Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Caucasus

Oil Rocks in the Caspian Sea

After the Dogu Express I arrived in Kars, a regular sized town in eastern Turkey. Beyond Kars, at the extreme edge of the country, lies the ruined medieval city of Ani. Once one of the largest cities in the world, it was left for ruin and has been disintegrating for the last 500 years. Despite regular plundering, vandalism and the Turkish Military using it for target practice, there still remains several giant stone churches that were the most advanced of their age.

A 12-hour bus journey through more of Turkey was followed by a quick stop off at the Black sea resort town of Batumi and then an 8 hour train journey took me to the Georgian Capital of Tbilisi. Whilst still bearing the hallmarks of its Soviet past such as the deep level metro system, the city has recovered from the various conflicts it has experienced in the last 2 decades. The maze of courtyards and narrow winding streets in the old town is by far the most unique aspect of the city, along with Georgian spicy meat dumplings and grilled cheese pies.

The overnight train into Azerbaijan, made up of old soviet carriages, rolls into the capital city Baku. This is the largest city of the Caucasus and is centred around a perfectly preserved old city of recently cleaned sand stone minarets and palaces. The city is developing rapidly as the Azeri GDP skyrockets. The source of all this wealth can be discovered in the somewhat barren landscape surrounding the city. Populated by forests of oil derricks and pump jacks as well as colossal oil platforms out in the Caspian. From here I will take the ferry, or cargo ship, towards Turkmenistan and Central Asia. Hopefully I will catch a glimpse of Oil Rocks, the legendary oil rig city 50km off-shore built on the wrecks of tankers.

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