Wandering #3: From Quba to Qusar, Wave after Wave of Graveyards and Almost a Brawl
Quba Travel Blog› entry 19 of 26 › view all entries
The weather had been uncharacteristically warm for almost an entire week here in the oft neglected north-east corner of Azerbaijan. During this time, so I’ve heard, the snow is usually at least 20 feet high, the sun never shines and everybody is sad. I’m not sure if that is a local legend, the embellishment of this author or the reality most of the time, but it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the weather was perfect, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a foot of mud on the roads and we decided to take advantage of it.
The adventure started in the red roofed Jewish section of Quba. As always, Chris was there to accompany me (or rather, I was there to accompany Chris, since he actually lives in Quba, and not far from the red village either).
Now, the red village is a very interesting place. Huge brick mansions fill the area, sprinkled with even larger Synagogues, community centers (always with a large Star of David on the upper walls), and broken down smaller houses, sometimes with wooden balconies that seem like they might fall at any moment. It creates a very fascinating and engrossing atmosphere.
The great thing is that this Jewish section of town comes complete with three, that’s right, three of its very own graveyards at the top of a hill.
What makes Azerbaijani graveyards particularly creepy is that they engrave the face of the person who passed away on a large black tombstone. Yes, that means the dead are staring straight at you. It is an unsettling effect. Notice in one of the pictures how the Fonz somehow found his way into this particular Jewish cemetery. I would have never had known he was here if his picture wasn’t eerily staring right back at me.
We went from this graveyard, up the road to the next graveyard (which actually continues down the side of a hill, as can be seen from one of the pictures) and then looked across a small canyon to see the third Jewish graveyard.
Digah is a nice place, and it is where I first realized just how touchy people are about photography. We found a prayer tree at the entrance to the city, I took a picture of it (which didn’t turn out), and then was approached by a man who wanted to know why we were taking pictures of his land (which also had some graves in it, oddly enough). We reminded him of the prayer tree (called a pyr, he told us), and how it was interesting, and that we knew the American in his village. He was easy to sweet talk and soon was telling us about how he taught Kathy Azeri and that we were invited to guest at his house whenever we wanted to.
When we met Kathy on the road, she said that she had never heard of the guy.
Between Digah and Qusar we didn’t see any more graveyards, and it was pretty but uneventful, until we got to the next town. I’m not sure the name of this town, but it isn’t far south of Qusar. Feeling emboldened by our ability to sweet talk the last person who questioned my camera, I took a picture of the first interesting looking person I saw in this next town. The picture was of a lady sitting in front of her house, and it was from far away. She didn’t notice me taking the picture, but a relative of hers (possibly her husband, not sure), was driving close to the house and did see me.
This man seemed insane. He was screaming at us at the top of his voice, asking what I was taking a picture of.
“Why?” Chris responded.
“What why!?! *unintelligible something*” screamed the Azeri. “What were you taking a picture of!?!”
“Why?” Chris again responded.
The man screamed something I couldn’t understand again and for the second time demanded that I tell him what I was taking a picture of.
“Nothing,” I responded.
“Give me your camera so I can see!”
“Give me your camera!”
“No,” I said, shaking my head and walking away.
The man spun his tires on the dirt and sped away down a road to the right. Chris didn’t seem fazed at all, but I’m sure my sigh was visible and loud. I’m actually very glad he was there. I’m a small guy and though my camera isn’t the greatest on the planet, I don’t have an extra one sitting around in case some guy trashes me and breaks my equipment.
Sadly the picture didn’t turn out.
We walked the rest of the way through the village. I’m not sure how it is in the rest of the country, but it is common in this area for people to sell apples and fruit to motorists outside of their houses. Anyone can go to the bazaar and buy fruit, but the freshest fruit is bought from these roadside stands in the middle of the farming villages.
Qusar wasn’t far beyond this village and we trotted in at just the right time to take what could have been the last bus back that day back to Quba. The bus left and 20 minutes later, we were back in Quba.