"Ali and Nino" by Kurban Sa'id
If you are at all interested in the culture and history of Azerbaijan and Georgia, then I can recommend a good book..."Ali and Nino" tells the tale of Muslim Ali Khan Shirvanshir who falls head over heels in love with Christain Nino Kipiani. The story takes place in the early years of the 20th century, a time of great upheaval in the region...and throughout this, Ali, the narrator, struggles to understand his love for Nino the European while preserving his own cultural identity. Romance, adventure, history, murder, humour, intrigue, an insight into Islamic thought and a dramatic setting...all the ingredients for a fantastic read.
Set primarily in Baku, the two lovers visit relatives in Tbilisi, flee to Teheran during the Russian invasion of Baku, and spend time in exile in a Daghestani mountain aoul...so if you are travelling in the region, Kurban Sa'id's extraordinary novel should make the perfect travel companion.
I first read this book in Tbilisi, after my trip to Baku, and found it interesting to see which places I recognised from the story, like the Shirvanshir's palace in Baku and the old baths in Tbilisi. Since then, I've read the novel several times, and even ended up teaching it to a very advanced group of English students in Khartoum! I think this may be my favourite book ;@P
People eat these all the time. There are people along the streets, almost always women, who sell sunflower seeds, and peanuts from little makeshift desks. They are everywhere. They have a little glass, measure out the seeds, and provide you your snack in a little rolled up piece of newspaper, or from the pages of a book.
Not a bit deal local custom tip, but just seems to be a part of the fiber of Tbilisi.
day trip to davit gareja
Davit Gareja is a complex in the middle of deserted plains and an easy day trip on bad roads from Tbilisi. It consists of churches, monasteries, caves, watchtowers, spings and amazing panoramas and was founded by Davit, a syrian father, in the 6th century.
In the main monastery you can see, among others, Davit's tomb as well as the cell in the rock where he used to live and pray. Upo the hill, beyong the watchtower there is a natural spring in the cave called David's tears.
Further up, over the next hill, you can reach Udabno monastery with its precious frescos and look out over the not so distant Azerbajian.
There is no public transportation to the monastery, so you'll need to get there by taxi: from Tbilisi we paid 90 lari.
This is in eastern Tbilisi, north of the river. In Soviet days, this was the government wedding palace. After independence, Georgians reverted to type and now opt for a priest and a church. The government sold this building to a businessman who uses it as his private residence!
Georgia has two international train lines: one to Armenia and the other one to Azerbaijan. The link to Russia is not operating for the last 15 years as it goes through breakaway region Abkhazia. No rail link exists with Turkey though a lot of talk is going on the construction of Tbilisi - Akhalkalaki - Kars railway link.
ARMENIA: I have not taken Armenian train for over 25 years but I know from acquaintances that minivan is the best option.
AZERBAIJAN: Train option is a better option if one asks me. It allows relaxing and having an overnight sleep. The customs control on the border (when departing Georgia) takes during the daytime and there is no need to be wakened up late at night.
As regards to Travel from Azerbaijan one friend of mine told me that they got off at last train station on the Azeri side and then took a minivan. As he explained this was the best choice in terms of time..