Back in early November, Anthon, William and I went on a weekend trip to go to the Pomegranate Festival in Göychay that takes place every year. Göychay is about a 3-hour drive away from Baku.
|We went to Göychay the Southern (faster) route, drove up to Gebele |
and then took the Northern, more scenic route back.
Pomegranates are a big deal here in Azerbaijan. Stores sell several varieties of pomegranates, all kinds of different products made with pomegranates like fruit leather, sauces, and juices. You can see pomegranates in many paintings, and pretty much every souvenir shop sells little decoration pottery pomegranates or pomegranates made out of metal.
|I love these ceramic pomegranates. Aren't they cute?!?|
They oftentimes also come with similar patterns
like the ones on the bowls and plates in the background.
|Metal pomegranates that are sold at almost every souvenir shop|
Besides a flame, water, a carpet and the mythical Simurgh bird, the logo for the 1st European Olympic Games, that took place in Azerbaijan, also included a pomegranate as one of their symbols. And one of the two mascots was "Nar", which is the Azerbaijani word for pomegranate.
In fact, we just recently bought four Azerbaijani paintings for our Christmas present this year, and two of them have pomegranates in them.
Before our trip to Göychay, we tried to research as much as possible, but there is not too much information in English about the festival. We didn't know where exactly to go and what time the festival and the parade would start, so we just drove to the middle of the city where the streets were decorated with colorful banners, and waited for things to start. There were many people in the downtown area that all seemed to be there for the festival.
Throughout the city, you could see pomegranate stamps on the streets, pomegranate fountains, and other pomegranate decorations.
After walking around the in the downtown area for two hours, we started wondering if the festival really took place in the downtown area.
We looked at google maps for larger open areas that might be where everything takes place, then followed the festival's banners and eventually discovered the main festival field.
It was pretty crowded around the booths, so I told Anthon to go first while I stay with William and the stroller. A couple of seconds later, a woman tapped my back and started interviewing me without even asking for permission. A few seconds later, a group of people surrounded us, the camera was on me and William and the reporter started asking questions, and I couldn't really chicken out anymore. All I remember from the little interview is that I was quite confused, that I couldn't speak and smile normally because I had just got my braces in that week and that she made me say a few sentences in Azeri that I probably butchered :-)
|10 seconds after Anthon had gone to a booth, |
he turned around to see where we were and found us like this
Besides that, the Pomegranate Festival was fun to visit. It was not huge, but it was nice to see the things you can make with pomegranates - art, cakes, juice, sauce, jam, and all kinds of hygiene products. People showcased many different kinds of pomegranates in many shades of red and yellow that visitors could try. We would have loved to buy some pomegranates, but for some reason nobody seemed to really be selling them.
|Pomegranate opened the "Göychay way"|
|There was a large food court field with lots of these kebab stands. |
I have no idea how these guys can grill in the smoke like that all day long.
At the day long festival, they have a parade with the Pomegranate Queen and several competitions like juicing pomegranates just with your hands, and weighing who has got the heaviest pomegranate, wrestling.
More to see in this youtube video I found of last year's Pomegranate Festival:
We only stayed for about 2 hours because we got tired of trying to keep our boy happy in his stroller, and unfortunately missed these cool activities. Not sure if they took place earlier in the day or after we were gone.
Maybe next time...
But William made some new friends. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Azerbaijanis LOVE children!
We spent the night in Gebele at the Qafqaz Tufandag Mountain Resort Hotel, about 30 minutes north of Göychay.
We paid $67/night for a superior double room, breakfast included. The room looked modern and tastefully put together. Right outside of the hotel were two cable car lines to go up the mountains. I think we paid about $5 each to go up both cable cars.
The views were beautiful from up there.
|We somehow managed to get William to sit down for 3 seconds and get a cute picture of him.|
For all the food, we paid about $21- awesome!
After the day in Göychay, we were too tired to go out and see things in the afternoon, but I would love to go back to Gebele and visit the surrounding little sights that I saw on this map. There is a waterfall in the area (Yeddi Gozel), a mausoleum, an Udi church, a beautiful new mosque, a small theme park for young kids, a shooting club, a winery in Savalan, and some skiiing in the area.
On our ride back home, we stopped in Gobustan (about an hour away from Baku) to see this interesting early 15th century "Diri Baba" mausoleum that is carved into the mountains.
|It's pretty hidden and we didn't see any signs leading to this mausoleum, |
but we had read about this in a newsletter and decided to stop there since it was on our way back to Baku.
|There is not too much inside the building. I looks like it is being used as a very small mosque now. There is a tiny corner room with a Koran, and then there is this room in the picture with a few seat cushions.|
|Stairs leading up to the roof top|
So yeah, we really liked our first trip outside of Baku. The festival was not huge and amazing-amazing, but it was neat to get out of Baku and see more of the country, and see locals celebrate their favorite fruit and keep up traditions.