Trabzon, to Baku, Azerbaijan by land. 2018

Trabzon, Turkey to Baku, Azerbaijan by land.

April 2018.



This trip was changed quite substantially at the last minute. The plan was to travel with Madventure,  an overland expedition company that we have used in the past, and are very, very, good. The initial plan was to fly to Trabzon and pick up one of their tours from Trabzon, through Turkey, Georgia, etc to Almaty, Kazakhstan. This trip had to be cancelled by the company due to lack of interest. Sue and I had already bought the tickets to Trabzon so we decided to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan under our own ‘steam’. This proved an easy task and the trip is set out below.

London to Trabzon

Monday 16.4.18.


So today’s stupid idea is to fly to the back end of Turkey, and get a bus, horse and cart, donkey, Sue carrying me, etc, through Georgia to Baku in Azerbaijan (Where?). Then fly to Kiev, Ukraine, for a few relaxing days of eating cabbage, then to the UK. The bonus is that Formula One is in Baku when we get there, so a chance to see the race and catch up on a few old work colleagues. So fully equipped with visas, weird money, and a map the size of a postage stamp, off we go. Will keep you informed. First over night stop today is the East Ham Bull, in Turkey.
What can possibly go wrong?

Stansted Airport


Flying from Stansted with Pegasus airlines. Pegasus ticked all the boxes, not quite Ryanair, definitely not Emirates but we arrived safely in Istanbul, Turkey.  We got a taxi to Miracle Paradise Asia Hotel  close to Istanbul airport. We were to be there for one night and having been to Istanbul a number of times before we didn’t want to trek too far from the airport. Staying at the Miracle Paradise Hotel in one of their little suites was nice. This hotel is clearly a stop over type hotel, and although the staff are nice and helpful there is an air of a transit hotel, a restaurant and bar without much personality. As is the case we went for a wander. You leave the hotel, turning right, go up the hill to signs of civilisation. I wanted a beer, but alas I had to wait until I got back to the hotel. We found a very Smokey café, yes it is still allowed in Turkey, plus smoking the apple tobacco on the Hookah pipes. Great food but no alcohol. There is a building site at the top of the hill where wild dogs roam, and one took an instant dislike to Sue and bit her trousers on her bum. Fortunately their teeth didn’t go through the trousers, but just be aware of the local dogs. Back to the hotel for Efes beer and White wine!  

Tuesday 17.4.18.

Istanbul, Turkey

Awake to grey sky and spots of rain. When we arrived here it was dark, but I look out of the hotel this morning to be greeted by a green pool. I won’t be swimming in there today!


Swimming pool Miracle Paradise Hotel Istanbul




Mid afternoon we make our way to the airport and a second Air Pegasus flight to Trabzon. About 2 months earlier Trabzon Airport was the site where an Air Pegasus flight slipped off the edge of the runway and hung precariously on a hill. This could be fun.



In Tabzon we stayed in Hotel Horon for a couple of nights, which is located on a busy cobbled street in the heart of the town.


Hotel Horon view


Lots of bakeries, coffee and smoking cafes, eateries of all sorts and a few bars selling beer.Food is very cheap in Trabzon, it is not really a tourist area. The plan is to travel to Batumi in Georgia so we started to ask around the best way to get there. It appears the best way to get Batumi is by coach. We leave tomorrow so have a few beers in a local bar. Mistake number 1 of the holiday!  

Police Raid

A bar we went to got raided by Trabzons finest. The Trabzon Police! I said to the Duchess “look they are searching those ruffians.” Trouble was they searched me as well. No women got searched, well I think with the Turkish culture there weren’t too many women in the bar. They then wanted all our ID cards, we said we don’t have any, both policemen looked at each other confused, shrugged their shoulders and walked to the next table. They stayed there for ages interviewing people, not us though. Then I needed a wee. I indicated I was going to the toilet and the man with the big gun indicated he was coming with me! I said “in London if I invite a man into the public toilets I usually buy him a drink first” he smiled, fortunately didn’t have a clue what I was saying and in we went. Have you ever tried having a wee with a man you don’t know standing at the side of you, watching, whilst rubbing his gun? I hope it was a gun! Anyway after a few minutes I started and all was good.
Next we travel to Batumi, Georgia. Yes there is a country called Georgia for my American readers!


