Gedabey is one of the underrated places in Azerbaijan. Yet Gedabey has a heritage as rich as those of mainstream places visited both by local people and foreigners.
It is true that Gedabey is a remote region and comparatively difficult to reach. It has poorly developed resources, like hotels, cafes or restaurants. Despite all of these, Gedabey still offers a memorable experience that could change your view of the region and destroy your stereotypes of Gedabey.
Here are my own eight reasons to visit Gedabey this summer instead of staying in Baku or taking a second or third trip to any mainstream places in Azerbaijan. The list is completely based on my experience of one and half year stay in Gedabey.
- Maiden Tower (Qız Qalası/Namərdqala)
Located at the edge of Soyudlu Village, the castle is called the Maiden Tower (Qız Qalası) by local people. You may also hear the name of Namerd gala (trans. Castle of disloyal man).
Local peoples’ notion of beautifulness rests upon the sophistication. Therefore, they consider the Maiden Tower of Gedabey as superior over the Maiden Tower of Baku which is simple and ordinary.
It is built of red bricks completely. There is no access gate to the castle. The structure of the castle is pretty much sophisticated due to the location and cylinder-shaped bulwarks (There is a dozen of this shape). More importantly, there is no clue or whatsoever that you may have the slightest idea about its purposes and services it was rendering.
It is completely abandoned. It is lonely in deep mountainous forestry at hilltop, at edge of ridge. After the Maiden Tower, the ridge levels down to the riverbed where a tributary connects to the Shamkir River.
- Cyclopean Castles/Walls
Although not much of attraction centre compared to Cyclopean Walls in Greece, they are found in Gedabey, too. Local people call them as Qalaça (trans. superlatively small castle).
It is observed that there are at least two Cyclopean Walls in each village of Gedabey. They are pretty much a structured system in terms of connection. It is claimed that all these Cyclopean Walls, which constitutes a castle, are connected visually. This is to say that there could be some sort of communication or message of sign language between two of them that might be passed on to people living in another Cyclopean Castle in another village on and on.
Of course, Gedabey has expanded and changed throughout ages and it cannot be applied to all villages of today. However, that is also a fact that similar structures can be found in areas which are not populated.
The easily accessible Cyclopean Walls/Castles are in Arikhdam village.
- The Siemens-built Arch-Bridges
Anyone, who is unaware of the Siemens Brothers’ private business activities in Gedabey (Werner von Siemens called it Kedabek), cannot help himself/herself uttering “what the fuck” when he/she sees those arch-bridges.
Those arch bridges have been built by the Siemens Bothers to allow the Mine to have proper transport connection with the Copper Smeltery Plant (refinement was run by Electrolytic method) in Galakent (a present day village in Gedabey).
The reason why these bridges called as arch-bridges is because of supporting arch for bridges over the large and wide downstream.
Those Arch-Bridges also laid ground for what is widely and proudly claimed one of the first railways (the exact term would be Narrow Gauge-Line and it was built during 1879-1883) of the South Caucasus.
There are more than 20 Arch-Bridges along the route of the railway through Gedabey a Duzyurd, Sabatkechmaz, Chalburun and Galakent villages. Some of them are collapsed and remnants still lay on the downstream. However, most of them are intact standing still beautifully.
To read more, check my blog post.
- The Siemens Copper/Gold smeltery
I will let Werner von Siemens speak instead of me here.
Upon his first visit to Gedabey in1865:
“The copper mine of Kedabeg is very old: it is even asserted that it is one of the oldest mines, from which copper was actually extracted in pre-historic times…At any rate the number of old works, which crown the summit of the metalliferous mountain, testifies to the antiquity of the working of the mine as does also the occurrence of native copper, and finally the circumstance that extensive pre-historic burial-grounds exist in the vicinity of Kedabeg…” (pp. 261-262)
Upon on solution to keep local nomad male population settle in for permanently:
“The handle was afforded by natural inclination of female sex for a pleasant life and their easily awakened vanity and love of dress…Further care was taken that the women should be able to procure all sorts of small appliances, which made their life in the house more comfortable, and themselves more attractive to their husbands. They had soon acquired a taste for carpets and mirrors, improved their toilet, in short they experienced wants, for the satisfaction of which the men were now compelled to provide, who in so doing were very well pleased with the change. (pp. 283-284)
Upon his third and last visit to Gedabey in1890:
“It is the thoroughly European spectacle of a small picturesquely situated manufacturing town, which presents itself to view with huge furnaces and large buildings among them a Christian chapel, a school and inn fitted up in European fashion.” (p.280)
The excerpts are from Siemens, Werner von. Personal Recollection of Werner von Siemens. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893.
To read more, check my report for Visions of Azerbaijan magazine.
To see photos, check my blog post.
- Koroğlu Castle
The Koroğlu Castle locates in close vicinity of densely populated villages, Miskinli and Galakent. The castle is easily accessible from Miskinli villages whereas western side (Galakent) is surrounded with the cliff, which makes it difficult to climb up, though still possible.
The castle is almost intact and not much damage has been done. Inside of the castle structures are safe, though most part is buried underground.
The castle is like an open museum. You may even do a little bit of archaeological study. The area below the castle walls in the western side is full of potteries, slag and you may even find seashells.
In short, the castle and the area are completely unexplored you may make discoveries of your life.
- The Mahrasa Temple
It is an old Albanian Church presumably, although some say it was fire worshipers’ temple before.
However, it is more like a monastery. It locates 3-4 km west of the Maiden Tower, right on the bank of the Shamkir River. It has all the resources and structures monks would need to live.
I assume that Armenian monks used it for a long time until the war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Currently, the Mahrasa Temple houses an extended family, herds of cows and sheep, chickens and shepherd dogs. Shepherd dogs are guards of the family and real threat to the life of unknown visitors.
The temple has beautiful carvings on walls and stones and scripts above gates in some of the buildings. There are no sources that would explain what all those mean.
Besides, the family living there is friendly, of course, once you have a security clearance. Then they will invite you for a cup of herbal tea with honey they themselves produce there. After all, you will get a permission to explore the temple.
- Soyudlu Tailings Dam
Soyudlu Tailings Dam is one of the biggest and largest activity of Gedabey Copper/Gold Plant. It is claimed to be the biggest tailings dam in South Caucasus.
It is difficult to get a permission to visit the Copper/Gold Plant. The Mine’s location is quite restricted for view in the distance. But Soyudlu Tailings Dam locates in deserted mountains and you are free to visit around.
Some argue that the Tailings Dam will still have remains there in thousand years. It will give you a rough idea about the volume of operations that the Gedabey Plant, the only plant producing gold in Azerbaijan, runs.
- The Albanian cemetery
The cemetery locates in Maarif village. There is no way that you can recognize the area, unless you are an expert in archaeology. Close to the cemetery, there is also Qalaça (Cyclopean structure), where we found arrowhead in one of our “expeditions.”
There is no reliable information or a confirmation from a source that this Albanian let alone it be a cemetery. All these words are proof of that these are merely an assumption.
Over the same territory, there are two or three looted tombs.
The tombs are caved in the ground: its entry to the tomb is 70x150sm wide. Inside is quite large as wide as 200x200sm.