Istanbul, incredible and unqiue Istanbul, was the last stop along my tour through the Caucasus. Hoping for some nicer temperatures, I was highly disappointed, as the thermometer was close to the freezing mark. But: it was Istanbul and I wanted to soak up the atmosphere of this bombastic city as much as possible. As I was is Istanbul in 2013 already, I knew the spots that I wanted to see again already: everyone should have visited this city at some point!
Hagia Sophia, Galata Tower, Grand Bazaar, Taksim Square and just getting lost in little streets - these were the main targets. And, of course, getting some Turkish Delights. After a weekend there, I have left Istanbul today for the city I love the most: Barcelona. Spain is the last station before hitting South America on Thursday. The carnival 2017 is calling, and so I'll land in Sao Paulo for the pre-carnival and will head to Rio de Janeiro for my birthday party and carnival.
Starting in Tbilisi/Georgia, I made my way south to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The trip was very straightforward, as there is an overnight train leaving Tbilisi every 2nd day and going the other way the following day, so it was very easy to do a day trip from Georgia down to Yerevan. As there was no problem with my drone in Georgia, I took my Phantom along with me to Yerevan hoping for some nice winter wonderland footage.
And: I was not disappointed. The temperature in Yerevan was roundabout -13 degrees Celsius, approx. 10 degrees less than in Tbilisi. So walking around in this freezing atmosphere was a bit painful, but, on the other hand, it gave you an even more intense impression of the strongly Soviet-style city of Yerevan. I have left Yerevan the next day with the overnight train back to Tbilisi in the 3rd class, which cost 9500 Armenian Dram, approx. 17 Euros.
In Georgia, I had finally some more time to spend than in Iran and Azerbaijan. So I could take the chance and travel around this gorgeous country at least a little bit. So I visited the fascinating capital city Tbilisi, the marvellous ski resort Gudauri (where I did paragliding for the first time) and Batumi, which is located at the Black Sea. After all, Georgia made it into my personal hitlist!
I was totally in love with the atmosphere on the streets of Georgia. People are intested in foreigners and even when their English is limited, they will speak up to you and try some conversation. Beer is cheap (a satisfaction, as it was impossible to get in the Muslim countries Azerbaijan and Iran), and the general costs of living are very, very low. In Batumi, I paid for a very nice double room 18 Georgian Lari, which is approx. 6 Euros. The infrastructure is a bit run down, but works perfectly, so travelling within Georgia is even without Georgian/Russian language skills easy...
The next stop after visiting Tehran, the capital of Iran, was Baku in Azerbaijan, where I had almost a full day to spend, before heading off to Tbilisi. After arrival at the airport, passengers in Baku are asked to put their luggage into the X-Ray directly after immigration, where the security officer could see my drone. As I didn't know, that it is illegal to import drones into Azerbaijan without a permission, I was asked to follow into the security office.
As it was around 5am in the morning, the officer, who was in charge of my drone dilemma, was pretty lazy, and so the whole procedure of leaving my drone in the office until picking it up on my onward trip took almost 1,5 hours. I have spent my day in this charming city without my Phantom then, though it would have been great to fly there - Baku is a city made for drone flying! But, lessons learned: do more research before trying to import a drone to a new place...