Thursday, November 24, 2011


  • In a new guide to Azerbaijan, in the section on walking in Baku, the book cautions that the story of "the expat who fell through the manhole cover" is not an urban myth.
  • Fur coats are coming out. Mink I guess, and oh dear seal?, and lots of sheepskin. I'm ready to go for sheepskin myself. The snow we had a coupe of weeks ago was apparetny quite unusa. Peope said they were going around in shirtseevs ast December.  I still need the sheep fur.
  • In apartments that have radiators, the government controls the heat--turning it on November 15 and off April 15.
  • Re: a man tending geraniums on a third floor balcony--who sees?  I do, and give him a smile and a thumbs up.
  • In the Azerbajani language difficulties department,  I am finding the word order tough. Here is a sentence translated directly to Engish: 5th foor on three rooms apartment ours have.  And: I go+when [no space] you house+at [no space] not was there. Sigh.
  • My small dictionary incudes the following ever-popular words: bomb-thrower, tang, wigwam and Zulu time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Naxchivan and Mt. Ararat

"Naqshijahan* restaurant which is situated on the riverside Nakhchivanchay
with its view in the greenness which has turned a family rest centre
will captivate your hearts at the door of the Turkic world is in your service.....
A ship, set sail become true all your wishes, answering all demands of our time."

* and just when you thought there were no more ways to spell Naxchivan

Well the enigmatic and mysterious unattached northwestern corner of Azerbaijan certainly made for a good adventure! And the continued great Quad Karma of the Tom, Kris, Andrea and Nicole crew "answered all demands of our time." The clouds parted soon after our arrival in Naxchivan, and we were able to marvel at the fabulous mountain vistas all the way to Dogubeyazit (affectionately AKA "Dogbiscuit"), Turkey and back, and on to the south of Naxchivan province.

Naxchivan's name comes from Noah + Jahan, or the province of Noah. We intended to head to Mt. Ararat to see the ark...

In Naxchivan city we stayed at the best hotel in town, grand and modern yet still  reminiscent of faded Soviet glory.

We visited a sanatorium in a salt mine not far from town. The salt air is said to be excellent for bronchial conditions.

outside the salt mine

and inside (A and K)

Some of the sanatorium accommodation (private rooms also available)

The next day, we left for Turkey, on our quest to see Mt. Ararat. The journey is quite fascinating to see on a map--we passed through a narrow sleeve of  land bordered by Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Iran. See "Ararat Mountain" on the map below?

Iran and its low mountains on the left, snow capped mountains of Armenia on the right, and the dramatic base of Mt. Aarat in Turkey ahead. The drive from Naxchivan town took 4 hours, but over 2 hours of that was at the border crossing (Azerbaijan-Turkey, that is--no way we or anyone else for that matter could consider visiting the other neighbors)

 The scenery--thanks to clear weather--was dramatic. We traveled all the way around Mt. Ararat to to reach the town of Dogubeyazit.

Can you see the large water bird? Supposed to be great bird watching here--the hills are in Armenia

Mt. Ararat is 5165 meters/16,945 feet high

At the turn off to Dogubeyazit--wait--it can't be this easy

We see several Turkish army tanks along the way--our driver explains they are around because there are terrorists in  the area. We understand that he is not Kurdish.

Views from our hotel window in Dogbiscuit--a pleasant Kurdish town. People here are used to being an unwelcome minority and are absolutely thrilled when we learn how to say "thank you" in Kurdish to shopkeepers

Couldn't resist this Turkish wine

Turkish army tank parked in front of the police station

The next day we head to Mt. Ararat. Beautiful!

This is said to be an outline of where the ark landed. Yes, that is snow. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr

"The animals, they ca-ame, they came by twosies twosies.."

 From the on-site museum

After Ararat we went to see a meteor crater that was fairly forgettable, but knowing that the forbidding state of Iran was a couple hundred yards away was a thrill.

meteor hole

Iran border crossing in distance

One more stop on our Ararat-area tour: the palace of Ishak Pasha

N and T


On the way back to Azerbaijan, our taxi driver points to what he says is a nuclear power plant in Armenia, and says we are 14 kilometers from Yerevan, the capital.

At the Azerbaijan border, 20+ officers in the distinctive dark teal uniforms stand, sit or lounge about. The border crossing takes only an hour vs. 2 1/2 on the way in to Turkey.

The next day, our last on this whirlwind 3 1/2 day Feast of the Sacrifice tour of Naxchivan, we head south and east to Ordubad. Stunning scenery, mountains on both sides. We travel very close to and along the Iranian border.

We pass Ilan Dag on the way--the tall, distinctive peak whose cleft was the resting place of Noah's ark according to local Azeri lore.

At the town of Ordubad, our driver takes us to a tree which locals report as 1200 years old (the tour book says 300)

 A man takes us into his home to show us the underground spring in his basement and the lemon trees that grow next to it. Ordubad lemons are famous and we are told they can sell for $10 each!  They give us one!

 We have tea in the town square with our taxi driver.
A mosque in Ordubad

 Scenery on the way back to Naxchivan city

 And mountains from the air, on the flight back to Baku

and approaching Baku