Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A beautiful sh**hole.

Scary, isnt it, how fast time goes?

Only yesterday it was Sunday and already almost the weekend again. 

I meant to write about this particular experience I had in Azerbaijan in summer, and now, by the time I actually got round to doing it, it is almost winter. Next thing I know, it will be summer again, and time to maybe visit Azerbaijan... But let me assure you, I am never ever again going back to that resort in Lankaran.

I have always been curious about that region. For two reasons:

  • My first boyfriend was from Lankaran and always went on about how amazing that area was.I was very young, in love, and had fantasies about us lying in a beautiful meadow, like in Twilight.
  • Lankaran is in some funky geographical zone, so I was told, subtropics I think, or something like that. And they have both mountains and the sea. Amazing, basically. Plus, i heard their food was superb.
So, one day, when I saw one of my friend’s photos from a resort in Lerik, and the photos looked so good…I thought great! We will go explore this end of the country now!
The night on the train was as scary as my previous experience, going to Illisu, then, early in the morning, an old car picked us up for what seemed like an eternal journey on very bad roads. My mother felt sad for Lankaran. Why are your roads so bad? She kept questioning the poor driver. The driver had no answers.

On the way, we stopped at some old lady’s shed to pick up hot bread. That is an important detail, because, after the sleepless night on a dodgy train, and a long journey on very bad roads, (and, most importantly, before three days at the resort we expected to be nice…) that moment of eating a whole big flat chorek was arguably, the best thing that happened to us during the entire trip.

The nature around us was, indeed, spectacular. That part of my expectation came true- Lankaran is just stunningly beautiful. We kept going further and further up the mountains and I couldn’t wait to see the place we were booked to stay at. And the name of it…Relax was promising. That was exactly what I was looking for- to relax. 

The first impression as the Relax hotel appeared in between the trees, set in a beautiful valley below, was just great. Mummy, look at their swimming pools!!! My little girl exclaimed, jumping in her seat. 

Little did we know.

The receptionist in the resort sent the first signal of the things to come when he glanced at my children, and swiftly removed the bowl of cheap local candy off the counter. That alone should have been enough to predict the level of service we were to expect. But, I was beyond caring about that. Whatever, I thought, who wants those cheap sweets, let’s just get to our cottage. 

We checked in, paid in advance (I now realize that was a trick to make you stay and not run away), and got escorted to a little buggy to take us up to our house. 

Yet again, we were too tired to notice that the drive up to the cottage took forever. Being new customers, you almost guaranteed to be given the worst accommodation, the one nobody else would want- I know that from experience in Azerbaijan provinces before, I should have known better. 

The house looked nice. Everything around looked nice, too. That was the most peculiar and misleading thing about Relax. It all looked nice. But, once you tried to use anything, nothing worked.
You know, I said to my mother, what this place reminds me of? The old Russian Winnie the Pooh cartoon. When he described the honey as such an odd thing…it is sort of there, but then?.. it is not.

The Relax hotel managed, in just two days, to do the exact opposite of its’ name to all four of us. 

Everything seemed to be there, and looked great…but then, like in some zombie blockbuster, nothing was actually aliveIt was as if things were once working and looked after and then just died. A dead water slide, with green stagnant water at the bottom. A dead bowling alley, with nobody there. A dead games arcade. A dead bar with no customers, and no proper drinks available, despite a display of the pretty bottles on shelves. Occasionally, a member of staff would appear and look at us with doubt, and genuine surprise-Really? You want to play a game of bowling? You mean like...Here? Like,...right now?

The only reason I knew the ducks in the little pond outside the restaurant were real was because I realised that, were they mechanical, they would also be broken and dead.

I felt sad for this beautiful shithole. 

Local customers, oblivious to the level of service they should be expecting, aimlessly strolled around the premises, dressed in their best clothes. At breakfast, chewing on local bread, with over-boiled eggs, I admired the mountains around- so stunning! And felt sad. Poor Lankaran, I thought. Is it true, that because of the Talysh population and their alleged rebellious attitude, the government is not investing in your roads or tourism? Is it true that despite this stunning natural beauty, you are way behind every other region in the country- poor, abandoned, forgotten for political reasons?
Or is it simply that your people just don’t actually care? 

Because, people in Lankaran seemed that tiny bit different

I was trying to remember if my first boyfriend was such a smooth liar. Because one bizarre, yet common characteristics I noticed in the resort was that they all lied. Will you please send someone to fix this shower as it lets all the water out and the whole bathroom is flooded? Of course! This afternoon! 

Will you please move us to another cottage, as my mother can’t possibly walk so much every day that her new Fitbit keeps sending her fireworks for reaching the recommended daily steps every couple of hours? Sure, of course! We will move you tomorrow morning! 

Why do you lie? I asked the pool staff when they, for the second time, advised me that the aqua park was going to re-open soon. The young local guys laughed.

Maybe, it was not a lie. Maybe, just like I heard about Japanese people, the Lerik guys just don’t like to say no to your face. So they pretend they will do something, just to be polite. In the end, that resort somehow not only doesn’t relax you but makes you want to kill them all, slowly and painfully, and burn the place down. Instead, you pack your bags, pay for a private car even though you had train booked in two more days, and get the f**k out of there. Please mummy, my big daughter said, I just want to go back to Baku. 

So….Goodbye, Relax, you gorgeous shithole. I am sorry. It is not you, it is me. And, like every time someone says it, you know I lied. It is you.