I knew this was going to be a long day with a mixture of several taxis and buses to make it from Sighnaghi to Sheki in Azerbaijan. I wanted to start early, but Georgia is not the country where they wake up when the sun rises. In the end all i could do was go with the flow.
My host lady served a delicious breakfast of fresh cheese and bread. She insisted her husband would bring me to Tsnori from where i should take a bus to Lagodekhi. The husband was still fast asleep tough. I finished three chapters of my book when he finally appeared, but he was in no hurry.
A slow start of the day
After some tea he went to wake up his ancient lada. The car took some time to get started at this old age. It protested, screeched, squeaked and puffed, but finally gave in. The back of the car was stuffed with plastic soda bottles filled with wine and vegetables. Then we were finally ready to go for the ten minute drive down the mountain.
Instead of using expensive petrol he let gravity do its work. As we were rolling down the green hills all I could think of, was whether the brakes were still working. After just two days on the road in Georgia I am somewhat alarmed by the combination of bad road conditions, reckless drivers, old cars, animal compatriots and the love for wine and vodka.
Crossing the border from Georgia to Azerbaijan
I made it safely to Tsnori where I had to wait a while for the marshrutka (minivan) to fill up. The road to the border crossed the Lagodekhi Nature Reserve that is still full with bears and wolves. Not that i saw those on the road, but the green forests rising up on the mountains looked rather wild.
The border procedures were easy, especially when you consider that only 1 year ago getting a visa for Azerbaijan was still a complicated bureacratic procedure. Now I received a warm welcome.
First glimpse of Azerbaijan
The wild forests and green hills extended into Azerbaijan, but the first town I stopped in was very different from Georgia. Azerbaijan is an interesting mix of influences from Turkey, Iran and Russia, altough the influence of Russia is getting less day by day.
It was a few more uneventful but scenic hours before I reached the cute town of Sheki.
Logistics: Sighnaghi to Sheki
If you want to use public transport my advice is to start early, because marshrutka’s tend to be less in the afternoon. It will take you all day, but it is a smooth and scenic journey.
In Sighnaghi there is a 9 AM marshrutka to the town of Tsnori (15 – 20 minutes).
From Tsnori you can take a marshrutka to Lagodekhi (1 hour).
In Lagodekhi you should take a taxi to the border (10 minutes, 3 Lari in June 2017).
Cross the border on foot (quick and smooth procedure).
Take a taxi to Balaken (20 minutes, 4 manat in June 2017).
From Balaken you can take a marshrutka to Zaqatala (45 minutes).
From Zaqatala you can take a marsrutka to Sheki (2 hours).
To know more about everything there is to see and do in Sheki you can read my post on the best of Sheki: Azerbaijan’s silk road.