Azerbaijani night spot

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On the Azerbaijani roads, the « Russian Gang » has  learned to know each other.

To hit the road together also means to harmonise our daily life depending on the habits of each one when new travellers join the team.

After some months spent on the road and the different experiences, each one of us used to find a place to camp every night. While at the beginning of the trip, we were a bit worried about this, we finally got used for not  knowing where we will sleep every night. Progressively, we felt like home on each place we found for our camp.

We left Baku at the end of the morning. We crossed the city of Shamakhi to reach the first Caucasian wooded hills. After leaving the main road, we stopped to give the priority to a flock of sheeps going to their sheepfold. Guided by Azerbaijani guys riding horses, they finally gathered together to let us go through.

We found a good spot for wild camping at the end of the afternoon, under trees a bit further away from the secondary road. It was the first camp for the six members of the « Russian Gang ».

We needed to take our marks for adapting our table for the six of us to be together. All along the evening, we played « musical chairs » with the aim of using our comfy folding chairs rather than the water cans of Maika and Christopher. The seat furniture which is the most essential. We spent the evening around the camp fire. We grilled sausages and veggies to enjoy  with  the traditional beers of the end of the day.

On the morning, the bells of the flocks of sheep at sunrise woke us up. Like each morning, a team was folding the tents while the other one was cooking breakfast. We set up the table, unfolded the chairs, switched on the camping stove for coffee. The Italian coffee maker was boiling, the bread was sliced and the pot of jam was open… we were ready for this breakfast in the shadow of the trees.

We got all our strengths back for this new day! We washed up quickly and tidied up everything in each corner of our cases. We left this place which was our « home » for one night. First gear, a nice noise from the engines to climb up the first hill to leave this forest and to go back on the asphalt, let’s go for a new day of adventure!

Baku – 3 days – Minus 23 metres above sea level

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The crossing of the Caspian Sea ended. The ferry boat arrived at the Alta harbour in the afternoon, 70km towards South of Baku. But after being delayed by the paperwork, we finally  left the harbour at night. After some difficulties and helps from an nice man waiting his family in front of his building, we found the guesthouse where we booked a room. At about 11pm, with Maïka and Christoph (@bibi.und.hilde,) our German friends with whom we called ourselves the »Russian Gang », and the young owner of the guesthouse, we shared local beers for celebrating the end of the process to enter in Azerbaijan.

Even with the bright sun raising in the morning, we decided to have a lie-on before discovering the city. Baku is a seaside city under the sea level. This massive stretch of water has an altitude lower than the other oceans. The style of the city was made by a multiple influences. At the same time: luxuriant with futurist buildings, strict with sharp building in a Soviet style, and traditional/oriental once we crossed the gates of the fortified city. But since the 21st century, this is the petrol which made this city as the Azerbaijani “little Dubaï”. The Mercedes and other big cars with  tinted windows have replaced the old Russian Lada cars.

Located on the Southern hills of the city, we passed the “tree Flames” to reach the sea front. The three towers with modern architecture became the new symbol of Baku. Once passed these massive towers and many  stairs, we did our fist steps on the longest seaside promenade of the world thanks to its length of 35km. Along this new layout, there were new very modern buildings such as the  “Flower” of the « Caspian Seafront Mall” or the ”wave” of the Carpet Museum.

Our entrance through the “Gosha Gala Gapisi” gate symbolised the access to the historic town-centre. A pleasure to walk in small narrow medieval streets again since a long time.

It’s following a “free walking tour” that we discovered the old city, its age of glory and darkest times. We discovered its treasures from the influences of Turkey, Persia and Russia.

It was 7pm when we went back to the Gosha gate to meet Maxim, a biker “Azerbaidjani-Russian” introduced by our Russian friend, Serguei, from Irbit. We followed him in the streets of the city up to a restaurant on the seafront. We shared with him and some biker friends some beers, fried quails and smoked fishes. The night finished late in a karaoke were we interpreted some Russian songs, but also “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles, “Amerika” by Rammstein and even “Les prisons de Nantes” by Try Yann.

At the end of the morning, the « Russian Gang » hit the road towards Shamakhi. In spite of the trafic, we managed to reach the deserted area around Bakou. Our Russian engines didn’t appreciate the hills and high temperatures. They are more adapted to the freezing weather of Siberia than the aride climate of the Azerbaijani steppes. We did a stop in the shadow of a service station and were worried for not finding any good shady space to camp. After ten kilometres, the Azerbaijani desert was changed progressively by green hills. It was the beginning of the Caucasian mounts with nice curves.

Kilometres after kilometres, the cars with tinted windows were replaced by the old Lada cars with oinion bags hung on the roofs. Cows were grazing alongisde the road and crossed sometimes without any warning… On the rolling road, there were orchards. Many vendors were selling their harvest alongside the road.

After bivouacking for the night in the mountains, we arrived in Shaki for midday. We found some shadow on the main square. We enjoyed a Piti, the local speciality made with lamb and chickpeas slowly cooked and served in a pot of clay. We chose to have a nice Greek salad with it.

Shaki is one of the oldest cities of Azerbaidjan. Its history is linked to the Sillk Road. Rich of an unusual architecture, this city played an important role in the Azerbaijani art. With a blazing sun, we walked in the little paved streets to reach the Khans Palace (Kansari) after a steep hill. The story says this palace was built in 1762 without a nail. Summer residence of the King and Queen of the area, this beautiful palace was decorated with many little sculptures hung on the walls.

After this touristic visit, we went in a hostel of the town-centre. We spent the night in the courtyard with a doctor from Baku and his friend, happy to share his homemade vodka.

The following day, we didn’t leave as early as we thought. At 10am, the “Russian Gang” and their vehicles left to reach the Georgian border.

We arrived at the border post and were surprised for not seeing a queue. We started directly the process. On the Azerbaijani side, we passed again our suitcases through a X-ray portal to exit the territory. Again, the staff was more interested by our vehicles and our trip than our suitcases. Before to arrive on the Georgian side, a last Customs Officer made sure we finished the process. He took this opportunity to laugh gently about my moustache…

Where to drink ?

Coffee Moffie
Islam Safarli 9 , Az 1000 Bakou

After a day to visit Baku, there was nothing better than a nice break in a café for artists with many movie posters hung on the walls.

Where to sleep ? 

Hotel Astrea
Mikayil Müsfiq 57, Shaki

A nice little courtyard with a great welcome for this lovely hostel. Nothing fancy but a great quality for the price. It’s was a quiet place before to continue our trip towards Georgia.