Day 30 Friday June 23 2017
Seki to Genja 145 km
- We have lost confidence in Lonely Planet as far as Azerbaijan is considered. We are now ready to leave. AG is grateful that SG planned only a 3 day visit. The people have been very friendly and willing to help but the language barrier between us is a major impediment to successful tourism. Not their fault, ours! Plus the lightweight nature of the sights that are promoted without proper information in English.
- Since arriving in Azerbaijan we have seen few mosques and heard them even less. It may be we are simply adapting to the prayer calls but we think it is to do with the fact that compared with Turkey, there are simply fewer of them.
- Today as we head south from Sheki to Genja, the scenery changes markedly. Fewer trees, wide open pasturelands that are intensively grazed by herds of cattle & sheep. Invariably by the roadside. And grain crops that are currently being harvested. Genja lies half way between Tbilisi & Baku. Lonely Planet describes it as an historic city that is trying to re- invent itself for tourism.
- Azerbaijan is still horse & cart country and a veritable colony for Lada cars - old ones!
- Most towns in Azerbaijan feature somewhere in their vicinity one or more large picture(s) of President IIham Aliyev, that is neither a painting nor a photo but strange combination of the two. He looks remarkably like his big ally President Erdogan in Turkey - who is also trying to run an ever more authoritarian presidential regime.
- Old Azeri women tend to wear a head scarf and calf length skirts. Younger women dress in a normal non- revealing style of western clothes. Bare arms and lower legs do not seem to be an etiquette problem.
- 20 km before Genja we see fields of sunflowers. They are in full bloom.
- Before settling down in Genja for the afternoon, we drive a further 10 km South to Goygol, a town on the edge of the area's vineyards. Before 1931 this town was known bizarrely as Helenendorf because of the Germans from Württemberg who came to settle at the invitation of Tsar Alexander. They no doubt had much to do with the cultivation of grapes in this area.
- Joseph Stalin went & spoilt things by deporting the German population of the town to Siberia in 1942. But traces of the German settlement can be seen in the Lutheran Church built here in 1854 and the different wooden facades of residential & commercial buildings located in the old central area. The last resident of German descent died in 2007.
- Banks are hive of activity in Goygol on this Friday morning at 11. Is it pay day? Are they short of money?
- Ramadan observance in Goygol is not strictly observed. Men of different ages are drinking tea and chatting. As they do - often. There is not a woman in sight.
- From the photos posted to date you will have realised that residential architecture in Azerbaijan is very different from the UK - the houses are built within courtyards surrounded by high walls and accessed only by solid metal gates. The average UK home has windows looking out onto the world which are visible to passers by.
- On arrival in Genja there is the usual issue with the hotel - where to park and is our room quiet? It seems if you request a quiet room online at the time of reservation, the more likely you will be allocated the exact opposite. SG has to organise a room change for the umpteenth time.
- Navigator is so exhausted by the last 3 days in Azerbsijan that she, very unusually, crashes for a mid afternoon sleep.
- In pleasant evening temperatures we sit on the square and sip a full bodied Azeri wine. The bars adjacent are occupied only by men. the Hubble Bubble pipes are out and being puffed. Most bars seem to offer this activity.
- Even though the Hamam opposite the hotel is very old & authentic, we decide to wait until Tbilisi for our next traditional bathing experience. SG has a private look see - the facilities are impressive & clean but devoid of atmosphere and people. There are no staff here, just empty facilities and certainly no other customers. It's just all very strange....
- Genja City centre is also a work in progress. When finished it will certainly be a very attractive city - wide tree lined boulevards, fountains, pedestrian zones, mellow architecture - but for now and until an unknown time in the future, it is still a project in evolution. At least money is being spent on urban improvement. It will no doubt mean that Genja can qualify to host some major cultural event such as the Eurovision Song Contest. Ah SG that's harsh!
- Only one more sleep in Azerbaijan and then back to Georgia.