Civilisation - well a shower at least!
Sheki Travel Blog› entry 439 of 658 › view all entries
People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
Sheki (called Nukha until the 1960's) and the neighbouring village of Kish boast rich intertwining history's, with Sheki growing at the expense of Kish, which was wiped out by not one but two floods in the 18th Century. Kish has been inhabited since at least the Bronze Age and there are human remains at the Albanian Church to attest to this fact. The khanate that was begun in this village in the 1740's was however moved to Sheki by 1772, although only lasted until 1805 when the town was ceded to the advancing Russians. What remains today is a thoroughly charming colourful town of 63,000 people, which boasts charismatic crumbling buildings and some which have been lovingly restored.
Stood in the bus station we struggled with the dilemma of which hotel we should head to. A converted caravanserai sounded incredibly romantic, but was twice the price of a functional hotel on the other side of town. The main priority was to make sure that wherever we stayed we had a hot shower, so we decided to phone Pensionat Sahil to find out some information on its rooms. The owner came across as a friendly guy and confirmed that 16 Manat ($20) was for an en-suite twin room with hot shower and tv, so we opted to stay there. With the money that we saved we planned to go to the caravanserai's restaurant for tea the following day.
Having checked into our room we walked along the quaint streets into the town centre, looking for somewhere to burn my photos to DVD.
Returning to the photo shop we collected the DVD's and then found an internet cafe on the square to upload some photos to Travbuddy. By the time we stood up from our workstations it was pitch black outside and freezing cold. We scurried across the square and back into the warmth and comfort of the restaurant to have our evening meal. This time I had the Borsch and Julia had the chicken soup, and for a main course we ordered some Manti. Manti are supposed to be large dumplings, but these were more like small dumplings and at 4 Manat ($5) for 10, it was rather overpriced. Nevertheless the Export beer was only 1 Manat ($1.25), so we ordered a couple of those to accompany our meal and settled in for the night.
I was surprised to see it had been raining when we left the restaurant, but thankfully it held off whilst we made our way home.
On Thursday morning we checked out of the hotel and caught a rickety old bus to nearby Kish. Heavy fog was obscuring the mountainous scenery that encompasses the village and just as I said “There's no way this will clear up today” the sun literally burst through the mist. I really must use this reverse psychology on the weather more often! By the time we arrived into the old hamlet there were patches of blue sky and the setting seemed instantly more appealing.
Whilst Sheki has steadily grown over the last few centuries, Kish has stood stagnant and most of its 2300 residents appear to be elderly citizens. This is a far cry from times gone by, when the village had been an important centre for Albanian Christians, who occupied most of Northern Azerbaijan. This religion gradually died out and was finally enveloped by the Armenian Church in the 19th Century, but there are several churches still standing in the region to attest to the former glories of the religion. Whilst most now lay in ruins, Kish's church was rebuilt with the aid of Norwegian funding, after famous ethnologist Thor Heyerdahl claimed that the Norwegian race originated from Azerbaijan.
A pleasant 10 minute walk took us from the bus stop up through cobbled streets that were sporadically dotted with red tiled houses to the church.
Returning to Sheki we made a beeline for Shelebi Xan Restaurant to warm up on a couple of bowls of chicken soup. I was struggling to work out why the soup was so cheap, as the other dishes were all 13 Manat ($16.
Entering through the fortress walls we heard several women screaming “Museum, museum” at us, but this really isn't a good sales pitch from my perspective. Now if they were shouting “Piva, Piva” - “Beer, Beer” then that's another matter, but coaxing me into a building with promises of old fragments of clay just doesn't wash with me. Instead we took the opportunity to walk around the wall and view the delightful Russian church and a couple of other character filled edifices.
Xan Sarayi is the former Khan's Palace, built in 1762 and located in the north east of the fortress. Whilst I didn't expect too much from it, the admission price was a reasonable 80q ($1), so we decided to go in and take a look. The building was set in a nice garden with two towering trees dominating the entrance, whilst the facade was intricately decorated and contained two silver stalactite vaultings, similar to what you often see at Iranian mosques. Even from the outside I was already wavering on whether I should pay the 2 Manat ($2.50) camera fee, but decided that it was sensible to take a look inside first before committing to anything.
Having donned some fetching old slippers we were granted entry into the interior rooms and I was immediately blown away by their beauty.
The two stories of the building contained some really dazzling rooms, painted with battle scenes from the days of Haci Chlebi, a lions tail devouring its master, hunting scenes, pomegranate trees and a whole host of different murals. There was a guided tour in Russian which Julia did her best to translate, but it's always difficult to hear two voices at once and try to absorb what is being said, whilst admiring what you are looking at AND trying to take pictures!
From Xan Sarayi we continued around the fortress walls and then went to one of the towns restored Caravanserais.
It felt disappointing to leave behind such a wonderful little place, but we had seen the main attractions and didn't have too many spare days before needing to be in Turkey. Therefore we collected our bags and caught a taxi down to the bus station. We knew the price of the taxi should be 1 Manat ($1.25), but confirmed this when we got into the cab. When we arrived the driver tried to scam us and said in was 1 Shirvan, which is actually worth 2 Manat.