Batumi Georgia.


Now we have said goodbye to Mrs Donna Kebab and her Shishter, Koftee, and now we are in a land, full of happy people, cheap beer, and Brussels sprouts. Xx


Thursday 19.4.18
Leave hotel and enjoy coffee before getting picked up for our trip to Batumi. It is always reassuring to see cracked windscreens on all the public service vehicles, but no bullet holes on this occasion. After an uneventful journey, hugging the coast road for three hours. All very painless until we get to the border of Georgia, which is about 20 Kms from Batumi. In my broken (Very broken) Turkish with the aid of Google Translate I find out that the bus, although it say Batumi on the front, is wrong, and this is the end of the journey! Well I am just glad we didn’t leave our stuff on the bus whilst we attended to Georgian Turkish Customs. Be aware of this little difficulty.  Welcome to Georgia. I just hope all the signs are not this confusing!

Taxi Anyone?

Many men in leather jackets surround us at the border exit, “want Taxi?.” We eventually find a man with a badge so hopefully he is a taxi driver. Yes he is a taxi driver and is a very nice man. His family come from North London so we have to talk about Arsenal, Totten Ham Spurs and Cameroon (I think he meant Prime Minister Cameron) Off to the Hotel Divan we go, which is our home for the next three nights. Spotted a few Thai massage parlours so I shall try to leave Sue behind!!  Wandered around a few cobbled streets.


Cobbled Batumi Georgia


Sightseeing Batumi, Georgia

Some of the shops seem to be very poor just like charity shops in content and then you find an expensive boutique. Both Sheraton and Marriott hotels are spending a lot of money on refurbishment. There is one tall building with a Ferris wheel 3/4 of the way up.
Ferris wheel Batumi



Eventually found a ‘pub museum’ which sold real ales or sort of, and then we went to a very nice restaurant, El Canapé, Batumi for dinner. Entertained by male singer or was he just doing a bit of karaoke? I just wish I knew what the bill comprised of. Even Google Translate cant help me on this one!


Le Canope Batumi


Duchess for Sale!

Friday 20.4.18

FOR SALE The Duchess! Very good condition, 63K, own teeth, been around the block a few times hence dodgy undercarriage, test drive available. No reasonable offer refused. Buyer collects from Georgia.

Why! I hear you cry, well quite simply her eyesight is going. She likes to have a weekly shower and today, besides being domestic violence Friday, is also Big Sue shower day. She had only been in there about 30 seconds when the phone rang, it was hotel reception asking me if everything was ok. It seems that there is a shower cord in the shower cubicle (My shower day being Sunday I hadn’t seen it) which apart from being red, with a big red knob on the end marked ’emergency assist cord’ was not noticeable at all. The Duchess thought it was to turn the shower on. Whoops.


I did point out to the receptionist that my Grandmother was getting olde, and should have gone to Spec Savers. They didn’t get my joke!

Tree Hugging food

Her Highness, being a tree hugging veggie, ordered a plate of vegetables which helpfully came with beef, I told her it was from the ‘beef plant’ similar to the ‘egg plant.’ She didn’t believe me, and another plate of food for me. No wonder she is skinny.

Railway Station, Batumi,

Off for a long walk to railway station, as we want to travel to Tbilisi on Sunday.  It was not the most scenic of hikes but at least the sun struggled through the clouds for some of it. Having eventually found the ticket office we were unable to buy the tickets without passports. We go back to the hotel and buy tickets online. First class 46 GEL’s, about £15 for what will be nearly a 5 hour journey. More exploration in the evening to an Irish pub. Very unimpressive. Bit more of a stroll into the unknown to get to curry shop. It seemed that every time we asked for something someone then popped out to do some shopping, ie bottle of beer, bottle of water and other groceries required to make up a curry sauce. The wait was worth it and the food was very nice. Couldn’t find anywhere else to pop into for a nightcap so straight to hotel for wine, water and internet.

Zedazeni Beer


Zedazeni Georgian Beer 

Beer here, Zedazeni Georgian Beer  is lovely, proper lager. It’s about 6% proof and very, very, nice.

