Fresh air in Seki

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June 14th 2009
Published: June 18th 2009
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Another long weekend in Azerbaijan. This time it was for "Salvation Day" which is apparently the date that Heydar Aliyev was invited to return to Azerbaijan and lead the country out of it's post-Soviet dark days.

Who were we to complain, so we took an overnight train to Seki (actually Şeki, pronounced Sheki) hoping to leave behind the now stuffy summer air of Baku. Instead the heat came with us and Şeki basked in a weekend heatwave. At least the fierce winds stayed on the Caspian coast!

The train journey wasn't too bad but Şeki's train station is 17km from the city so we had to take a taxi into town. Trish had negotiated a hotel room for us in wonderful Russian and we soon found ourselves in the Panorama Inn (☎ +994 50 622 9027). They have a fabulous view over Şeki and the rooms are beautifully decorated. Even the 30 second trot across the garden to the bathrooms wasn't a problem! Also staying there was one of our colleagues from work with a large group of his friends. It made for a very international breakfast with most of Europe represented!

We left the group behind and went off to explore Şeki. Close to the hotel was the Qarabak war memorial. It's quite an eerie collection of sculptures and the presence of several grazing cows made it a little surreal. With the martyrs graves nearby it was quite a moving place.

As we were walking through town we saw the chess club complete with marvellous pictures on the walls. Nearby were the row of shops producing and selling Şeki Halva, a sticky, gooey cake which is sickly sweet and just a little too much for us. We did buy some just to try but we couldn’t finish the tiny piece we purchased! We also called in on a local craftsman who was busy tapping away creating some masterpieces on metal sheets. There was nothing we particularly fancied to buy but he was happy enough to be photographed. The curious hat shop was pretty cool too.

There are many reasons people come to Şeki. We wanted to see the old Caravanseri which has been converted into a hotel. On Sunday night we actually stayed there and it was certainly worth it for the experience, although the bedrooms have a monk’s cell feel to them!!

A little further up the road is the old Han Saray, the former Sultan’s palace. It was nice to wander around the grounds and sip tea in the garden. Inside the palace there are a lot of stained glass windows and beautiful artwork on the walls. The rose garden is lovely too, and roses play a big part in life here as they are everywhere.

It was really nice being able to sit outside a restaurant and eat dinner or drink a beer into the evening. Şeki is famous for a dish called piti which is essentially a lamb stew with chickpeas. The real curiosity of the dish is a huge lump of fat floating in the middle! This fat comes from the tail of the sheep and is fried before being put into the soup. It tasted, well, fatty, and a mere morsel was enough to know we were never going to eat it!! The piti was nice though, just leave the fat behind!!!

On Sunday morning we checked into the Caravanseri then headed off to the nearby village of Kiş (Kish). There’s another blog about this trip to come! On our return to Şeki we had a long siesta before meeting up with Carly, a US Peace Corps volunteer, one of her colleagues and a couple of travellers. It made for a nice evening which was then completed with a beer or two in the tea garden.

On Monday we had a stroll down to the market. It was quite hustle and bustle but after South America it was nothing special! So we rested up with a tea in a tea garden (that’s life in Azerbaijan!!) before going off to the Gagarin Café for lunch. Unfortunately this was the one place in Şeki where we got ripped off which is a shame as we were there after a recommendation by one of Trish’s students. They charged us 12AZN (US$15) for a chicken which seemed to have been stripped of its meat before cooking!

A taxi brought us back to Baku. It took about 5 hours and wasn’t too bad. It was certainly easier than a bus or the train, and the shared cost was 60AZN (US$70). It’s just a shame his Mercedes had broken down so we had to travel in a Lada!! Seriously, this had been pre-arranged and we were expecting a Merc for extra comfort!

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Seki HalvaSeki Halva
Seki Halva

Sickly sweet!
Seki PitiSeki Piti
Seki Piti

Fatty sheep's tail in the middle!
Sheep FatSheep Fat
Sheep Fat


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