Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Exploring Azerbaijan: Lahic

This past weekend we headed out of town to see Lahic, a mountain area about three hours outside of Baku. We were told that it can start to be inaccessible in the winter so we took the weekend to make sure we visited... and we will definitely try and go back in the spring! It was a lovely weekend, a nice drive, and so refreshing to be outside in nature and around mountains!!

We left Friday afternoon to try and catch the twins during naptime for the car ride. Didn't work. They did great though and we arrived around 5:30/6:00 pm and got settled into the Lahic guest house before exploring the grounds until dinner.


There was a slide, swing, and some outdoor seating areas along with cherry and apple trees for us to pick fresh fruit. The girls spent a good part of the weekend just playing outdoors with us, which was so relaxing.

Saturday morning we lazily had breakfast at the guesthouse before heading out to hike a waterfall we had heard was close by. It ended up being way farther than we anticipated and we were hiking for about three hours. We ended up carrying the twins most of the way back, but they walked pretty much the entire way there as did Madi. We were really proud of how well they hiked and with very little complaining! They enjoyed picking wild blackberries en route and playing in the river we followed the entire way.

Once we arrived back in town we leisurely walked along the main road visiting the shops and picking out our copper souvenir. We then headed back to our guest house to relax and let the girls run around before dinner.

We slept in again Sunday and after breakfast played until a horse arrived for the girls to ride. They did a short jaunt with us and then we walked around some more and played before packing up and loading the car. We had one last delicious meal before getting on the road back to Baku.

We hit a bit of "local" traffic on the way home and stopped to buy some delicious honey and jam. The guesthouse was amazing, the food delicious, and the weekend a wonderful time of relaxing and checking out since there was minimal cell service and poor wifi. The girls did great hiking and loved being outdoors, which is also our happy place!


Sunday, September 17, 2017

First Azerbaijani Wedding!

We had heard wonderful things about Azerbaijani weddings - loads of fun, lots of dancing, great food, etc. So naturally I was stoked when we got invited to one of Jason's co-workers wedding!

Here's a few differences we noted, but I'm sure there are plenty others!

  • You arrive late. The wedding was at 6:00 pm and things tend to run late here so I asked around and was told to plan to arrive around 6:30 pm. We hit some traffic and ended up not arriving until 7:00 pm which was still fine as the bride and groom entered at 7:15 pm.
  • There's no walking down the aisle or handing over of the bride. The pair walked in together dressed in similar attire to our Western wedding (tux and a gorgeous white dress) and they had the short ceremony there and signed the paperwork. All of this was broadcast on large TV screens in the wedding hall as we were already seated at our table and being served appetizers. I commented to Jason upon sitting down that it felt like we skipped the ceremony and jumped straight into the reception!
  • There was traditional Azeri dancing until around 10:00 pm when it switched to the disco (more Western style music and dancing). Men and women do not really dance together except for during a couple slow songs. There were two distinct circles - one of men and one of women, especially during the traditional Azeri dances. 
  • The traditional Azeri dances consisted of slight hip movement and hand twisting with your arms in the air. Looked way easy and simple so when I was pulled onto the dance floor by a table mate I was like "I got this". Wrong. It was waayyyy harder than it looked and I was terrible! However, they seemed genuinely happy that I was trying and we were all having fun. 
  • There are no registries or gifts. There is a table outside with envelopes and you give money. You are also expected to pay for your seat at the wedding so you give what would cover your attendance and then anything beyond is your gift. This allows the wedding to be paid for and large since they can invite anyone and not be worried about paying for them. 
  • The food definitely was amazing and plentiful! They don't do a big wedding cake like we do, but have a special dish called plov "rice in pastry shell" and they did a neat dance when it was being served.

  • You can have your picture taken during the wedding, but be prepared to buy the print when they come around a couple hours later. We made sure to take the traditional one with the bride and groom, but declined taking any others. 

It was a really fun night and we had a lovely time!!


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Exploring Azerbaijan: Candy Cane Mountains and Altiaghaj National Park

The girls were up for another day of exploring after Besh Barmag so we loaded up the car again and headed in the same direction, but slightly further to the Candy Cane Mountains.

We found a parking lot for an abandoned building, crossed the highway, picked a peak, and started climbing. The girls climbed pretty high and spent their time exploring for conical fossils and some sea shells. The mountains were really unique to see and fun to explore!

We still had some time left and gas in the tank so we headed further along the road to the Altiaghach National Park. It was a pretty drive and we went basically to the end of the road in a small village before turning back around. We found a pull off on the road and got out to stretch our legs and head up a trail we'd seen from the car.

It was cool and nice amongst the trees and the girls had fun playing with dirt, sticks, and finding frogs. Madi even got to hold her first one! I wish we'd had more time to keep exploring up and see how far the trail went, but alas - we will have to save it for another day!


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Exploring Azerbaijan: Beş Barmaq (Five Finger Mountain)

This weekend we decided to explore more of Azerbaijan. We have seen Beş Barmaq (Five Finger Mountain) from the highway a handful of times when we've driven out of town, including to Shahdag and camping the previous weekend. We decided we wanted to visit ourselves and started the hour-ish journey to arrive mid-morning. 

There was a flat area with tables and picnic setups and the start of the stairs up. However most of those stairs were just through the field to arrive at the base of the mountain so we skipped them by driving further up to the mosque to begin closer at the base so the girls could walk it all. 

We had heard mixed things about the condition of the stairs and the girls' ability to walk it so we decided to hope for the best, take our time, and worst case scenario use the ergo and hiking backpacks we'd brought with us. (We didn't want to use them from the beginning because the girls love exploring and walking plus they are heavy.) 

I'm happy to say that they did amazing walking on the stairs and were able to do them all holding the rails or our hands almost the entire time. There were only a handful of places where we picked them up or carried them. The walk took around 45 minutes total, including time to stop and pet the cats, eat a snack, and take some pictures. 

Notes for visitors: If you are in Azerbaijan and go here, then bring coins to give the older ladies on the stairs and gentlemen at the top for the "blessing" [although we opted to skip after we saw everyone drinking from a communal cup of water]. The old ladies will want to bless you as you walk up by rubbing a stone on your back. Also be prepared to be scolded by locals for allowing your toddlers to walk rather than carry them and they will try and "help" by grabbing them and moving them. Madi and Olivia loved that as you can imagine. 😐

We noticed horses with saddles back down by the start of the stairs and decided to inquire about the girls riding before we left. They were thrilled to go on a couple laps around the open space on a "horsie". 

We headed back to Baku thankful for the fun experience and proud of our girls for doing so well hiking and being great listeners on the stairs when we'd ask them to do something. And this is definitely my favorite picture from the trip - I love everything about it! 

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