Saturday 21.4.18



Sightseeing in Batumi, Georgia

Yuk an even greyer day than yesterday. Very low cloud. At least we’re in time for breakfast! Waste a couple of hours at the hotel due to rain and then take the ten minute cable car ride to Argo mountain for a panoramic view of Batumi. The view from the cable car can be best described as ‘adequate’ if you want to fly over the top of Tower blocks.


Cable Car Batumi Argo Mountain


Not the best view in the world but hey ho! Decide to walk back passing some charismatic cemetery plots en route.

Batumi Cemetery




As we start to walk down we meet what we think is impending doom. We can hear howling, and see wild dogs running around. This may not have been such a great idea.I decided that I would arm myself with bricks in case the little loves attack us.

Granny Cemetery

They didn’t and I looked very silly walking down the road, armed like Rambo which is now crowded with families about to visit Granny in the cemetery. I meant well.


Back in town we find a very nice square and manage to have our first people watching experience whilst drinking beer and coke. Wonderful. Thai massage later. She certainly managed to get a few things clicked back into place! Quick meal and off to bed.

In the morning we travel to Tbilisi, Georgia.





Sunday 22.4.18.


Early start for the 730 train to Tbilisi. Arrived in style at the station, in the hotel London Black/Maroon cab. Georgia railway takes us to Tbilisi. Nothing much to report except the onboard toilet was overflowing two hours into the five hour journey. Lovely! 

Rolling hills, green fields, a few cows and goats made up the scenery. All topped off by a fast flowing river which we seemed to follow for the duration. Many of the stations we passed reminded me of the Trans-Siberia train journey.

By taxi to Hotel Renaissance,Viktor Gabiskiria Street 5, Tbilisi, Georgia . As the crow flies it’s very close to the few sights but up hill.

View from Hotel Renaissance Tbilisi


Hotel Renaissance, Tbilisi

We’re virtually opposite the biggest church/cathedral in Tbilisi. This hotel has excellent views but is a long way up if you are disabled. We walk down the path close to the hotel and find the open top bus and go on the eleven stop ride with not a lot to see, but we did discover a funicular railway to a high point and a fortress which we climbed after the bus ride.



View from Tbilisi Fortress Tbilisi
Potatoes, onions, mushrooms and bread make up a very late lunch. We stay for a sunset drink and get taxi back up the hill as the route by foot is not the most direct or well lit! Lots of traffic and police greet us and we have to leave the taxi as the road has been closed. Don’t know why. Into hotel via local corner shop for essential supplies of beer, wine and crisps.


Monday 23.4.18.

Today’s view. Well at least we can see the aerial. Where do we find these hotel Views!
View from Hotel Renaissance Tbilisi


Today the Bird took me up the ‘Funicular’.Ooh Matron!Me being scared of heights I could have more fun at a FUNeral than a Tbilisi FUNicular. It was terrible. Apparently great views, I don’t know I had my eyes shut!

Funicular Tbilisi


Lagodekhi, Georgia
Tomorrow we are off to the border town of Lagodekhi.
First thing is we need to find out how to get to  Lagodekhi, or ‘LegoLand’ as the locals call it.
We are told there is a bus that goes to Legoland from the main Tbilisi bus terminus. We eventually find the minibus depot for our proposed journey to Lagodekhi in the morning. No ticket office, no information, no English writing to indicate destinations of the vehicles. No good. We are approached by taxi driver, Tamasn, who offers to do the journey for 80 local. We take his number to possibly liaise later. We continue our walk back to the tourist side of town and I speak to numerous taxi drivers who offer varying tariffs for the journey from 150-250 GEL’s.

More Tbilisi sightseeing

I thought the rest of Georgia was boring, then I had a look at the Wikipedia write up for Lagodekhi. Known for its variety of tree species! 2 nights there WOOD be long enough.

Off we go on the funicular to the National Park where all rides are closed for winter repair and refurbishment. We also sample wine ice creams. Very nice. After a short break for beer and wine we return to hotel and ask staff to call our taxi driver, Tamasn, to book him for the drive in the morning. All done. ‘Mad Max’ is our cab driver back to the hotel. We walk back into town to new area that we found in our afternoon stroll. Glass of wine and then to restaurant for dinner and Svetlana singing as the cabaret.

