Monthly Archives: July 2015

Azerbaijan & Armenia

Azerbaijan with a Muslim majority and Armenia with a Christian mayority are two very different but amazing countries.

Unfortunately the landlocked mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh is the subject of an unresolved dispute between Azerbaijan, in which it lies, and its ethnic Armenian majority, backed by neighbouring Armenia. Despite the ongoing conflict both countries want to pursue economic development and recover from the devastating effects of the war.

We had to enter Azerbaijan before Armenia, otherwise we would have been denied entry upon them recognising the Armenia Visa Stamps in our passports. Needless to say that if we ever want to go back to Azerbaijan, we’ll need to replace our current passports.

Both countries have also suffered the change from a communist economy to capitalism. Azerbaijan has an economy that has completed its post-Soviet transition into a major oil based economy, and you can certainly perceive the growth of the country especially in the capital, Baku.

As for Armenia, the changes have been more difficult and one could even say, they’ve gone backwards since the Soviet’s departure. Almost the entire industrial section stopped upon the fall of the Soviet Union.

Bike Without Borders – Blog Video 81 from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

Georgia

It’s quite evident that Georgia has seen better days. Whilst the countryside, particularly the Great Caucasus mountain range are really quite stunning, it would appear (from an outsider anyway) that the Georgians have been struggling to get on their feet ever since they were invaded by the Soviet Union and then becoming independent once more in 1991.

It seems that whilst they are trying to move forward, they are stuck in the past.

Bike Without Borders – Blog Video 80. from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

100 km from the Syrian border

Istanbul, a city where you can have an European experience with Islamic grace. A place that embraces the East and the West in terms of culture, art and religion, at the borders of two separate continents. However, Turkey is much more than its clichéd image of a “bridge between East and West”.

We have ridden from the far north west to the very south east and and have visited and slept in villages situated no more than 100k from the borders of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Armenia. Historical sites as old as 4000 years, located in breathtaking landscapes surrounded by small farm villages that are unique and a must see for any traveller.

The friendliness of the Kurdish people makes the entire experience even better. The hospitality of the locals is overwhelming. We were lucky to have the oportunity to spend time with locals in small villiges , to sit down and share a tea while trying to comunícate either with hand signs, or drawing with a stick on a dirt floor, and when possible, with google translator .

The experience was incredible, the wonderful images we take with us, the feeling of many handshakes, the warm welcomings at every stop, the laughter and the infinite number of hand waves of so many great people.

Unfortunately, Turkey (particularly in the Kurdish region) and it’s surroundings have been in the international news frequently for the past 2 years …and not in a positive context. Those who pay attention to current events may feel hesitant to visit this wonderful region given what they hear, read and see on television, radio and the social media.

Blog Video 79 (L) from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.

However, the sensationalistic view of global news often paints a misleading picture and fails to provide proper context for the stories that are covered. It is true that the situation in South-East Turkey (near the Syrian border) presents security challenges for the country. We are talking 50 km from the border, and yes, that area may not be so safe to travel. But it is important to remember, that Turkey is a very large country and the situation on the Syrian border has not impacted the remainder of Turkey.

It is unfortunate to visit a historical site such as Ishak Pasha Palace (located in the south west of Turkey) a fantastic site, totally empty, not even one tourist! The administrative staff told us, the place used to be full of buses two year ago , now they don’t get any tourists at all, they were actually surprise to see us!

Don´t miss out on this amazing destination and experience just because of what you see in the media, search more , google some blogs, ask travellers, gather as much information as you can, be objective, and then make up your mind.

If you ask us about turkey, the answer is simple, don´t miss it, embrace it!