Published: July 13th 2009July 11th 2009
Closed for restoration!
Our last weekend away in Azerbaijan. A bit sad really! Still, the idea of facing the road to Şamaxı yet again wasn't a pleasant one. This time most of the hassle was at Baku's bus station. The marshrutka
had just 2 empty seats and everyone was ready to go. The driver got in and we thought we were away. Sadly not, he just wanted to move into the shade. We then waited another hour for him to fill the two empty seats! It was very frustrating. Two people got off during that time leaving 4 empty seats. Oh no! We considered giving up ourselves. Then he filled three of the seats. Surely we would be off. No! The driver waited another ten minutes to fill the final seat. Everyone was getting a little annoyed so after that, the condition of the road paled into insignificance as we were finally on our way!
In Şamaxı the driver took us to the place where we could get a taxi up to Pirguli. We wanted lunch first though so we wandered around until we found somewhere for a quick dönər kebab and a chat with the locals! They were very welcoming and keen
And the odd rumble of thunder, but we were ok!
to chat with Trish in reasonable Russian and bizarrely with Russ in broken words of Azerbaijani!! Next came the negotiations with a taxi driver who swiftly came down from 15 to 10 Manat for the 20km drive up to Pirguli.
The scenery on the way up was nice with rolling hills and forests aplenty. The taxi dropped us off at the Fortuna
complex where we "rented" a cabin for the night. At 60 Manat (£45 / $70) it was a bit expensive but it was nice to be away from the city and the peace and quiet was most welcome.
First up was a trip to the observatory, the main reason for visiting Pirguli. As we got to the gates we were told it was closed for refurbishment! Typical!!!! We managed to persuade them to let us in to take some photos. The panorama image is what it's going to look like whilst the first main image is what it looks like now! Wandering around the complex we found some other domes housing telescopes. At the biggest one we found someone willing to let us in. Trish's Russian excelled and we were told all about the enormous telescope
and it's Zeiss lenses. Apparently it weighed 20 tonnes and the cupola above weighed an impressive 85 tonnes. Sadly we wouldn't be able to come back at night because it was only really open to scholars and academics. Never mind, at least we got in!
On the wall of the stairwell was a portrait of famed Azerbaijani (from South Azerbaijan, now part of Iran's territory, so he's sometimes referred to as Iranian) astronomer Nasruddin Tusi
. 300 years before Copernicus, Tusi was saying the world was not flat but was, in fact, spherical!
We then walked a bit further away and found a lovely roadside cafe where we could sit out and enjoy the afternoon sun with a cold beer. The views over the valley were lovely. Now, if only someone could establish some walking trails!!
Anticipating an early and quiet night, we went for dinner at the Fortuna's restaurant. We sat outside as the sun set and admired the scenery. The chicken kebab was nice enough but a little pricey. The atmosphere was verging on romantic! A bottle of wine would have been nice but we made do with Efes beer!!
It was after 1030pm before
the night sky was dark enough to see the stars. A visit to the observatory would have been wonderful but Russ had to make do with trying (and failing!) to photograph the night sky. We had anticipated being kept awake by howling wolves and jackals but after a few whimpers they soon stopped. It was eerily peaceful as we have become accustomed to the sound of Baku's traffic whizzing past our window all night long!
In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast (NOT included - well, what did you expect for 60 Manat?!) before getting ready to leave. The guys at the observatory gates organised a taxi for us but we had to wait 20 minutes or so in the blazing sun. Russ took the opportunity to practice some macro photography when a dastardly looking dragonfly landed nearby! Then we were on our way to Şamaxı, scene of the next blog!
There are more photos below