This restaurant is at the bottom of the fortress, this area has a small river running through it and quirky old architecture.

Cab home. Lovely Day.


Manana we travel from Tbilisi to Lagodekhi.



Lagodekhi Georgia

Tuesday 24.4.18


Tamasn, our Georgian taxi driver arrived promptly at 1100. Two cracks in front windscreen the entire length, no seat belts in the back  (I think we were lucky to have a back!), very wonky front seats, fuelled by gas but the car got us to Lagodekhi in a couple of hours.

The journey itself was fine, just a couple of hours on good roads. As we went along we saw the mountains in the distance that form the Russian Border. We stop for some ‘gas’ in the back of beyond. I see the car in front has no window, and is gaffer taped up, how else!

The town really is a small affair. There are 1 and a half hotels in the town, the full hotel is a dung hole and we are staying at the ‘half.’ 

Hotel Hereti Lagodekhi


Hotel Hereti
Hotel Hereti would have been wonderful many years ago but now it is in need of a lot of care and money. Oh dear what a toilet!

Hereti Hotel Lagodekhi

The top floors do not have any windows and we are the only guests. The wind blows through the corridor. Most of the rooms appear to be undergoing some refurbishment, long overdue. For example, the balcony on the top floor has weeds and small bushes growing, window panes are broken, doors are open to the outside elements. However our room is clean, quite big really with a sofa and two arm chairs, fridge – a little suite in fact. There are some nuts and weird stuff for us as a welcome gift.

The wallpaper is peeling off the walls and the TV Is the size of a postage stamp.

Living in a Tower Block
It is a bit like living in a council tower block, I might throw the sofa out the window. Oh I forgot, the heating doesn’t work so I went to bed in my coat. Seriously there are radiators but they are off.
It seems the old lady and old man that run the place only speak Russian, no Georgian or English. We have google translate and off we go. A short stroll confirms our thoughts that there is not a lot going on but the restaurant we find does come up trumps later in the day. Sue has weird fish and salad, I have some kebab type thing with chips. Beer and pear lemonade help to wash it down.Everything shuts around 7pm. Including the single restaurant in the town.  By 8.30 we’re back at the hotel. We are the only people on the streets, the person in the restaurant was nice enough but I think she just wondered why we were there! So did we! We were to be here for 2 nights but will leave tomorrow and cross the border into Azerbaijan. The rationale for deciding to move onto Azerbaijan in the morning is the hotel is slightly better, we hope.

Azerbaijan Funeral

Whilst walking around the town/village/hamlet yesterday, and getting looked at weirdly (As though, why are there visitors to our town/village/hamlet?) we bump into a funeral possession.  As the car drove past we noticed the open coffin which was carrying an elderly lady sporting  a mauve head scarf
on her way to be planted. Sue did say how nice the dead woman’s scarf was. It put me off my food.

TV is culturally different, Perhaps I should just embrace the culture more.

Georgia TV



Apart from that, living the dream.


Tomorrow Azerbaijan, hopefully!

Balaken Azerbaijan

Wednesday 25.4.18


Balakon, Balakən,Belokan, Azerbaijan.  Lots of different spellings.
What a difference a day makes! 24 little hours, yes you know the tune, well it is true!!!Couple of hot drinks in the hotel Hereti hotel room and then seek out a taxi for the border. 
The border is about 5 minutes from Lagodekhi  A very smart red car takes us to the border. 
We get dropped off about 200 metres from the border point, and you then walk, avec luggage, to the customs post. We walk across a bridge, past barb wire and rather scary looking men in uniform with big guns. However to be fair they are very pleasant, just a bit scary. There are a number of lorries awaiting the crossing. Georgia Customs is all very smooth,  and we walk through no-mans land to Azerbaijan where we meet very friendly, helpful people and successfully get into the country. Funnily enough we are the only people on foot, but to be fair you couldn’t be a lot further from civilisation if you tried.

Hotel Qubek Balaken

Short taxi ride to Hotel Qubek Balakan. What a difference. The manager took a liking to Big Sue’s long legs and we got an upgrade to a deluxe suite.

I would have been happy with the standard room but this is lovely with a clear view of the snow capped mountains (Russian Border).

