". The young woman that lives there speaks English and is responsible for taking care of the newly reconstructed Albanian church in the village. Together with her husband's mother and sister they would make us breakfast each morning. The husband offered himself as our driver and thus spent most of the time with us.

Saturday morning we decided to visit Qax and Ilisu. We passed Qax on the way to Ilisu, a tiny village to the north east of Qax. The road goes along a river through a valley created by beautiful forested mountains and you arrive in a village that is fascinating as it still preserves the traditional way of life. Old houses hidden behind stone walls, narrow cubblestone streets where you get to wander and absorb the atmospere. Old grandmas sit in front of their houses while having the offspring run around. Once in a while there would be a donkey joining you to walk along, while a cow would suspiciously watch you pass by... The village of Ilisu, once being the capital of an autonomous sultanate in 18th century, has a square brick watch tower, Sumuggala, guarding it. There are also remnants of older tower, Qalaja, on the hill just beside the village.

We returned to Qax where we visited a local museum. When leaving the building we heard men's choir that was undoubtedly inside of the adjoint Georgian church. We even entered the church to find only two men and several women inside that gathered there for the afternoon mass. All singing, knowing the text by heart, following the priest.

After a good yummy lunch (why there is only three main meals per day??) we visited also the remnants of old Albanian church, Qum. Remnants which are to be found in someone's garden as it seems. :o) Qum will be soon renovated with the help of the US Embassy.

In the afternoon we returned to Shaki. The driver brought us to the Xan Saray (Khan's Palace). It is only a small palace that has two floors and 6 rooms that are shown to tourists. But as it is newly renovated, the place is simply breathtaking. In the palace you find the famous shebeke windows which are made as jigsaw of fragments of coloured glass and hand-shaped wooden pieces. The little pool in front of the palace reflects on the windows and creates colorful shapes of light on the floor. All the walls and ceilings are carved and hand-painted.

When leaving the Xan Saray we stopped at the close buy "tourist attraction" - shooting at a target. That was sooo cooool (jako u nas na poutich). I managed to hit the ten!! :o))) (as the only one!) . After some half hour we continued walking back to the city. We stopped to have a tea at Karavan Saray (a place where all the caravans with merchants would come and stay for the night). I managed to recharge my batteries, hihih, in the camera and than we continued to stroll around the city. For the dinner we returned to Karavan Saray and the evening we spent in cayxana drinking tea and smoking water pipe. Well I gladly skipped the water pipe.

The next day we were considering to come and see Gelersen Gorasen. This fortress was to guard Shaki, a rich market centre, that connected Dagestan and Caucasian commercial routes. Becoming richer and more powerful, the Shaki leader Haji Chelabi decided to oppose to the ruling Persians in the 18th century. The Persian Shah sent his soldiers to find out who is the one to have the arrogance to deny Persian sovereignty over the land and Chelabi answered "Gelersen Gorasen" (come and see). The fortress survived the Persian attack.
Shaki itself some 30 years later suffered from a major flooding and most of the houses got washed away. Thus the city center got moved to its present position close to the second fortress, Nukha.

On Sunday morning, as some group of Germans stayed at the same place as we did, we got up quite late to get the access to bathroom and such and so after finishing the breakfast we went to see the Albanian church, we wondered around Kish but did not have the time to come and see "Come and See". Before leaving altogether for Baku we only stopped for a little while in Marxal, nature resort close by, had a lunch in Shaki and headed back home.

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Blogger Jirka said...

wow, such a long posting... I would really like to read it, but don't have time right now...

Btw I remeber your emailf from Iceland 2 years ago, they were always quite short and interesting (and became an inspiration for my later icelandic emails, which became quite popular among aiesecers:)). Don't you want to consider coming back to this format?:))

2:21 PM, September 20, 2005  
Blogger Mart'a said...

there are some long postings and some short like the icelandic ones... it just depends what I am writing about :o).

I take into account people that do not have enough time (for those the short posts) and those that are bored at work (for those are the long posts) :o)!

How is Slovakia?

8:17 AM, September 21, 2005  

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