After we had settled in for a couple of days in Baku, Ashley bought provisions and we headed out of town for a four-day trip to the mountainous countryside, kids and all. Our first goal was Saki (pronounced "Shecky"), a popular destination for internal tourism.
The weather was beautiful, and the countryside showed signs of early spring, with the fruit trees just starting to bloom and the fields an iridescent green. However, the inmates get restless.
We pulled over by an old apricot tree and ate dried fruit and Azerbaijani Moon Pies.
The most important part of such stops is getting the wiggles out. You could almost read the thoughts of the passing motorists - "Crazy Amerikans!"
Once in Saki, we immediately took advantage of the cultural heritage of the place, such as the ancient McDonald's slide at the hotel (I am not making this up - you could still see the logos),
and the rich heritage of Azerbaijani television.
However, before their little brains turned into qarğıdalı sıyıq (rough translation - "mush") the kids were whisked away into a higher village to see an ancient, and we're talking built on a 2,000+ year-old religious site, Albanian temple.
Those achingly picturesque snow-capped mountains in the background are the Caucasus, on the other side of which is Russia.Later in the day, after another al fresco midday meal, this one topped off with Azerbaijani juice boxes (peach, apple and banana - hold it; banana juice?!) we hiked up to a fort built by the locals in the 1700's to successfully defy the Persians as they swept through. The rough translation of its name is "Come and see!" An even rougher translation is "nah, nah, na-nah nah!"
Kathleen and I arrived at the top first, to find a group of young men talking. They all insisted in having their pictures taken with the intrepid young, blonde, cute Amerikan.
Her sister missed out, arriving too late to meet the guys.
We discovered the amazingly extensive fortifications of the sheer mountainside as we climbed and slid back down.
We won the coin toss, and got the girls for the sleep-over, while the parents were stuck with the boys.
I would have taken more pictures, but I was using both hands to hang on, and my eyes were shut a lot.
Bridge-building takes many a quaint and idyllic turn here in Azerbaijan.
Lahic is older than memory, and when Main Street (only street) was built, the vehicles (horses, feet) were not very wide.
Once we had stopped and they'd pried my fingers loose, the Lahic Guest House proved to be delightful, with chickens and swings,
and shepherds with their horses and cigarettes.
We'd had great luck previously with Ancient Fort-Finding, so trusting in the guide book, we set off to explore another one.
However, this one proved more elusive, and so after an exhausting hour of climbing,
Ashley, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, declared that the rectangle of stones on the one flat place we encountered must represent the pre-medieval fortress for which we were searching.
"Fine," we said, "and so those extra piles of stones at either end must have been the entrances, instead of just the goals of the local soccer pitch." The kids couldn't care less, and had a great time running around the place.
Meanwhile, their grandmother looked achingly picturesque, as the Queen of the Caucasus.
After so much gamboling about, the kids loved their dinner.
we headed back down the road. OK, what would you have guessed this sign meant?
If your Azerbaijani is better than mine, you would have correctly said, "Look out for falling rocks!" and there was a reason. With a loud bang, one hit a rear window.
Luckily, in packing for the trip, Brandon had felt inspired to bring a roll of West Virginia Chrome, aka duct tape, and we were able to secure the crinkling glass for the drive back to Baku.All in all, it was a grand trip, and everyone had a glorious time, including the Princess of the Caucasus.
We hope that they have Moon Pies wherever you are also.
Dave & Paula