Hotel Qubek Balaken

Checked in early.The only person that speaks any English here is the hotel manager. That is it. Not that I expect anyone to talk my language. But it does get fun when you get the menu with no pictures, in Azerbaijan, and I am with a tree hugging vegetarian.  I think someone has turned on the summer button as we have sunshine, blue sky and warmth. We walk along the high street and discover supermarkets, wine shops, atm’s, cafes and diner type restaurants.

Lost in translation

As the menu is all in squiggles, for lunch Sue opts for chy (black tea) I ask for a kofte and instead a meatball soup arrives with my beer.I did ask Sue not to order her ‘normal’ skinny latte, with low fat soya milk and judogi berries, as this may cause a difficulty. She did though mention she was gluten free and we had a few strange looks. The waiter got a screwdriver out, I think that one got lost in translation.

Sightseeing Balaken Azerbaijan

All of this whilst we watch the antics of the local drivers – just like wacky races! Majority of the taxis resemble Ladas’. Quite a few olive green trucks and jeeps. Sue bought a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce for her lunch back at the hotel. The hotel does have a large pool which is currently being tarted up for their summer season, I guess. Not sure if we are the only guests at the hotel or not. Before we leave the high street we spot a pizza menu of sorts so we decide to go there for supper. No English language tv on the box but plenty of football to watch. Tonight is Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at 2300 our time.

Quick Pizza

Back out onto the high street for the pizza. Obviously that doesn’t happen, it was shut! Very limited choice of pictures to point at in other restaurants. Google Translate off line does not work here. What fun we had! The hotel manager wrote a note in foreign, “This lady is a vegetarian and does not eat meat”. What can possibly go wrong!
I have a doner kebab and Sue has a lentil soup, more by luck than judgement. We leave there for another cafe – more tea and beer. These premises don’t seem to sell anything other than beer, tea and possibly Coca Cola. White wine can be purchased in the supermarket. Looking at the vodka shelf noticed very pretty bottles and the contents was described as ‘strong drink’!

Vodka Azerbaijan


Azerbaijan Vodka

Back to the hotel for footie. Real Madrid win 2-1, first leg of two match semi final UEFA champions cup.Leisurely get up process and up to the 5th floor for breakfast.
I think we are the only people again, in this luxury 100 bed hotel. To be fair why would anyone come here? As nice as Balaken is it is miles from anywhere.

Hotel Qubek Balaken

At breakfast we had the whole restaurant, and it didn’t go unnoticed that when we went for breakfast the cleaners moved into our room.

Breakfast Hotel Qubek Balakan Azerbaijan


The staff seem to be surprised to see us but we are very soon presented with bread, Greek cheese, a boiled egg, a couple of dollops of thick yogurt and honey with the inevitable cup of black tea. It hits the spot. Shame that the staple of their diet appears to be bread, but when in Rome ……. the restaurant is huge and we are the only visitors.

Heydor Park Balakan

Have a very gentle stroll through Haydor Park for our daily constitutional and then back to the hotel early afternoon by way of a couple of beer and tea stops.

Hayder Park Balakan


Eating Balaken

At first bar presented with a couple of cold pancakes for tapas! Recommended to go to nearby fish restaurant for supper by the hotel manager who speaks excellent English. Taxi to aforementioned restaurant. It is a collection of garden sheds where you have your own private party! Very nice but we wanted to people watch as opposed to looking at each other and the golden table cloth.

Lonely Dinner

Having been shown the ‘This woman does not eat meat’ note, the restaurant owner took the Duchess into the kitchen and took half a chicken out of the freezer and ‘asked,’ well indicated, if she’d eat it. Obviously veggies in Azerbaijan eat chicken. He then took us to a pond, Sue vigorously nods her head, does a thumbs up and the man promptly

got the net out and fished out the biggest fish in the world.
Sue smiled. And he hit the fish over the head.
Sue stopped smiling.
BBQ fish 5 mins later with head, bones, etc. Yuk.

No Doner Kebab

My request of a doner kebab didn’t materialise, so I demolish the salad, loaf of bread, feta cheese and garlic dip. Plus beer. All for 25 thingies, about £12. Taxi back to town and a couple of beers  and a pot of tea.

