Thursday, March 14, 2013

Visiting the sights and wonders of Azerbaijan

With strict visa regulations, Azerbaijan is not often on the common tourist lists of places to visit.  But fortunately life-long friends--Jerry and Mary--visited me last fall for a memorable trip to some wonderful places in Azerbaijan.  And soon, another special visitor will come, just in time for Novruz, the national holiday welcoming the coming of spring.  Here are some of the special sights and places to visit in Azerbaijan:

Of course we start with Old Town, Baku
Old Town wall

The Double Gate

Along the Bulvar
 A carpet shop in Old Town

Fountain Square

Inside a carpet and souvenir shop
The Head Statue in Old Town

Near Baku in Qobustan ancient cliff carvings give insight to an ancient civilization
Our road trip took us to Sheki, where we stayed in the historic Karavansaray Hotel, a caravan stop along the Silk Road:

As the Karavansaray Hotel may have looked in days of old...
We stopped to enjoy the special  pastry--Sheki Halvesi--Sheki's own Paklava

Typical room inside the historic hotel

Around town we visited the spectacular Xan Saray--the Palace of the Khan:

We stopped by the artisan workshop to watch how the intricate wood-framed lattice holds the stunning colored glass, prevalent in the palace and throughout the region, famous art-work from Sheki

Near the Khan Palace

Ancient Albanian church, oldest in the Caucasus, in town of Qish, near Sheki
Exploring the region around Qax

A martyrs' cemetery 

Ancient mosque near Qax in Ilisu

Ancient fortifications

Road toward Russia (closed border)

Ancient church ruins
 With an ethnic minority Georgian population, Qax has a Georgian Orthodox Church...

and a place where you can also buy typical Georgian bread

Ancient form of road travel (donkey cart) and today's marshrutka, the form of travel we took to head back to Mingachevir...

 Along the way we must share the road with the local cattle...

...and no matter where you go in Azerbaijan, there is a plethora of Hadar Aliyev statues, parks, museums, monuments, and bill-boards.
Typical of all Azerbaijan towns, Mingachevir has a large Hadar Aliyev statue and museum.

The city park in Mingachevir sports a silver ball with spokes (lights up at night) and looks like an old Soviet Sputnik, as well as a star emblem and flag of the nation.

The sights around Mingachevir include:
the World War II monument, often referred to in Azerbaijan as the 1941-1945 War or the Soviet-Germany War;

a cell-phone tower

apartment house full of TV dishes
Mingachevir's version of the Space Needle

the university...

every school and university typically has a *welcome* sign at its enterance

...typical wedding car, to transport bride and groom to the wedding palace for  the wedding celebration

Mingachevir's martyrs' cemetery

colorful laundry lines perk up the drab apartment buildings

And we topped off our trip around Azerbaijan with a shopping trip to the local bazaar:






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