After washing, we went for brunch with Takashi. We’ve arrived in another tea-drinking country. We moved from green tea to black tea as we entered Kazakhstan from China, and to a choice of green or black in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Here in Azerbaijan it’s black tea, elegantly served in a small pear-shaped glass on a glass saucer. There is usually a slice of lemon in the glass, and always a bowl of sugar lumps. I’ve read one is meant to suck the tea through a sugar lump, but haven’t figured out how this is done. Chris misses his green tea, but I love the way tea is served here.
Saturday was a simple day of rest, recovery, errands, doner kebab – and tea, of course. We bought pdf versions of Lonely Planet for Azerbaijan and Georgia (having originally planned to go through Iran, now all but closed to foreigners, we have nothing on the Caucasus), and found an excellent map of the country which includes contours.
On Sunday afternoon, we ventured downtown by metro to see the old city, including Baku’s landmark Maiden’s Tower, about which there are various stories and no one quite knows which is true, and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the ruling dynasty of NE Azerbaijan during the Middle Ages.
On the metro into town , we were adopted by helpful Yousef, a cultured and knowledgeable fellow who led us to the tower and gave us some background on Azerbaijan. I can’t remember the statistic, but there are many more Azeris living in Iran than Azerbaijan itself, and Azeris refer to that area of Iran as “South Azerbaijan.” On the return metro trip, I talked to a man who had family in Toronto, as many Azeris do. When I asked if he’d ever been to Canada, he said no –paspart nyeto—I have no passport. He also said he was from South Azerbaijan.
It took me a while to figure things out, and there was more than language barrier at play. We of the coddled life are not at ease with the concept of being stateless. He showed me his refugee card from United Nations Commission for Refugees (name may not be quite right), and told me he was “political”. He had been living here for four years, waiting for a country to accept him, and he hoped that Canada would. I responded by saying I hoped it would too. Sitting where the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), Persia (Iran), and Russia meet, the Caucasus has been a hotspot for centuries.
In the evening, we cleaned the drive-trains on our bikes, which by now is a familiar routine. Our bike shop is sending a care package of new drive-train parts to a hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia. We hope to find a bike mechanic there, starting at the velodrome, because it’s more than time for a major refit.