My original plan had been to work my way up Azerbaijan and then cross into Georgia. But after Quba, Xinaliq, Ismaili, and Lahic, I feel that I’ve had my fill of quaint Azerbaijani hinterland life, and decide to return to Baku for a few days before taking the train straight to Tbilisi.
I am greeted on my afternoon return to Baku by a mild rainstorm and freezing winds. I will not see Baku in decent weather again.
I return to the same hostel, and finally break my near week-long no-shower streak. I realize that the only place I will have showered in all of Azerbaijan is in this Baku hostel.
Weather aside, I have an enjoyable two days walking the streets of Baku once more. I feel like I should be captivated by the city, but I just can’t quite get there. It reminds me of an episode of How I Met Your Mother, when Barney talks about how every year everyone thinks New Year’s is going to be a great party, but it’s always a let-down.
My final morning there, I go to an ancient hamam in Icharishahar, around the corner from my hostel. It is a bit pricey, 20 manat for sauna and massage plus 2 manat for tea, but it’s a good experience and the guys working there are friendly. It reminds me a lot of the Bukhara hamam in Uzbekistan.
That night I take the Midnight Train to Georgia. (I have been waiting years to be able to properly use that song reference). As the train zips onward to Tbilisi, I reflect on my Azerbaijan venture.
The question is, was it worth it? I am reminded of a scene near the end of the film Spartacus, when the slave rebellion has been crushed, and Spartacus and Antoninus are sitting in chains discussing it.
Antoninus: Could we have won, Spartacus? Could we ever have won?
Spartacus: Just by fighting them, we won something. When even one man says, “No I won’t,” Rome begins to fear. And we were tens of thousands who said no. That was the wonder of it.
Antoninus: And now they’re dead.
Yeah, I guess actually that conversation bears very little relevance to my experience. Basically what I’m trying to say is, no, it wasn’t worth it. My time both getting to and traveling within Azerbaijan mostly sucked, due to poor planning, lack of direction, and bad luck.
But that’s ok. Travel is full of ups and downs.
I’ll keep telling myself that.