We woke up early, for a long day towards Sheki. We drive past the mountains and try to find the village Ivanovka. In the middle
of vast, rolling cornfields is still a real kolkhoz. This Soviet era dating
village is still inhabited by Russians, the 'Molokani'. The adherents of this
religion, founded in the 19th century, were exiled to the Caucasus by Tsar
Nicholas from Russia. A visit to this village is a step back in time. It seems
like you are walking through a Russian village fifty years ago. Picturesque
houses under the birch trees, blond children, men with beards, horse-drawn
carriage through the village and the village center where they ride in old
Volga's and Lada's to do some shopping; a world of difference to the mundane
Baku. You should be open to it, but absolutely worth a visit.
We drive to Gabala, a city with a rich past.
This was one of the main cities in the ancient Albania, one of the great empire
of the Caucasus (and nothing to do with the modern European Albania). The old
Albania was one of the oldest Christian nations in the world. We visit an old
Albenian ‘Jotari’ church in the village Nic. This church is the center of the
Udi minority, from whom most live in Nic.
We also visit the excavations of ancient Gabala,
where archealogists from Azerbaijan, but also from South Korea, are working
hard to expose the old city.
We drive further through the countryside of
Azerbaijan. Not spectacular, but still very nice to see the traditional country
life. Man and women in the fields which
stretch as far as the eye is able to see, no fences, ideal for many grassland
Finally we arrive in Sheki, one of highlights
of a trip to Azerbaijan. I stay in a charming, old caravanserai and visit the
charming little town. On the outskirts of the town is the Khan’s palace, lavishly
decorated inside. Not far away is also an old Albenian church.
Overall a lovely trip through a hardly visited
country. While Georgia and Armenia are welcoming more and more tourists,
Azerbaijan remains the great unknown country of the Caucasus region. From the
foreigners visiting the country, only 1% is tourist, the rest is business traffic.
Nevertheless, a visit of a few days, are definitely worth it and a nice
addition to a trip to the other two Caucasus countries.
Wim van Ginkel, June 2015