When I saw pictures of Nakhchivan in a small exhibition on a square in the capital, I noticed one with a charming mountain lake: Lake Batabat. It turned out to be close to the main road to Armenia, and I decided to drive up there on my last day in the exclave. As soon as I leave the city behind me, the drive is very straightforward: follow the R49 towards the northeast. After the town of Shakhbuz, the scenery changes, and the landcapes become more dramatic. Valleys on my left and right, with snow-capped mountains in the far distance. The road leads me into a valley, that becomes more narrow as well. When it opens up again, I am surrounded by snowy mountains. From here, the road climbs and climbs, and soon enough, I am driving past walls of snow that have been pushed there by convoys of road clearing vehicles.
The sky is an impeccable blue, and driving the bends of the mountain road is pure pleasure. There is no other car to be seen, and I make frequent stops to get out and enjoy the views. A crisp winter air, and the blindingly white mountains contrasting with the sky above are tempting me to stop every few hundred metres. I pass Batabat Lake, which is a spot in the mountains with a smooth and horizontal layer of snow, and Lake Bulagi. I decide to drive the road as far as I can. I am convinced I will not be able to reach the border with Armenia, given the situation between the two countries. Then, only a few kilometres before reaching the limits of Nakhchivan, I see Azeri soldiers on both sides of the road. Moreover, just ahead of me, the road disappears under a thick layer of snow.
Even without the military presence, I would not have been able to continue. I make a turn, and to my surprise, the soldiers just laugh at me and wave me off. On my way down, I take the turn for Lake Batabat. I had envisioned walking around the lake, but I now realise this will not be possible. At the crossroads, I see that the left fork of the road is completely covered in snow, so I take the right. After passing Lake Batabat, an iron fence forces me to park the car. I get off, climb the fence, and walk into what in other seasons must be a holiday park. Huge icicles hang from the roof of a big house, and I walk as far as I can go. For a moment, I consider walking around Lake Batabat, ploughing through the snow, but I soon realise that my shoes are not up for that task: the snow is too deep. I enjoy the views of this winter wonder world. For some reason, I realise that this once was all part of the Soviet Union, and I realise what an enormous empire that was. Even (especially) in Soviet times, this must have been a remote place. I climb the fence again, and drive back to Nakhchivan. I make one more stop at markings on the road, that make it look like a runway for planes. Who knows, this road might be used for planes in case of emergency?
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Batabat Lake (Azerbaijan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Batabat Lake. Read more about this site.