|Main street, Lakic, Azerbaijan|
|Where wishes come true...|
The village was very much a one-horse town, centered on a picturesque cobbled main street so narrow and winding you had to back into a shop or around a corner sometimes to get out of the way of passing cars. The accommodations were very impressive for such an out-of-the-way place, and the scenery was nice, but the highlight quickly became the people. Suddenly it felt like Pakistan in that many folks were charmingly bashful at first yet eager to converse once addressed, and only too happy to have their photos taken, gazing gleefully at the result as if they'd never seen their own image before. English was very scarce, but people made heroic efforts to cross the language barrier--often expressing shock that foreigners such as us didn't speak Russian, the only second language older people have any knowledge of.
|Children in front of Lekic mosque|
|Man on "Main Street," Lekic|
|Man at roadside market|
We backtracked a bit to pick up the first bus and continue to Seki (pronounced Sheki), a surprisingly large city that sprawls for miles and miles up the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, famous for its caravanserais and halvah, among other things. In the 'stans "caravanserai" usually means the ruins of what looks something like a Turkish bath, but here it's a well-preserved palace with some fairly ornate brick- and plasterwork on the outside and an absolute orgy of rococo murals on the inside. The basic themes are common to any Islamic building: plants, flowers, pomegranates, fountains, but never have I seen them realized in anywhere near so much color and precision--it's almost as if someone tore out the illuminations from a Moghul book and plastered them all over the walls. Unfortunately, photos are strictly forbidden--one lady in our group got a severe upbraiding from a guard, and the temporary confiscation of her camera, for trying to sneak one shot.
To me "halvah" is an oddly grainy, mildly sweet paste vaguely reminiscent of peanuts, even though I don't think it actually contains any. Here it's much closer to baklava. We visited a cottage-factory where a man roasted hazelnuts over an open fire and then pan-fried them with coarse sugar--to make a different confection from halvah proper, it turns out.
Tomorrow it's on to the border and back into Georgia.
|Boy cutting halvah|