I feel like I should be getting some promotional credit from the Azerbaijani tourist board for some of the blog posts that have been on here recently.
The recent rash of 'I love Azerbaijan' posts have been due to a wonderful confluence of spring weather and amenable children. Joseph has reached the marvelous age where he can endure a Saturday of being out and about and irregular naps without melting down. I always forget about this stage because the maternal amnesia from having the next one must backwash to pre-baby.
But we've been trying to take advantage of it, and the wet weather that has turned the whole country green, by going out and making sure that we made the right decision when we bought a SUV.
So on Saturday I morning when discussions concluded with 'let's get the heck out of town instead of trying to find another concrete park to play in,' I pulled out our very trusty useful guidebook (if any of you are thinking about visiting/moving here go ahead and get your copy) and found somewhere that looked promising and within day-trip driving distance.
So after waffles, teeth brushing, and snack-packing, we headed west into the hills. Spring is wildflower season, and we've been enjoying the changing scenery as we've repeatedly driven the Baku-Shamaki road over the last month. This time we got to enjoy fields of bright red poppies.
The guidebook devoted about a paragraph (maybe two) with a small map to the place we were going to hike to - supposedly the remains of a 'palace.' It looked simple to get there on the map, but after driving past geese, muddy fields, stone watering troughs, and various locals of the small town who gave us the usual 'what in the world are you doing up here crazy white people?!?!' looks that we invariably get when out exploring, Brandon drove out of town and parked. We got out and started hiking.
The great thing about hiking in sheep country is that most of the hills are nibbled down without much underbrush to catch you up, and there are trails pretty much anywhere you want to go. We had a vague idea of where the 'palace' was probably located - in a canyon south of the village - and so just set out cross country to get there. On our way we found a small ravine with a waterfall.
Brandon volunteered to scramble along the sides (and through blackberry brambles, I found out later) and scout out the waterfall. Unfortunately, due to the blackberries, it was impassable for children. He did, however, manage to crawl into the cave behind the waterfall and get a few good pictures.
Having found that the ravine after the waterfall was pretty much impassible to people who had small children and wanted to keep their shoes dry, we pressed on and found the top of the waterfall. Which was, of course, the perfect place for the children to engage in their favorite past time - throwing rocks into any body of water - while Brandon scouted over the hill.
He came back and announced that not only was the next canyon/ravine accessible, but he had also gotten a phone call telling him that his evening engagement to watch Priesthood session with the brothers of the branch was cancelled. So more time for exploring!
After walking up the ravine, we found the 'palace.'
Just in case you missed it in the picture, it's those caves. In the defense of the guidebook, it really did remark that the only thing left was a string of 'smoke-blackened bandit caves.' And it was right. Not only was there just the caves, but there was also a flock of sheep nearby being guarded by a very aggressive-looking sheepdog. You don't mess with those dogs around here, so we took a few pictures and refrained from trying to explore the caves.
Everyone hiked back to the car with a lot less enthusiasm that what they started out with.
And Joseph decided to take advantage of being the baby in the carrier and fell asleep.
As far as Saturdays goes, it was pretty fantastic. We had a great drive, got to see new places, and kept the children entertained enough to avoid (most) complaining. Hooray for Azerbaijan!