How to get from Azerbaijan to Georgia and do some sightseeing meanwhile (Shaki – Telavi)

We reached Sheki, the town in the north of Azerbaijan, by the night train from Baku (more about Baku and the train here), which was one hour late. It arrived at a small station more than ten kilometers from Shaki, and the only option to get to the town was a taxi. We shared a ride with a local.
First of all, we went to the bus station to buy tickets to Belokan – we were planning to reach Georgian Kakheti on the same day. The cashier did not let us buy the tickets in advance, but “booked” them by simply promising to keep them for us. It was a good move, as we learned afterwards. Then we went to the the old town of Sheki, which starts after the central square:

The portraits of Alievs are everywhere in Azerbaijan, e.g. at the post office. There they also sell a set of stamps dedicated to Aliev’s anniversary for 130 manats (about 120 euros). Who would buy them here? We still don’t know.

There is an old Caravanserai (a roadside inn where travelers along the Silk way could rest and recover from the day’s journey). It is a hotel now, but they still let the tourists in:

The most famous attraction of Shaki is the Palace of Shaki Hans. The ticket includes a guided tour, so you’ll be able to learn something about it as well:

Famous windows ‘shabeka’ are made here only, and there are still masters who are skillful in making them around.

There are two ‘must’ dishes one should try in Shaki: piti (fat lamb soup with peas) and sweet pahlava. Piti was excellent (we tried it in a restaurant Gagarin), and pahlava is extremely sweet (there are many small shops at the main street on the way to the Palace where you can buy it).

That is how we spent half a day. The other half was dedicated to the the trip to Georgia. Our marshrutka was waiting for us next to marshrutka “Titanic” (promising).

We realized that “booking” the place was the right decision, as the majority of latecomers were either standing or sitting on the pieces of wood put between the seats. Marshrutka was overcrowded and it took 2 hours and 6 manats to get to Balaken – the town next to Georgian border. From there we took a taxi to the border (3 manats), passed the border on foot, and took one more taxi to Lagodehi (for 3 lari – one euro is 2,4 lari appr.). The last marshrutka to Telavi – the capital of Kakheti was gone, and the drivers offered a ride to Bakurtsihe (4 lari per person). From Bakurtsihe we took another marshrutka to Telavi.
That is how Georgia, and in particularly, Kakheti, started.