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Travelling to Turkey - Azerbaijan & Georgia

by samarkand (8/3/2009)

Travelling to Turkey - Azerbaijan & Georgia

This will be even more impressionistic than my last essay since I have only spent two weeks in both countries! Also, I am well aware that most users of the site seem to be quite young so please be patient with me as what you are getting here are the views of a 60 year old Englishman who may have very different perspectives from yours, but nevertheless, here goes!

And it´s good and bad, positive and negative, Georgia and Azerbaijan because I did not take to the latter and spent only 5 days there which is a great shame because I was hoping to practise my flimsy Turkish , whereas Georgia is a place I would happily come back to if only for their food and wine, a glass of red wine by my side as I write this.

Perhaps if I had come to Azerbaijan from the West it would have been different, but flying into Baku from Uzbekistan, where I had a great time, was not the best way to start. This along with being ripped off by the taxi driver from the airport to a hotel where he got a mark up (he said the cheaper one I wanted to go to was shut down!). I, did, however try to be fair to others I met only to be dissapointed by what felt like a general hostility and lack of interest in (budget) tourists. The young people seemed caught up in how they looked and the young men seemed generally indolent - no, change that to most men. It was very male dominated - very few women around once outside Baku and very dour after the colours of Uzbekistan. I also have no problem with the call to prayer but when it goes on for ten minutes outside your bedroom window at 5.15 in the morning, it stretches my tolerance. I was shown some kindnesses, for example being put up (with a female Italian tourist) by an Azeri mum going with her ten year old son to visit her mother in Saki - but she didn´t speak much Azeri having spent most of her adulthood in Russia and she also was not very complimentary about Azerbaijan men although she had been married to an exceptional one, an artist who had only recently and sadly died,

I am now in Batumi on Georgia´s Black Sea coast. It´s the summer resort for many Georgians and others and it´s noisy and lively with a long promenade by the beach with the promise of some interesting night life - or at least some decent music. I have two words of Georgian (for ´hallo´ and ´thank you´) but I have still been treated very well and have heard of many instances from other tourists where Georgians have put themselves out to be of help.

Again, like Uzbekistan, both countries were part of the USSR. Both also seem to be at the mercy of the ruling oligarchs with a few people only benefitting from the riches that are there (especially Azerbaijan with its gas and oil) or given by the richer countries, whereas there are many struggling to survive. You see many beggars in the capitals of both countries and finding work is a real problem for a lot of the young people. You see some well designed houses but many could do with some repairs. Baku reminded me a little of Istanbul with the amount of construction going on; similarly when you read about the short cuts being taken with the building, it is not a comfortable feeling walking next to a huge 15 storey monster at the same time thinking ´ this is an earthquake zone, please don´t start shuddering now´!

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