Friday, July 28, 2017

georgia on my mind

It turned out to be relatively easy to organise a driver from Sheki in Azerbaijan to take us all the way to Tbilisi in Georgia. It made the border crossing very easy.

The drive from the border was through some lovely agricultural and rural areas where I saw what appeared to be quite a lot of tobacco drying in the sun.

A few short hours later and we were checking into our guesthouse in the middle of the old town in Tbilisi, right outside the old sulphur baths in the shadow of the castle up on the mountain side.


About 20kms north of Tbilisi we visited Mtskheta - a 5th Century UNESCO heritage site. A small old town, we stopped to visit Svetitskhoveli Cathedral and Jvari Church on top of a hill overlooking the town from across the river.


Further north we stopped en route to Stepasminda to have a look at Ananuri Church overlooking Zhinvali Reservoir.

Ananuri church:

Just a few kms south of the Russian border and 160kms north of Tbilisi we spent a couple of days at Stepasminda. Set high on a hill outside the town lies Gergeti Trinity Church built in the 14th Century.

Road to Stepasminda:

We opted to skip the 2-4 hour walk up and took a 4W/D instead. The church was fairly ordinary inside and out but the setting was quite spectacular.

Gergeti Trinity Church and Kasbegi mountain:

Small church back down in Stepasminda:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

new old and new new

Well of course our flight to Baku from Moscow was late - further eroding the limited time we had to spend in Baku. (Thank you S7)

But there was a very nice gentleman in a very nice Merc waiting at the airport for us. He whizzed down the wide boulevard like roads from the airport to downtown Baku and deposited us at our hotel in the old town.

We had an afternoon and the next day to get around and see what we wanted to see - which turned out to be quite long enough!

Oil rich, the old city was renovated, restored and re-imagined to within an inch of its life and ended up feeling like a Disney version of an old Central Asian city. But quaite naice to wander around. despite the close to 40 degree heat.

Old and the new:

The Flame Towers - gharishly lit up at night:

The Carpet Museum (yes designed to look like a rolled up carpet!)

Heydar Aliyev Centre designed by Zaha Hadid - a wonderful looking building that initially didn't appeal to me until I saw it in person.:

After leaving Baku we were driven north to near the Georgian border (by the same gentleman and his Merc who collected us from the airport) to a town called Sheki where we were interested in seeing the Sheki Summer and Winter palaces.

Me enjoying cocktails on the Sheki Palace Hotel courtyard (well..a Sprite to be precise.)

Unfortunately the Sheki Summer Palace forbids interior photography so all I have is some interior photos of the Winter Palace.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

missing mockba

We weren't supposed to be in Moscow.

Originally we had a three hour layover with S7 Airlines (Russia's version of Jetstar - and super crap too!) A month before we left for our trip the airline sent us an email to say they had cancelled the flight and we would have to fly 24 hours later. In retrospect it was not surprising as every S7 flight we had was either cancelled or delayed.

The flight from Novosibirsk to Moscow was a hoot - as the plane touched down in Moscow and the brakes went on - all of a sudden the plane accelerated again and took off! We had to circle Moscow and land again. Paul thought perhaps we had a learner driver!!

Choosing NOT to spend 27 hours in Moscow airport we had to try and quickly organise Russian visas. 'Quickly' and 'Russian Visas' are mutually exclusive terms. But we managed.

I was prepared to dislike Moscow very much but much to my chagrin I loved it!

Though misty and wet when we arrived, within a few hours the sun came out and the day just got betterer and betterer.

By the time we left we both wished we had had a few more days there. Oh well -  I will see it again when I return to see St. Petersburg one day.

St. Basil's:

Cathedral Of The Icon Of The Mother Of God The Sign:

Panorama of Moskva River with the Kremlin on the right:

Unknown church domes: