After an early rise, I drive the M8, the main road connecting Nakhchivan with the east of the exclave. The sun is still low on this bright winter day, and casts long shadows from the mountains, rocks and trees lining the road. I head southeast first; from Julfa, the road turns east. I now loosely follow the northern border with Iran just south of here. At one point, I walk up a ridge next to the road to soak in the views of the barren landscape below. It is cold and dry; I only see snow on the higher mountain tops in the distance. Ah, there are many more places where I would love to stop, and I do here and there, but I also have to keep on driving as there is so much I want to see today. I drive straight into Ordubad, a medieval town and the second largest of the exclave of Nakhchivan, and park the car on the city square.
Under a large tree, at the foot of a mosque that is under repair, I see men sitting at small tables, sipping their cups of tea and chatting the morning hours away. This seems to be a strictly male affair: not a single woman is having tea here. I cross the street to reach the Geysariyye monument. Once built as an Oriental market place for gold, this 17th-century building was turned into a museum. Alas, it is closed. I walk around it, having a closer look at the decorations of the tiles, and the colourful windows that must cast beautiful light inside. I am lucky: two women arrive. They walk straight to the main entrance, unlock the door, and let me in. Like everywhere in Nakhchivan, entrance is free. I take my time to have a close look at the wide variety of items on display here. There are ancient objects and jewellery, stones and agricultural equipment, and photos of nearby places I would love to visit but have no idea where to find. The lady of the museum cannot point them out on the map. Then, I see recent pictures of the president, in military outfit; they seem to be promotional pictures about the Karabakh war of 2020. Here, too, the war is used for political purposes. There also is a display of soldiers who died in the same war. I see old USSR posters and artefacts. And indeed, as I imagined: delicately coloured light filtering through the stained glass windows.
Once outside, I decide to go for a walk in the old town. I can see some ruined old buildings a little above the square. As soon as I am in a higher street, I am alone, exploring ruined buildings. I reach what must have been a square, but no one lives here anymore: the square is surrounded by ruined buildings. Trees are testimony that this must have been a lovely park once upon a time. But what happened here? I follow one of the streets leading uphill. Adobe buildings, an arch crossing the narrow street, and houses which appear completely quiet. In the distance, I see snowy mountains towering high above Ordubad. I take different streets to walk down, pass an old hammam, and reach the square with the men who are still sipping tea again. I see a mountain road on my map, leading straight to the border with Armenia, and in a spontaneous decision, decide to drive up and see how far I will get. I pass through Anabad and Ganza, and then climb out of the lovely valley on a dirt track. I now have unobstructed views of a spectacular mountain range. The higher I get, the better the views. Just as I start wondering what will happen if I actually reach the Armenian border, snow appears on the road. Quite soon, I reach a bend which is snowy and muddy, and I realise that this is the point of return. I cautiously drive down to Ordubad enjoying the views once more. When I am back on the main road, the tarmac seems too boring to drive on after the excitement of the dirt track up the mountains.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ordubad (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 Ordubad. Read more about this site.