(Continues from Part 1)
(Read Part 1 HERE)
After spending a couple of hours at Qabaland, we headed towards the next stop of our journey – the city Mingachevir. Now, I keep telling my husband that I want to make myself a T-shirt saying “I <3 Mingachevir!” Seriously! 🙂 This city was such a refreshing surprise for us! We never expected it to be this great! Actually, we added it to our trip out of pure curiosity. It’s not as famous as Ganja, Qabala, Lankaran, and Shaki, but it’s a great place to enjoy a fun and peaceful holiday.
There’s a big river passing through the city – the river Kura. It springs from Turkey, passes through Georgia, Tbilisi included, then – through Azerbaijan, and finally finds its way to the Caspian sea. And everywhere it flows, it brings life to the place. And it definitely brings life to Mingachevir as well! Even though Mingachevir is a comparatively new city (established in this form in the middle of last century), there are many ancient settlements here and the territory has also been part of the Silk Road.
Today the city offers amusing activities for the whole family – boat trips (at the cost of only 50 qepiq = 25 cents), thrilling powerboat rides, relaxing beach days at the dam lake (it’s huge!), late walks on the riverside, delicious and inexpensive dinners in the numerous restaurants located along the river, etc. The city definitely has atmosphere and it was definitely to our taste! 🙂
And – yes, we did ride a powerboat, even with our 2-month-old baby! We’re talking adventures here, right?! 🙂 We even saw a big colony of bats passing overhead. It was quite impressive.
And the food…. The fish jumps straight from the river and into the plate! 🙂 The salads and the other dishes that we’re used to eating in Baku, have a specific local taste (it’s good); and when you order watermelon for dessert – be prepared to receive a large plate (1/4 watermelon)! I’ve never eaten so much watermelon in my life! And to top it all – you ask for the bill and find out that you have to pay just about 10 euro for all that you’ve ordered. It’s really cheap. At least, compared to the capital. I’m definitely going back to Mingachevir next summer (but not in August; it’s too hot).
The last city that we visited on our trip was Shaki. It’s established thousands of years ago and it has changed and modified numerous times throughout the years – always bursting with life and authentic atmosphere. It is surrounded by impressive mountains and has been the biggest city on the territory of Caucasian Albania (it has nothing to do with today’s country Albania, and it has existed between II century B.C. and VIII century A.D.). Later on, in the 18th century, Shаki khans have ruled the region and their Palace continues to bring beauty to the city even to this day. It is actually the main sight of the city and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Another interesting sight of the city is the Albanian church (The Church of Kish) located in the Kish village right next to Shaki (5 km distance). You can reach it either with a SUV or by foot. My advice is not to risk breaking your car.
In some sources the church is said to have functioned during the XII-XIII century A.D. Some historians, however, claim that it has been established as far back as the I century A.D. and has been later rebuilt and reshaped. In the courtyard there’s a monument of the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who is also known to have visited the place.
The theory of Heyerdahl is that according to the Norse mythology, Odin comes from a place called Azer. In Wikipedia there’re numerous articles on this topic, which cast more light on the theory, but if Heyerdahl has come to these places, he should surely have believed in something.
Shaki itself is full of small picturesque streets and little shops for souvenirs and local sweets. You have probably heard of the famous Shaki khalva. Don’t forget to buy some while you’re here! We bought our’s from Halvaci Yahia. This sweet shop dates back to 1842 (quite remarkable, huh?) 🙂
Another local specialty is the Sheki Piti. It wasn’t to our taste, but if you enjoy trying local goods, don’t skip it! 😉 Some of the things it consists of are sheep fat, chestnuts, and chick-peas (Garbanzo beans). It’s consumed mostly during the winter season, but in Sheki you can have it all year round.
Even though there are a few very good 4* and 5* hotels in the city, we decided to go unconventional and spent the night in a real Kervansaray. According to different sources, there have been eight of those in the city. Two of them – the biggest ones, are preserved until today. The lower one (as they call it) is currently being reconstructed, but the upper one functions both as a tourist sight and as a hotel. It’s not listed in Trip Advisor and I guess that’s the only reason why we managed to find rooms there. Sleeping in a 200-years-old hotel, one can definitely feel the atmosphere of the past when tradesmen and travelers on the Silk Road have stopped and spent the night in this very Kervansaray. Now, if that’s not thrilling!
By the way, even though we expected that it would be very expensive to sleep in such a historical sight, it costed only 30 euro for 2 adults and 2 small children. A pleasant surprise! Now, some of you may find the conditions a bit challenging, but this does help to preserve the atmosphere of the place. And, there’s even TV and Wi-Fi! 😉
So, that’s how we spent our summer holiday in Azerbaijan. Hope you find the information helpful and I will be excited to read your impressions as well. Feel free to share your thoughts or any questions in the comments below.