Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia

Hello friends! This is the last post of the journey, which ended after three and a half months with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. This is the map of the places visited:

As I said previously, I had a 1250 euro voucher for flights to waste, so I had a lot of them.


From Uzbekistan I came to Baku , the capital of Azerbaijan, where my friend Riccardo joined me.
In this photo we can see the various phases of Baku’s history. In the foreground you can see part of the palace where the rulers of the Shirvanshahs dynasty resided since the 15th century. In the middle buildings from the Soviet period and the usual radio tower. Behind, the modern Baku, with spectacular skyscrapers.
The history of Baku is closely linked to the oil fields around it, exploited since the end of the nineteenth century, which have brought great wealth but also wars to conquer them. Besides oil, Azerbaijan is also rich in gas.


Baku by night. The three skyscrapers are called “Flame Towers”, and at night their external LED display the movement of a red and yellow fire, plus other animations.
Like almost all the capitals visited since I arrived in Central Asia (such as Dushanbe, Tashkent and later Yerevan) it is a very modern and clean city, where it is very pleasant to walk among the parks and the new buildings.


Around Baku there are mud volcanoes.


Inside the Bibi-Heybat Mosque, rebuilt in 1990 on the site of a previous mosque destroyed by the Soviets.


A petroglyph in the Gobustan National Park, where about 6,000 drawings were found in the rocks, some of which date back to around 30,000 years ago.


From Baku we went to Sheki. This is a room of the the 18th century winter palace “Shaki Khans”.


Elders playing Dominoes.


Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
In the foreground you can see part of the old city. At the top right, the majestic and recent Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. A modern bridge comes close to two strange large tubes that have never been used for anything.
The most beautiful part is the old city, with narrow streets full of bars and taverns. The culture of wine is very strong in Georgia (also for religious reasons) and the vine plant is among the national symbols.
The photo was taken from the fortress overlooking the city.


A guy does acrobatics on the fortress.


A woman confesses to an Orthodox priest. Religious sentiment is very strong among Georgians.


Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia.


Riccardo, with the cathedral of Mtskheta in the background.


In Gori, the city where Stalin was born. He lived with his poor parents in the rented apartment on the left. Behind the house there is an interesting and controversial museum dedicated to him, left as it was in Soviet times. There is also the wagon he used for his train journeys.
After the recent war against the Russians of 2008, which lasted luckily only 9 days and in which Gori was bombed and occupied because near the border with the disputed South Ossetia, it was decided to permanently remove the museum but later also this decision was revoked.
Probably the inhabitants of Gori themselves have an ambivalent feeling in front of that fellow citizen that became one of the most important figures in contemporary world history.




The archaeological site of Uplistsikhe, an ancient city carved into the rock, founded around 3000 years ago and inhabited until the 13th century.


The mountains around the village of Gergeti.


Mountain path.


Children playing in one of the many fountains of Yerevan, the beautiful capital of Armenia.


Since the early Middle Ages, Armenia has a tradition of “khachkar”, stones carved with religious motifs. Still today there are craftsmen producing them.


In Armenia we rented a car.


The Sevan lake.


The Mount Ararat, over 5,000 meters high and where, according to biblical legend, Noah’s ark landed. Although located in Turkey, its two peaks are a permanent view in Armenia when looking towards the southwest.


The monastery of Khor Virap, with Mount Ararat in the background. Next to where the monastery now stands, under a deep ditch, there is the cell where Gregory the Illuminator, the main architect of the Christian conversion of Armenia, was imprisoned for 13 years.
The conversion happened already in 301, so Armenia was the first nation to have adopted Christianity as the state religion. His Church is unique, having been aligned neither with Catholics nor with the Orthodox over the centuries.
The religious belief is very strong among the Armenians and was the main reason for the genocide suffered by the Turks during the First World War, which caused about one and a half million Armenian deaths. Genocide that Turkey continues to deny shamelessly, despite there are innumerable evidences and proofs.


The medieval monastery Geghard, whose first foundation, destroyed in the 9th century by the Arabs, dates back to the 4th century.


The 13th century monastery Noravank.
The monastery is located above a long and spectacular canyon. At the beginning of the canyon, in the village Areni, there is an archaeological site inside a cave where, among various finds, were found tools for wine production dating back to 6000 years ago! What other good thing has humanity created since then? Nothing.


A Counter-Dekaro made by Riccardo.


Now I’im in Maleventum, the place where I was born. The day after tomorrow I will return to Malta to work. But there is nothing wrong with this, you can’t be always on the road and in life everyone needs to work. It is right like that. That said, when in a few days you will hear about Kamikazdekaro blowing himself up in his office, remember that I have always loved you. Obviously I will try to maximize the damage. It won’t be a vain sacrifice.


Hello friends! This time I will tell you about Uzbekistan, the country in Central Asia where there are some of the most beautiful cities of the Silk Road: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.

From Tajikistan I arrived in Uzbekistan in the mythical Samarkand, a magic name that perhaps most of all recalls the Silk Road. Dead and risen many times, already in 329 bC enchanted Alexander the Great who praised its incredible beauty. Destroyed almost completely by Genghis Khan in 1120, it rises again in full splendor a century and a half later under Timur as the capital of his empire. The last “resurrection” takes place under the Soviet Union with the restoration in great style (and perhaps a little arbitrary) of mosques and madrasas.

This is the center of Samarkand, called Registan. On the sides there are three medressas (Islamic schools). The one on the left is from the fifteenth century, the other two from the seventeenth century.


