Saturday, August 2, 2008

On the road to Zaqatala

Just a brief entry today – because it has been such a long day. We left early this morning from Sheki, taking a taxi to Zaqatala. It’s a 1 ½ hour trip – but we made it last something like six hours – stopping at old churches and other points of interest along the way. By the end – we were getting a bit jaded but really the trip was gorgeous. Sometimes, our information about the churches was quite limited – and they were not all ancient – but they were all evocative. We stopped for a stroll through the town of Ilisu, a charming little town, down the road from a small but very steep waterfall. Getting to the water required a long trudge up a dusty road and then a scramble over slippery piles of slate, but it was worth it. After lunch, our time was getting short, so we began to stop less frequently. We did stop in the village of Lekit, which holds a couple of church ruins. We found the ruins of the 7th century Albanian church. We’re told it’s of circular design – but this would be hard for someone with untrained eyes to see. The vine-covered ruins are evident, but their design isn’t. Still, it was peaceful to stand in the grove of hazelnut trees, listen to summer insects, and imagine the scene – 1400 years ago. Finally, we did make it to Zaqatala, which itself was worth the trip – and worth a return trip. I plan to come back to conduct a training in this small city in September. Zaqatala has a mountain atmosphere, and it’s сlear that Zaqatala is on the edge of Azerbaijan. The customs seem a little less conservative. For example, we saw young females and males spending time with each other in public, something that is not so common in other regions. I’ve included a shot of a couple, sitting under one of the enormous plane trees in the old part of Zaqatala. These trees are reputed to be 700 years old. They are certainly old and very large. And beautiful. Other photos include one of a Georgian church on the road to Zaqatala, a clip of what the church bell and the insects around there sound like, some of the ancient stones of the Albanian church ruins, the sidewalk market in Ilisu, and a view of the valley from the waterfall above Ilisu.