From the Sea to the Mountains, and back again

After breakfast we got on the bus and headed out of Baku, to the north-west. Our destination was the mountain community of Sheki or Saki, or Seki, various spellings of the same place. We spent the night in a new resort hotel higher up on the same mountain.
Our drive led us through new and not so new suburban areas around Baku. As we got farther from the city, the arid landscape was more evident and patches of salt deposits shone white against the light brown earth. Few if any trees grow here, the soil is not fertile. Evidence of attempts to plant trees and the work of irrigating them was visible.
As we went higher in elevation, the surrounding landscape became greener. At a switch-back in the “highway” the bus pulled over so that we could climb down and look out at the panorama of the mountains out ahead of us. It was International Women’s Day, which is celebrated here with gifts of flowers to all the women in one’s life. At breakfast in the hotel every women was handed a bouquet of paper white narcissus, lovely to look at but, in my case, a noxious smell! I guess it is something in my personal chemistry, but I was very pleased to leave then behind!
However, Elchin, our tour manager, had lovely pink roses for all of the women in our group and that I liked very much!
At the spot where our us stopped there were several young men trying to sell flowers, as we saw all through the countryside in our trip today.Even in the restaurant where we stopped for a buffet lunch, the female kitchen staff walked through the dining room holding red roses!
Our next stop was for a bathroom and tea and jam break at a outdoor dining pavilion on a lovely/windy hillside. Outside of hotels, most of the toilets we are encountering are of the squat over the ceramic “hole” in the floor variety. This works just fine for most of us, although some women object vigorously each time there is no option. Leaving home means learning about how others live, including how they handle their bodily needs. It’s always interesting to experience the world as others do, at least for me!
The next time we stopped was to visit one of the few churches of the Udi Christian sect. I’m really not sure exactly what sets them apart from general Christianity but the style of their cross was fascinating and I wish I could figure out the photo to blog issue! It seems to have tulip shapes on the ends but they are actually meant to be crescent moons, reflecting something about their relationship to the moon. Two men met us and answered some questions about their faith and the structure which was rebuilt after the Soviet era where many houses of faith were damaged or destroyed and thousands of believers were killed.
The air was heavy with the smoke from fires burning up the fallen branches and trimmings from the winter. Being a Californian and very aware of air pollution it was really shockingly smoky everywhere we traveled as the practice of burning was prevalent all across the rural areas. Many of us felt our breathing impacted just a bit by the smoke.And the visual impact was also significant as the landscape was blurred by the smoke.
After a bit of a long drive through increasingly green and hilly countryside,past many small and some large flocks of sheep, we arrived in Sheki so that some of the group could attend late afternoon prayer in one of the city’s mosques. While they prayed I wandered around a bit and took some pictures,including a trio of taxi drivers who loved posing for me. I’d include it here, but I still can’t figure out how to connect the camera and the iPad. Total frustration!
There is a lovely river that flows through the center of town, with bridges crossing it. Very nice place.
Our hotel was not in town but up higher on the mountain, it wants to be a “resort” and maybe it is, in ski season. Although I didn’t see the usual ski lift apparatus or any other sign of that sort.
We went to our room, on the 6th floor, through an elevator lobby large enough for a wedding party and down a hallway so wide 8 people could walk abreast, easily! Who designs these places?
Dinner was up the hill at the related restaurant that is not actually in the hotel. Another feast, but it’s all fine and this time we went around the table introducing ourselves. We were encouraged to talk a bit about why we joined the Sisterhood which was a fascinating listen.
The room was so hot that we had to open the door to the balcony to allow for some cooling-wasteful but what can you do?
After breakfast ( we arrived too early, just moments before they agreed to be open at 8am and confusion reigned in the breakfast room!) we dropped our luggage on the bus and hopped into 3 small vans for the ride to the near-by village of Kish to see the other Armenian Christian church. Getting there was part of the adventure. Heavy rains earlier in the year had washed out the only bridge over the now dry and very wide river that separates Kish from our hotel. So the vans had to negotiate a temporary dirt dam full of potholes and then the very narrow steep cobblestone streets of the village. We got out and wandered into the courtyard of the restored church. It was one of the victims of the Soviet era

 

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Published in: on March 8, 2017 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

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