To the people of Azerbaijan

Note: I put my travel posts on hiatus during the holidays, but now I’ve resumed posting in chronological order. I plan to finish Azerbaijan this week. 

I recently got sucked into the black hole that is the internet when an Azerbaijani forum linked to all of my posts on their country and then proceeded to discuss my writing, and me, at length.

It turned into an unexpectedly heated discussion, with opinions divided between This is great! We like her! and What a horrible person, she didn’t see the real Azerbaijan and was obviously paid off by the government to say these things.

To make a long story short, I was tremendously hurt by some of the things people were saying (if you ever want to feel terrible about yourself or the state of the world, hang out on online forums) but I was also touched by some of the people who defended me — especially the few that went out of their way to email me privately to tell me how much they enjoyed my blog and advised me to ignore the forum haters.

Even the safety signs in Baku were friendly to me.

These people also would ask me to remember that Azerbaijani people are, on the whole, incredibly friendly and welcoming. The number of times they asked me to not take the negativity to heart saddened me; that they were so worried it would leave a bad taste in my mouth about Azerbaijan altogether. Well of course I am not going to let some anonymous trolls ruin my memories of Azerbaijan — in fact, it’s because of the people I met that my trip was so memorable.

So here’s to them:

To the women who invited me into their dance circle:

To the people who wanted photos with me and made me feel like a rock star:

To the wedding parties who let us crash their photos:

Look at that color coordination! It was fate I tell you.

 To the bus driver on our long road trips through the countryside, who slowed down every time we saw something I wanted to photograph:

(…and then kept toasting me during his vodka-and-beer dinner later that night)

To the kind salesmen who didn’t try to rip us off, and instead taught us how to tie our scarves or how to drink tea:

To all the young volunteers we met, who wanted nothing more than to share their culture, food, and traditions with us:

To the two men who made tea and fed us a homemade lunch when we pulled into their driveway in the middle of a road trip, and nearly broke my heart with their goodbyes when we left:

Thank you.

Thank you for welcoming me to your country.

Thank you for showing me a kindness I won’t forget.

Thank you for reminding me that people don’t always have ulterior motives. Sometimes, people are simply good.

And lastly, as proof of some of the good clean fun I had in Azerbaijan — thanks to the Hilton Baku for organizing this ‘flash mob’ (and pulling me into it!) which put a huge smile on my face that day:

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  1. Amazing!! Those people all sound fantastic :). It’s usually those random people and random moments which make trips truly special. Azerbaijan and that region has always fascinated me, most especially because of posts like this and because it is not one of the more well-traveled places, and I hope I can experience it someday.

    And ignore those haters! You’re right, don’t let a bunch of internet trolls ruin all these amazing memories. And your blog is without a doubt amazing! :)

    • Aw thanks Anne! I hope you get to Azerbaijan one day too, it’s a great region to explore.

  2. This made me smile :)

  3. Felicity says:

    Your driver looks hilarious! Such a hard case guy I bet!
    Lovely post xx

    • Haha he was a character! He didn’t know any English, but once he learned my name he would just yell “Edna! Vodka!” He was good people, though.

  4. What an incredible experience you had and I love how you put it!

  5. Beautiful post, Edna!

  6. The goodness in people I discover in my travels are always what make me want to travel more. I’m glad you met so many kind ones along the way over there.

    Also, I’ve always wanted to be in a flash mob, and this one definitely made me smile! Your posts on Azerbaijan have definitely sparked my curiosity in the country. Maybe it’s time I add it to my list! :-)

    • Thanks Sara, I love the way you put that and completely agree; the people you meet and the interactions you have are some of the most rewarding parts of travel. Hope you get that flash mob one day! :)

  7. It sounds like you met some seriously amazing people in Azerbaijan! What a great response to some pretty silly people.

  8. Wow, those stories are adorable! My favorite memories from travel always have to do with the kindness of strangers. I’m glad you had a good time in Azerbaijan. Now I want to go there too!

  9. Loved the flash mob video Edna and there was nothing fake about the pictures. It’s hurtful when bloggers put themselves out there to share about their travel only to enrich other people and yet those trolls could always make something negative out of it.
    I’m glad you are reminded by the genuine people who made your experience positive!

    • Thanks Grace! You totally get it. I’m all about the bright side here; I don’t understand when people try to just look for the negative side to everything. But I’ll still keep putting myself out there!

  10. This made me a little teary eyed! Such a lovely tribute to the people of Azerbaijan.

  11. I love the shot of the Dancing ladies at resto who took you in. And alwys love your mustard/golden shirt. And of course hate the haters of the forum but hope you don’t give it two more thoughts.

    • Thanks Daisy! That night was so unexpectedly fun (like so many of my Azerbaijan experiences!). And yes, I do love that mustard shirt.

  12. haters are going to hate.

    love the photo-letter. it’s absolutely adorable and all the moments I love about traveling (except I’ve never crashed anyone’s wedding pictures ;) )

  13. Beautiful, heartwarming, and amazing. Your post made me tear up! And love the wedding photos you’re in, haha.

    You know, people need to realize that every place has its good and its bad, and sometimes, really, you just have to focus on the positives.

    • Aw thanks Michi! I completely agree. And I think too many other people already focus on the negatives in this world, so I’m going to stick to the positives!

  14. Amazing post, Edna! Good for you! This was the best response ever. So sorry to hear that there were aggressive, bored, trolls who decided to attack your blog. You know what? People like that rarely have blogs of their own because they are cowards!

  15. I know that I am not alone in having loved your Azerbaijan posts! Clearly they struck a nerve, which I think shows you wrote something of real substance, regardless of whether all the reactions were positive or not. You certainly showed a country I had never once considered visiting in such a way that I hope I get to see it for myself one day. And I hope that when I do, I get to experience some of that warmth and generosity that clearly made your own trip so special!

    • Thanks Steph, I always love the way you put things into perspective! If you do go one day you have to let me know!

  16. What a beautiful read, Edna! The people of Azerbaijan sound incredibly nice and welcoming! Judging from your words and pictures, those online forum haters were really just the exceptions.

    • Thanks Julika! I agree, they definitely were. My experience was overwhelmingly positive while I was in the country.

  17. Wow – the people sound truly exceptional. The Azerbaijan posts are great!

  18. Hi Edna.
    I dont even remember how i found your blog, but now i cant stop reading it :))
    And being an azeri, i want to say big thank you for the kindness with which you accepted my motherland. This post made me tear up a bit.

    Whenever you are back to Baku, I’ll gladly meet you :)) And i can show and tell more of things tourists rarely see.