Reflections: Crossing the Caspian Sea

Your trip across the Caspian may provide some of the scariest and most fulfilling moments of your entire journey.

— A veteran journalist we met in Tbilisi, Georgia who had seen it all in the former Soviet Union.

Although we are posting this from Pingyao, China, we dial back a few clicks to the beginning of our journey in Central Asia in an attempt to adequately address the images in our mind and the notes in our journals.

Oddly shaped like a damaged index finger or a distressed plume of smoke, the Caspian Sea pumps out oil and caviar in the midst of the surrounding desert and extreme landscape.

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Lazing in Lahic: Caucasus Hill Towns

Lahic was the last of the Caucasus hill villages we visited and it reaffirmed that hill villages often have the most to offer in terms of scenery and real life experiences. They are generally hard to get to and usually involve boarding a Soviet-era school bus that should have been retired 20 years ago.

Lahic Elder - Lahic, Azerbaijan
Welcoming committee in Lahic, Azerbaijan

Winters in these remote villages are difficult – roads get snowed out and access to the rest of the world and its goods is limited. Locals reflect their accumulated years of difficulty with an outwardly rough exterior, but they usually soften quickly upon engagement. Even a “hello” in the local language will bring smiles, invitations for tea (or vodka), and possible induction into the extended family.

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Visiting Shaki, Azerbaijan: From the Khan’s Place to Local Conversations

While visiting the village of Kish just outside of Shaki, the Azerbaijani long weekend getaway of choice, we struck up a conversation with a newlywed couple – a young dentist and his wife – as they gave us a ride back into town.

Azerbaijan Travel, Khan's Palace in Shaki
Khan's Palace in Shaki

The situation with doctors and dentists is really bad in Azerbaijan. My salary as a dentist is only $30 per month.

“How could you afford a car like this on $30 per month?” Audrey asked, as she sank back into the deep plush seat of his Mercedes sedan.

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