Wednesday 11th May 2016
Baku to Sheki, Azerbaijan
Up early today for breakfast and left on the bus at 8:30am with all our luggage. We were leaving Baku after a full week here. It has been very enjoyable, the people seem very warm, relaxed and friendly. The first stop today was the lookout that we had previously visited by ourselves and which overlooked the city and bay. The guide told us about the history of Azerbaijan regarding conquests by various enemies and remembrances of wars past. After checking out the sights for the last time, we set off to the north west, stopping first at a very arid area about 60km from Baku climbing quite a steep hill to view some mud volcanoes. They were not very large and were only about 2 metres high but mud continually popped out of the tiny crater and oozed down the side. Quite weird. After that we visited Maraza to see a shrine to Diri Baba built 1402. This man had been very well respected and had given freely to the villagers. The shrine was in the side of a hill and it was a very difficult climb up the steps, which had been damaged by the soviets, to the top. We then drove on and visited the Juma mosque in the town of Shemakha. Nearby we went to the Yeddi Gumbez Tomb in an old cemetery where some of the graves dated back to the 11th century. We ate lunch in a local restaurant en route, then we drove through beautiful country with the North Caucasus Mountains and snow peaks on our right. We finally reached Sheki set in a beautiful place with mulberry trees on every street (they make silk goods there) and hillsides covered in green forests. Sheki is famous for its stained glass windows which are made without using any fastenings. Small pieces of carved wood interconnect into a decorative shape and these pieces of wood hold the glass in place – a piece of wood is placed, then the glass is inserted and then another piece of wood is placed on the top of the glass, and so on, the window is built. They are currently very popular with sheiks. We visited the Shah’s palace there, which had amazing windows in every room, the ceiling was totally painted decoratively (and originally the carpet would have matched the ceiling) and the walls were totally covered with paintings of scenes, animals and flowers. In the garden there were two maple trees that had been planted in 1530 that were very tall and quite stunning It was beautiful and a feast for our eyes. Unfortunately the afternoon was going and so we had to check into our hotel, and then went out to dinner with some of the group, then back to the hotel to bed around 11:45pm.