Fridays 27.4.18.

We got upgraded on the first day, I still think there was a cctv camera in the bedroom. I did ask big sue to do some of her best ‘bedroom moves’ for her camera, you can imagine her response!

Oh did I mention that the Baku hotel has one of it’s highlights on booking,com as ‘toilet paper.’ Can’t wait for that part of the adventure. Short walk through town. Long queues at the ATM’s (there are only 2). Walk down to river, have a mooch, then back to hotel.

Tomorrow we make our way to Baku.

See you in Baku. Xx

Trip To Baku

Saturday 28.4.18

Last boiled egg and yogurt breakfast at Qubek hotel. Well we have been here in the border town of Balakan for past 3 nights.
So now we are off on a 6 hour, 250 mile road trip to Baku in a 1973, Lada, for about £40.

We get collected by Igor, who speaks no English. Off we go, but after 2 minutes we go to the local police station, and Igor gets out. He kisses and shakes hands with various uniform police officers. Goes in, comes out after about a minute. Off we go again. No I am not sure why either!

Dodgy Driving
Igor has 2 mobile phones which both constantly ring, which he answers whilst waving at the policemen and driving a manual car. After about 2 minutes he answers a phone, then hands it to me. An English speaking lady asks if ‘The brother’ can come along. Ok this should be cosy, We drive to a pig farm and in gets Dimitri, no English spoken. I sit in the back with the Duchess, Dimitri in the front with Igor. We have bags everywhere, he also has bags plus 2 more mobile phones that constantly rung. All we are missing at this point is the live chickens.
After about 10 minutes, the passenger, Dimitri (keep up), plugs his Iphone into the radio and plays a video of him singing at a wedding. Music at full blast. Igor is driving at speed, talking now on both of his mobiles, singing, sending a text, and watching the video whilst in the lane of oncoming traffic.. I think he has seen the cars coming towards us. Perhaps not. They start flashing their lights, then sounding their horns, but somehow we miss several cars on several occasions. The song wasn’t even that good. I was going to ask to put Neil Sedaka on. Anyway the viewing of the video, the answering of the mobiles and cars about to hit us front on, carried on for about 2 or 3 of my bowel movements. Eventually the music stopped and we went for some lunch , and me to the toilet.


After an eternity we pulled up outside our stable/hostel/pigsty where are to stay for 3 nights. Being F1 weekend the price went up from £14 a night (Expensive in Baku before you ask. I know how to treat a bird.) to £60 a night. But we did get as advertised, toilet paper in the room. We also got Garlic enriched shampoo. That should get me pulling the local birds when they have a whiff of my hair, what there is left of it.

Garlic enriched Shampoo

Oh dear. How the nightly have fallen over 2 years. The Duchess met the real Fernando Alonso in Abu Dhabi bit now I have left Formula 1 we have been relegated to a cardboard cut out.

Fernando Alonso Baku


Fernando Alonso Abu Dhabi

I see Azerbaijan TV is up to its normal high standards. This may replace Hotel views!


Azerbaijan TV

We didn’t see too much of the race, but never mind, we did have a walk around the following day. Seeing some old ruins (Not the Duchess) and drinking beer, so all was good.

F1 Baku


Castle Baku


Castle Ruins Baku




Monday 31.5.18.
Today we have egg flavour shampoo. Wow.

Egg flavour Shampoo

We fly to Kiev on Tuesday, there for 2 nights and Londinium on Thursday. This was cheaper than flying back to London after race weekend.

Kiev, Ukraine

Tuesday 1.5.18.
I ho I ho its off to Chicken (Chicken Kiev, gettit? They don’t get any better) for 2 nights.

Wednesday 2.5.18.

Well we got here, in Chicken, the home of cabbage, via Buta Airlines after a 3 hour flight. Great place, all very friendly, but everything is written in foreign. Mostly without interpretation (Not that I expect it). So this is fun. The dogs here wear shoes

Dog shoes, Baku

and the cabbages are huge.

Big Cabbage Kiev





Historic Kiev

Oh yes and they do sell Chicken Kiev here!

To be fair I haven’t a clue of most of what went on, what was said, or what we ate for the entire trip.
Fly back to UK manana, it has been a laugh.


















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