Novuz and Trying to Figure Out What to Do

Naxcivan Travel Blog

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There is a weeklong break here called Novuz.  The problem that I was facing was the holiday starts on Tuesday and ends on Tuesday.  I thought it was a perfect time for me to go to Thailand.  After talking about my vacation plans with the Dean and Assistant Dean, they agreed to give me the Monday and the Friday off before the holiday.  
I called my travel agent in Baku and she had a good deal on tickets from Baku to Bangkok.  Granted, I would have to fly into and back to Baku and those trips can be expensive for non-Azerbaijanis.  It cost me $200 US for a round trip ticket to Baku, while Azerbaijani nationals spend only about $40US for the same trip.  While some people (like the Peace Corps) may cry foul about such injustices, the truth of the matter is that Azal Airlines is government subsidized, therefore the nationals get the discount.  Even though I have deemed as an “honorary Nakhchivanian” by the Rector, that unfortunately has not translated into honorary local price for trips to Baku.
While I had made plans to take the first set of tickets offered to me, unfortunately a leg on the trip was cancelled.  I had the choice of taking business class, which would have cost $700 more, or fly through Moscow, which would have been $300, more.  While I love Thailand, that would have been one extremely expensive trip.  I thought about things for a long time.  I guess I could spend a lot and go to Thailand, or I could travel around Azerbaijan – namely fly into Ganja, spend a few days there and then travel by train into Baku, or the third option was to travel into Turkey.

I discussed the matter with my friend Zoe.  She suggested I get three pieces of paper, write down each of my destinations down and put them in a bag.  I pull one out and whatever the destination said is where I would go.  So I followed her advise.  I pulled out Istanbul.

Getting from Nakhchivan to Istanbul is not as easy as it might sound.  I could fly from Nakh-town to Baku and then fly to Istanbul, but doing it this method would cost close to $1000.  That seemed silly to me as flying to Bangkok would have cost $1200.  I could take a bus from Nakhchivan to Istanbul.  While very affordable (only $50) it also means being on a bus for 30 hours.  The other approach is to take a bus across the border, get on another bus to Kars (a city in eastern Turkey) and then get on a plane from Kars to Istanbul.  I decided upon the later as several of my Turkish students insisted that this was the best route to take.

I bought my plane ticket from Kars to Istanbul on-line.  It was about $200, which is not bad, but I could have gotten for much less if I had planned ahead of time.  I remember to do that the next time that I travel to Turkey.  I also booked a very nice hotel (at least it looked nice on the internet) in Istanbul.  It will be the first time that I will ever stay a 4 star hotel.  I decided to spend a little more money as I am saving a lot more money.

But this is the thing about this excursion; I do not know anyone in Turkey aside from a few of the students at NSU and Emine, my friend at the Turkish Consulate.  I have tried to contact her but she is currently visiting her family in Ankara.  I have no one waiting for me in Istanbul or Kars.  I do not know Azerbaijani that well and know nothing in Turkish.  I have been told that there are very few people in eastern Turkey who speak English that well.   

But I am actually a little excited about this trip as I am going to have to survive using my own wits and a lot of hand gestures.  I think that sometimes I am practically dancing to make myself known.

I broke down and bought a small duffle bag.  Nothing screams tourist as much as a nice suitcase and while I did buy two very nice pieces of luggage during my last trip back to the States in February, I did not want to lug one piece of luggage around when traveling by bus most of the way.  Also, if push comes to shove it is easier to tote a duffle than drag a piece of luggage.  I am also bringing my backpack that houses my camera and my computer.  While my backpack can easily hold both my digital and film cameras, I will only bring my digital with me.  
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1,436 km (892 miles) traveled
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photo by: mickeyd302