August, 3rd 2014
It’s Sunday, today Rovshan’s home from work, he accompanies us in town, he has to go to the barber shop. The driver of yesterday, Akif, comes to pick up us, usual 4-speed Lada here we go… so to speak… we stop every five minutes, we stop to buy tomatoes, then vodka, then in the Ismailli Bazar (a real mess) for bread, potatoes, and I don’t remember what else.
Finally, we leave the city. Along the road to Lahic, he stops another couple of times in places where, according to him, we have to take pictures.
Then he says he wants to take a tea, we’re almost there and we would like to get to the point, but we have no choice.
Like all restaurants in Azerbaijan tables are scattered within the grove, and usually each table is inside a gazebo.
Akif asks us if we want to eat. We say no, that we just want him to take us to Lahic but he ignores us completely. After a while, indeed, they bring us the usual menu, salad, cheese, and kebab. And tea of course. We eat and drink the wine from Ivanovka. Akif doesn’t like wine, he prefers vodka. And in fact he drinks a bottle himself. And we wait. In the meantime, we are surrounded by other men who work at the restaurant, who bombard us with questions in Russian, the usual questions.
Finally we force our driver to come unstuck from the chair and do the last three kilometers to Lahic. We would have done it quickly by feet. We arrive at Lahic at 7pm. We left around 1pm, should be about forty kilometers. We park in the square just at the beginning of the village. We want to take our bags and say goodbye but can’t do this time either. The trunk will not open (by the will of Akif) and we must follow him. He wants us to take a picture with traditional clothes! I refuse! Everything has a limit.
We cross the main street of the village, which looks very nice, but we don’t have time to look around. He stops at a military barracks and there enters. And we wait out for him. When he finally comes out we are pretty miffed. He tells us that we can sleep in the barracks for I don’t remember how much money. We confirm that we have the tent and, if willing, we would like to take it out from his car’s trunk. And we’ll never sleep in some military barracks!
Finally he surrenders his constant attempt to help and we finally get our things. We walk quickly toward the exit of the village where a road leads to the river below. We cross the wide bed, and wade what remains of the river, a rivulet. We find a beautiful meadow where to sleep, shady and quiet.
We fall asleep shortly after the call to prayer that comes from the three mosques in town.
August 4, 2014, still in Lahic
We leave the tent in the small grove and we move to the village, today is Monday and there seem to be fewer tourists than yesterday. Lahic is a very old village, seems to have at least 2000 years, here people speak a different language, spoken only in this village. The inhabitants of Lahic descended indeed from one of the 26 “Albanians” tribes of the Caucasus and have preserved ancient traditions and their peculiar language due to the remote location of the village. The main street of the village is astounding, made of stones, as well as houses. These then are composed of a layer of stones and then a wooden part, then stone again. It seems to be built this way because of earthquakes. Even new homes are built the same way, a very old anti-seismic system, that seems to work. Along the street, there are many shops selling tea, dried chamomile and other herbs, copper objects (from jewelry to teapots) for which Lahic is famous all over the world and carpets. We stop at a shop where we buy a couple of things, the salesman is a 12 year old boy who is learning the job and also english language, because of the tourists. There are really nice things, various pots for the tea, bells for livestock and many other artifacts.
Then we walk towards the upper part of the town, composed only of houses, there are no shops, just people walking around or on horseback. On the way we find the museum, next to the information desk where we would like to ask if there is a path to reach Xinaliq by feet, it’s only 40 km as the crow flies but we have to go back and take another route from Baku, in short, 400 km. The information desk is closed but a guy comes out of the museum and invites us to visit it, it’s free. Inside there is nothing that pictures of soldiers died in Nagorno Karabac, portraits of other famous people from Lahic, an old frame, old tools in copper. Nothing interesting apart from a huge bellows in wood and leather. The beautiful objects made by local craftsmen were once popular gifts for princes and kings, and today can be found in museums around the world, but here it doesn’t seem to be nothing left.
The guy in the museum then, he had a quite absurd tic. As he spoke every now and then he stopped, stuck out his tongue and made a snaky sound! Incredible! Reptilians are where you least expect them.
We continue our tour to the village, which has preserved a pure and ancient atmosphere despite the tourism. In a carpet shop a woman says in russian how well done the sewers of the city, seems to be at least a thousand years old and still work perfectly.
We go back in the tent and tomorrow we will return to Kurdamashi and then back to Baku.
5-6 August 2014
We hitch-hike just in perfect time to see a landslide just before us. Ten minutes earlier and we could be under it. We wait almost one hour for the excavator to clean the road. We are back to our adoptive family in the evening. They ask us to make a pizza tomorrow. Not an easy task as they lack almost all basic ingredients, except the yeast. But we’ll try.
August 8, 2014 – Back in Baku
We greet the Rovshan’s family and we go back to Baku, where we find out our Uzbek visa is not ready yet. It’s not known when it will be. This evening we went out with Ismail and his friends. They celebratesthe transition from dictatorship to totalitarianism. Today, two lawyers were arrested, who apparently were the only ones to deal with the defense of those unfairly arrested. Heavy air.
They say they’re doing it now because when we will be the first European Olympics (wtf is that?), next year. Someone might take advantage to “advice the world” (which then would forget after a few days), the political situation of Azerbaijan. So, with the preventive arrest, there should be no one to protest. Everyday there are some, but this two were a strongest hit for those fighting for the freedom.