The fact that other ideals apply in other countries could not be overlooked on the plane from Dubai to Baku. The botoxed lips of some female passengers were remarkable – the aesthetic ideal is called “Russian Lips” (examples can be found here 😀) … and became less common once we left the airport.

(Due to technical difficulties at MapBox, the map sometimes does not load completely).
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We liked another thing much better: blossoming trees and sprouting leaves as messengers of spring in Baku. We were very taken with the lively city with its creative inhabitants, impressive architecture and the carpet museum, which is well worth seeing.

We were less enchanted by the monotonous roads towards Lankaran in the south of the country. Bubbling mud volcanoes were undoubtedly the highlight of the first days on the road. It became more exciting when we approached the healing baths of Naftalan in the Lesser Caucasus. As a curiosity, one doesn’t bathe in therapeutic thermal water but in heavy crude oil. Unfortunately, the spectacle is restricted to guests with a spa stay of at least 7 days. Nevertheless, we dared to try and asked in a (much too) chic hotel if a bath was exceptionally possible without an overnight stay? To our delight, the young receptionists agreed. However, they imposed the condition that we must relax in the lobby for two hours after the bath😊. Equipped with brown, fluffy towels we were allowed to take a 10-minute bath. For those wondering what a bath in heavy crude oil feels like: like liquid chocolate but not as aromatic! After the bath, the sticky oil is scraped off and the brown residue is showered away with lots and lots of soap.

Freshly washed, we tackled the ride to Göygöl National Park and the mountain lake of the same name. Due to rainy weather, the view on the lake was not spectacular. But our new rain ponchos could prove their usefulness.

Soon the sun appeared again and we enjoyed the wonderful route via Ganja to Sheki at the foot of the Greater Caucasus very much. The view of the snow-covered mountain peaks was phenomenal… until the next return of winter😉. The first snow of our trip we sat out in a guesthouse in Sheki. We took the opportunity to visit the Shaki Kahn summer palace and to be shown the fascinating craft of Shebeke window making.

Warm weather failed to return after this turn of events. Freezing, we provided ourselves with fresh Qutab, an omelet filled with herbs, at the roadside. When we looked for a dry place to camp in the evening, we were invited directly into a warm room. Together with our hosts, we were allowed to break fastening over tea and delicious pilaf after sunset. This was the only place in Azerbaijan where we even noticed that it is currently Ramadan.

The next morning, we woke up with sunshine and pedaled warmly clothed along the snow-covered mountain slopes. We were able to make the detour to the mountain village of Lahic into a round trip with the beautiful crossing of a 2000m high mountain pass.

In Azerbaijan we met very many friendly and open people! Again and again, we heard “Atkuda wy?”, which means “from where are you?” in Russian – we figured this out after two week😉. Because we speak neither Russian nor Azeri, we could only answer the many curious questions outside the capital in a very rudimentary way. But when you are taken care of by babushkas (=grandmothers), there is no need for big words😊…

Despite all the kindness and hospitality, we always had to be on guard of people’s business ethics. It is advisable to agree on the (non-labeled) price before ordering, even if it is only a few manat. Otherwise, you will pay twice as much or the chocolate you didn’t order with your tea will be overcharged. We always had to carefully check return money, because arithmetic weakness is widespread😉. It is a pity that this impression will remain in memory to us too…

We conclude our interesting trip through Azerbaijan with another visit to Baku. Here we enjoy the wonderful city for a few days before we continue to the ferry port of Alat.