Azerbaijan,Baku by moto or bike, cheap accommodation, azeri visa
Practical Details Baku Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan - Mountains and Rain, accommodation in Baku
Crossing the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan was like any other border. Lots of administration to keep people in jobs, but very few things that were difficult or worth getting upset over. Curiously they demanded that we completely declare all the cash we were carrying into the country. Boy, I didn't like doing that, but complied because I sure didn't wish to be accused of smuggling money out of the country if I was searched later. But otherwise it was fairly straight-forward.
Once we got beyond the border, then real change became evident. Azerbaijan has probably 1/10th the amount of cars that Georgia has. Want to know how I measured it? I counted the animals. I swear, in Azerbaijan, for the first 100 miles there were more farm animals on the roads than there were cars. Cows, horses, sheep, goats, dogs, you name it, and it was on the road staring at you, or grazing just off the road on the shoulders.
Sure the roads are bad, many of the drivers worse, the rain for the last two days has been wearying, and we've had numerous incidents with adverse road conditions, or sudden gusts of gravity. Some tanks are dented, turn signals broken, and mirrors shattered, but by and large we are enjoying ourselves immensely. Take for instance the caravanserai that we stayed in for the night in mountains, in the town of Sheki. It is a huge 16th century stone structure, which has been converted to a hotel. The rooms were rustic (boy is that a nice way of putting it), but they did have hot water in the showers, even though they were lacking heat in the rooms. However the lack of heat was compensated for by a dozen bottles of red wine at dinner, and a half dozen bottles of vodka as well, in addition to extra blankets on the beds. That worked for me. Needless to say at the end of dinner the party spilled out into the open courtyard. A very nice bottle of 15-year-old single malt appeared, and I contributed a bottle of 17-year-old Georgia Cognac. Everyone laughed and told stories of their individual adventures, a satellite phone came out and calls to home were made. It turned into an amazing evening because the rain stopped, everyone was decompressing from the day's ride, and we were safe and secure in an almost magical place. With the moon and stars occasionally peaking thru the clouds, it was easy to transport yourself back in time to the days of the camel caravans on the Silk Road. I think I'd prefer a 16th century camel hotel (KARVAN SARAY) to a Five Star Hyatt Regency every time.
After spending one of our down days in Baku repairing the wear and tear on the bikes, most of the group was ready to blow off some steam. We were taken to the old part of town for a traditional dinner in Baku's restored caravanserai. The food was never-ending and incredible, and the music was a traditional four person group that helped set the tone of the evening in years long past. After the four-course dinner there was a show by a fakir, who walked on sharp knives, did tricks with flaming torches, and laid on a nail bed while two guys from our group stood on his chest. Ow. But the highlight of the evening was the belly dancer. What can I say? I know I'm going to pay hell for this when I get home, but we have been on the road for a long time, and she was very good. So purely from a historic point of view, it was a lesson in Azerbaijanian history and traditional folk dancing that was well received by the group. And I think she was tipped very well for her performance too. But trust me, I was only there to record the event for my journal. I was not a participant. Still the group seemed to have a lot of fun....
Baku, cheap ACCOMMODATION - 30 manat
HOTELS - A lot of tourists, planning their trip to any country, think about: what is cheaper – to stay at any hotel or to rent daily apartment. Concerning Azerbaijan, I’ve understood, that is cheaper to rent an apartment. Why? I am explaining: Looking through the Internet, I was shocked, the prices in Baku hotels are higher than in Paris.So I decided to find any information on Russian and foreign tourist forums (such as Lonelyplanet, Virtualtourist etc.), thinking that the people, who are the members of such forums, travel a lot and can give me useful advices. An I was right: a lot of links and tips about Baku, Azerbaijan. I have read many appreciations about http://www.bakurealestate.net to which I decided to make a request. I was offered the apartment in the centre of Baku by 30 manat per night. Of course, at first the low price embarrassed me, but I was offered free of charge apartment’s preview and I decided to try. Anyway, if I did not like the apartment, I’d stay at any hotel. But, thanks God, everything was ok and the apartment was quite well...
FOOD - I can advise: gutabs (with meat and green), different kinds of dolma (from grapes leaves and stuffed pepper/tomato/aubergine) and different kinds of kababs ( sturgeon, potato, tomato, aubergine, and from meat: lula-kabab, tika-kabab), buglama (soup with big piece of meat), fried hen-lavangi (hen stuffed with walnut and pomegranate).
Internet Cafés in Baku are not on every corner, but are easy enough to find. Rates ranged from 0.80 to 2 Manat ($1) per hour.
Wifi in Baku: Aroma Café at 18 U. Hajibeyov Street serves an authentic espresso (or machiatto, if you like) and has speedy, reliable wifi to boot. The coffee is not cheap, but the wait staff doesn´t rush you, enabling a pleasant, lingering online working experience