From Baku to Tbilisi

Baku Travel Blog

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I get very nervous in lines, or queues, in Azerbaijan.  Well, to be fair, the concept of a line doesn’t exist there.  It turns into a battle of wills every time I need to get money from the ATM in my town, or to even buy food in one of the nicer stores, as I attempt to force my way to the front even though the lady right next to me is intent on getting in before me.  It makes me nervous and on guard whenever I have to do anything requiring a “line.”

Suffice it to say that when I was getting my train ticket to Tbilisi, I didn’t believe them when they said I had a place in line, right after petite red-headed woman and before dirty blonde haired girl.  I knew that at some point some xanim old woman or yasli old man was going to jump ahead of me in line, and it made me nervous and anxious.

Ten minutes went by, then a half hour.  Soon an entire hour went by and still I was before the blonde girl and after the redhead.  Oh, and believe me, people tried to get into the line, but the people at the train station in Baku weren’t going to have any of that.  Whenever anyone would come into line and claim any spot other than the end you would hear a series of “TSK TSK TSK!” and “VWAI VWAI VWAI” to scare anyone into submission.  All of this worked, except for one lady…

Somehow she got into the line and she was ahead of me!  My heart started racing and I started inching, slowly, to put myself ahead of her.  It was a race, and she knew it as well.  Soon, her hand was on the counter right next to the ticket lady.  Contouring my body in an uncomfortable way, I put my hand in front of hers, even though at this point it was clear that I was losing the battle.

To be fair, other people had their eyes on her as well.  There were more than a couple of hands on that counter.

That didn’t make me feel any better though.  Already an hour and fifteen minutes had gone by and there I was about to lose my place in line.

Would I have the nerve to stand up to the counter when my time came?

Would the lady get there before me, and if she did, would my place in line be “guaranteed” anymore?

The nervousness was killing me.

Then, it was the redhead’s turn.  It took the ticket seller lady about 5 minutes to process her ticket, then, suddenly, it was my turn.  I puffed out my chest and started walking forward, full expecting some sort of resistance.

The lady smiled and let me in.  It was my turn and I was able to walk forward and buy my ticket.  It was actually a very friendly, relaxing experience.  Except for some people laughing at me because I didn’t understand that the lady was trying to tell me that I was going to be on wagon number 3, it all went off without a problem.

Baku is a marvelous place.

Now, the train ticket from Baku to Tbilisi cost 20 AZN ($25).  The price is excellent, but I have heard nothing but bad stories about the night trains in Azerbaijan.  I have heard that they are too hot and impossible to sleep in.  I’ve even heard horror stories about some females being put into cabins with strange men who were inappropriate.

For me, the trip to Tbilisi in good ol’ wagon 3 was great.  My cabin wasn’t full, the air was cool, the stewardesses were extremely polite, and the company was very pleasant.  My cabin mates consisted of a father and a son who were going to Georgia to visit family.  For some reason we got along perfectly right from the beginning and talked for most of the trip.

The best part about the whole ride was that the son would make comments about how he was a “R&B hip hop singer.”  He studied hip hop in some music University in Baku, and he really wanted to prove it.  It makes sense, I mean, how many fresh and upcoming hip hop artists in Baku get to meet an American on a train to Georgia?

Occasionally, when the conversation would lull, he would start singing.  It was always soft at first, and it was always the same song:

“You are not alone, I am here with you…”

I encouraged it.  After ever rendition of that song I would tell him how much like Michael Jackson he really sounded, which made him just want to sing more.

I had that song stuck in my head for the rest of my time in Georgia.

Now, for all of the good things about the train, it went very slowly.  It left at 10 o’clock at night, and then 12 hours later at 10 o’clock in the morning, we hit the Georgian border.  I slept an entire 8 hours that night (being rocked back and forth by the movement of the train is the ONLY way to sleep well), but still, for a country the size of Maine, you would think that a train could cross it a bit quicker?

We were stopped at the first Georgian town for about an hour while Georgian border police checked everyone’s belongings, then we were off again on our way to Tbilisi.  This town is where my cabin mates said they had family, so they departed.  According to them, that first town has a population of around 80-90% Azeri.

We finally rolled into Tbilisi at about 1 in the afternoon after a 15 hour night train.  It wasn’t a bad way to get from Baku to Tbilisi.

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photo by: RJawad