Monday, January 10, 2011

A to the Z to the erbaijan Pt. 2: Arrival in Sheki

Maiden Tower, Baku, Azerbaijan
Congratulating our taxi driver in Sheki

After arriving in Baku, I spent the next day walking down "the Boulevard," a promenade along the Caspian Sea and walking around the old city with our team of teachers. The contrast between the 12th century Maiden Tower and the ambitious, oil-funded modern building projects was absolutely incredible. Later that evening we boarded a night train to the city of Sheki, off in the Caucasus Mountains, where I was going to help facilitate our fall conference/retreat for our teachers. Every time I've been on a train in the former Soviet Union, I've had to deal with drunken louts; this trip was no exception. Because of the jet lag, I wasn't able to sleep at all and stood out in the corridor, looking out the window as we passed through mountains and valleys bathed in moonlight. It was a nice way to spend a sleepless night.

Finally, we arrived in Sheki early in the morning. The train station is about 17 km south of the city, so we had to hire a taxi. There was one taxi driver that met us as soon as we got off the train and was very persistent in trying to get our business. He spoke some Russian, so we arranged a price (about $5). We somehow managed to fit all 5 us and our luggage into his tiny Lada, and away we went. Sort of. We had been driving about 5 minutes when the little Lada shut off and he coasted to the side of the road. One moment, he said. He got outside and checked the engine. Do you need some help, I asked. Thankfully he said no (I'm not exactly the handiest with cars in the best of times, let alone with a Lada after a sleepless night). He then went around to the gas tank and began fiddling with it with a small stick. Are you sure you don't need any help I asked. No, he said, no problem. He assured us it would just be a moment. He got back in and after some more fiddling, and we were off again. Finally, we reached our hotel, which was a very cool old converted carvansaray. We congratulated our driver on being such a good mechanic, posed for a few pictures promoting friendly Azeri-American relations, and promptly went to our rooms for a little nap after the journey.

A billboard for our hotel
The doors/main gate to our hotel