The splendid tile decorations of the central medressa, Tilla Kari.


Interior of the Sher-Dor madrasa. Most of the former student rooms, here as in the other medressas, are now souvenir shops.


One of the new tourist streets with the Bibi-Khanym mosque in the background.
A legend tells that it was built by a wife of Timur as a surprise for her husband during a military campaign. But the architect fell in love with her and asked for a kiss in return. When Timur came back was delighted with the gift but noticed the kiss mark on the architect’s cheek and understood. He then executed him and imposed the veil on the women of his empire to avoid to tempt men anymore.

There are many ancient tales, especially Persian, which recall Samarkand. At the end of my previous post I mentioned one. It is about the first adviser of the caliph (there are various versions, in some is a soldier with his own general, in others a servant with his own merchant and in others the city is not Samarkand but Samarra, in Iraq) who returns from the market terrified saying that there was there Lady Death, dressed in a black cloak, who came for him. He then asks the caliph for the fastest horse to escape from her with the intention of arriving in the evening up to Samarkand. After the first adviser run away the caliph goes personally to the market and once there finds the lady with the black cloak. He confronts her saying how she dared to scare his first advisor. And Lady Death answers “I didn’t want to scare him. I looked at him with curiosity because I didn’t understand how he could be here since we have an appointment this evening in Samarkand”.

In my case, instead, as you can see I managed at lest for now to escape Her, and even in this Dekaro proved to be a bit special.


Ladies at the market.


From Samarkand I came to another beautiful and ancient city: Bukhara (or Buxoro). In the IX and X centuries it became one of the greatest cultural centers of the known world, a “pillar of Islam” that rivaled Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba. At its peak it counted as many as 113 medressas, in which some of the greatest philosophers, poets, intellectuals and doctors of the Islamic world were formed.


Chess players.


The Ark, a fortified town within the city. Built in the 5th century, it became the residence of the emirs until 1920 when it was bombed and conquered by the Red Army.


Inside the ark the rooms have been converted in museums. This is a manuscript of the Koran of the nineteenth century.


The Kalon minaret by night. It was built in 1127 and was probably the tallest building in Central Asia at that time. Even Genghis Khan that we saw was certainly not a great lover of the artistic heritage (at least until the next usual historical review that maybe will turn everything upside down and will show us a refined and art-loving Genghis Khan) was so impressed that ordered to spare it while his troops destroyed the rest of the city.


The third of the ancient and extraordinary cities on the Silk Road is Khiva (or Xiva). The fortified city inside the walls, called Ichon-Qala, is perfectly preserved.
Khiva was also famous for having an infamous large slave market until the end of the nineteenth century. The slaves were captured mainly among the nomadic tribes of the steppes around and among Russian soldiers.


The Kalta Minor minaret, one of the symbols of the city. The reason it looks a bit chubby is due to the fact that it was designed to be much taller, perhaps the tallest in the world. Begun in 1852, the works were interrupted a few years later following the death of the khan.




The extraordinary ceiling of the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mahmud, an unbeatable wrestler of the fourteenth century who was also a poet and philosopher and is considered the patron saint of the city. This is one of his poems:
It’s easy for me to smash 300 mountains “Kuhi Kof”
It’s easy for me to paint the sky with blood from my heart
It’s easy for me to be in prison 100 years
But it’s difficult for me to spend a moment with the stupid man!

In my case, however, all four are difficult.


The minaret of the Juma mosque.


The northern area of the city. On the left is the Islom Hoja madrasa and its minaret. Built in 1910, they are among the most recent monuments. The dome that on the right is the mausoleum of Pahlavon Mahmud, with around many khan tombs in the shape of a small dome.
The photo was taken from above the minaret of the previous photo.


The Mohammed Rakhim Khan medressa.


One of the fortresses of Elliq-Qala, a chain of fortified cities in the desert, some over 2000 years old. In this case, as you can see, the base has been rebuilt.
Elliq-Qala means “fifty fortresses”. At the moment there are about twenty of them, so it is possible that there are others still hidden in the desert sand.
These ruins are located in Karakalpakstan which is an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan.


Wizard in the fortress.


Another fortress, in this case the ruins of Toprak Qala, the main complex of ancient Khorezm during the 3rd and 4th centuries. It was abandoned in the sixth century.

The white on the desert behind the ruins is salt. The wind carries it from the bed of the Aral Sea, a salt lake which is located a few hundred kilometers to the north and was the fourth largest lake in the world. An absurd decision of the Soviet Union to divert the rivers that flowed into its waters to irrigate the desert has led to almost total drainage in a few decades, causing an environmental and also economic catastrophe. Cities by the sea that lived on fishing are now in the middle of the desert and have been almost all abandoned.


And finally Tashkent, the capital. Even Tashkent is an ancient city on the Silk Road, but the little that survived previous destructions was definitively destroyed by an earthquake in 1966.
It is however a very pleasant city. There are many parks, wide and clean streets with beautiful modern buildings and those that were once futuristic Soviet buildings like this, the famous Hotel Uzbekistan.


Some of the old buildings are decorated.


Books for sale in a park.


One of the many examples of a poor Soviet building stormed by capitalism.


Many metro stations are richly decorated with thematic motifs. This is the Kosmonavtlar station, dedicated to cosmonauts and astronomers.


And together you with the cosmonaut I also greet you. See you in about three weeks for the last part of this journey.