Yesterday was a long, long day. I woke up early in Baku to catch a short flight to Nakhichevan which was of course delayed but once I got there it was worth the hassle of getting out there. Going to Nakhichevan was kind of like visiting another world. The place is in no mans land and there isn’t too much of an infrastructure to speak of. Nakhichevan is a landlocked exclave of Azerbaijan. The 5,500 km² region borders Armenia, Turkey and Iran. Its capital is Nakhchivan City, which is where I visited.
Nakhichevan has a long and brutal history within the old Soviet Union. In January 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan ASSR issued a declaration stating the intention for Nakhchivan to secede from the USSR to protest the Soviet Union’s actions during Black January. It was the first part of the Soviet Union to declare independence, preceding Lithuania’s declaration by only a few weeks.
Today, Nakhchivan retains its autonomy as the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and is internationally recognized as a constituent part of Azerbaijan governed by its own elected parliament. Economic hardships and energy shortages (due to Armenia’s continued blockade of the region in response to the Azeri and Turkish blockade of Armenia) plague the area. There have been many cases of migrant workers seeking jobs in neighboring Turkey, which explains why the Turkish Embassy there is always packed with people seeking employment.
After a short hot visit, I made my way back to Baku without making an attempt at entering Iran. I would’ve liked to but just didn’t have the time and certainly not the energy to head to the border and try to bargain with these people who don’t speak English and may or may not let me through for a very short time anyway.
After catching my connection to Tbilisi, Georgia aboard wonderful Azerbaijan Airlines, I headed to my hotel in Tbilisi. On the way, you can’t help but notice they have a President George W. Bush Avenue which happens to be the main street into and out of Tbilisi. Did I also mention that the street sign also has a big picture of Bush waving on it. Politics aside, thats just a head scratcher and slightly bewildering.
I heard that Bush visited Tbilisi last year and Georgia is trying to gain admission into NATO so I guess they are doing as much butt kissing as possible. I also found out from a bunch of really cool US Marines I met last night that Georgia has the third most soldiers of any country in Iraq after the US and the UK…I found that shocking and again, the smooching sound just permeates through the city.
I ended up going out with those same Marines who had been stationed here for a while and were actually on their last night in Tbilisi. So I just tagged along with them and they took me to all the best spots in Tbilisi. The nightlife here is actually pretty fun and as tired as I was, I had a great time bar hopping around this city. After closing out the last bar they took me to a late night eating spot where we chowed down on the “best” authentic Georgian food in town. No joke, it was really, really good. They have these spicy meat dumplings that are just to die for, I will try to find out the name of them, certainly so I can order them again tonight.
Anyway, I just woke up and I see myself starting to ramble a bit but I am going on a city tour shortly and then a day trip out into the gorgeous Caucas Mountains.