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Not to Israel
Baku (Azerbaijan) to Troodos (Cyprus), October 2015

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is a delightful city. We ended up staying there for two weeks. Not only did we see many things in the city and its surroundings, but we have also thought about the travel plans for the (near) future. Slowly but surely, autumn arrives in the Caucasus, and that is the time when the weather starts to change. It quickly becomes colder, but also much wetter. We have met many young Israelis in recent months, especially in Central Asia. It is a tradition in Israel, after the mandatory military service of two to three years, to go traveling for a year. At certain places in the world you will see a lot of them (e.g. India, Thailand and South America), and some place none at all. That are often the Islamic countries where Israelis are not welcome (like Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia).

Some of these Israeli backpackers have convinced us to consider a visit to Israel. For us, that would be a nice transition period before we go back to The Netherlands for the Christmas holidays. Eventually we cancelled the plans. The reason is that we have three Iranian visas and an Iraqi entry stamp in our passports, and this will definitely result to a lot of questions at the Israeli border. Officially, they cannot refuse us just because of the visas, but it will lead to long interrogation conversations. If we then also want to visit the Palestinian territories, which means passing security checkpoints, the same problems will occur. And that is definitely not having a positive influence on our Israeli experience. We have also discussed this "Iranian visa problem" with a number of Israeli backpackers, and they all said that it might indeed be better to pay a visit to Israel with a "clean" passport. So we have to save our visit to Israel for the future.

Beach life in oil rich Azerbaijan

Eventually we booked tickets to Cyprus. From Georgia we could find some cheap tickets with Pegasus Airlines, which will bring us from Kutaisi in Georgia, via Istanbul, to the Turkish part of Cyprus. With the tickets in your pocket, we travelled from Baku, via Sheki and Zaqatala to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. We have experienced Azerbaijan as a very nice country, even though we had previously heard from other travellers that it would be an unfriendly country. But we have to say that these other travellers were mainly travellers with their own vehicles who encountered a lot of problems with corrupt traffic police. But we had absolutely not a bad experiences at all in Azerbaijan. The people were extremely friendly and we would recommend anyone to visit this country. Especially Baku is a beautiful and atmospheric city and it will undoubtedly develop in the next ten years into a popular city break destination (see our photo impression of Baku). The only problem until now is the necessary visa and the expensive airline tickets to this Caucasus country. However, the tickets are becoming cheaper. With budget airlines like Pegasus and WizzAir it is possible to fly cheaply from Europe to Georgia, from where you can travel by train of bus to Azerbaijan.

We didn’t stay long in Georgia. We visited this fantastic country already last year when we stranded with our Toyota Land Cruiser at the closed border between Georgia and Russia (landslide closed the border for months). So after a week in Tbilisi, we travelled by bus to Kutaisi, from where we flew with a night flight to Lefkosa on the Turkish part of Cyprus. At the border we had some stress when the Turkish Cypriot immigration officer put a stamp in our passports. We read everywhere on the internet that this Turkish-Cypriot stamp could lead to a big problem at the border when you want to travel to the Greek part of the island (see also our article on the border crossing). The Greek Cypriots see the Turkish part of the island as occupied territory and therefore consider an arrival on this Turkish part of Cyprus as an illegal way of entry. With all the consequences. But fortunately that time passed. Relations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots continue to improve, which means that the panic which prevailed when the Greek-Cypriots noticed when somebody entered Cyprus on the Turkish part, is history. We were able to cross the border with our Turkish-Cypriot entry stamp without any problems.

Us in Baku's stadium for the Europe League between local Qarabag and Anderlecht

The weather is fantastic in Cyprus. It is between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius and most days its wonderful sunny weather. The high season is over which means that it is very peaceful on the island. Also, the prices have fallen dramatically. You can already rent a nice car for 15 Euro per day, and for a fully furnished apartment including kitchen, we seldom pay more than 25 Euro per night. We will stay here until November 8 and then we will fly to the cold northern half of Europe. To Poland to be exact. We have to renew our passports, and because we have emigrated from the Netherlands, this is more convenient to do abroad. So we do it in Warsaw. While waiting for our new passport we hope to visit Belarus and Russia (Kaliningrad), and by the time we are back from the Russian territories it will be time to go back to the Netherlands for the Christmas holidays.

Shabby taxi drivers in Tbilisi (Georgia)
In Tbilisi's national stadium for the game between Georgia and Gibraltar
A very nice dürüm in Lefkosa (Turkish Cyprus)
Papers please!

The atmospheric old harbour of Girne in the Turkish part of Cyprus

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