Slow Food Travel Azerbaijan

Slow Food Travel is a Slow Food project whose aim is to develop and promote a travel experience that is in line with the Slow Food philosophy. Slow Food Travel is one of the EU-funded COVCHEG project`s components. At the center of the project are food and food production. Unique and biodiverse gastronomic identities constitute the heart of the project and underpin all its activities, interlinking the various attractions. The latter include agrotourism places, restaurants, and leisure venues, and connected activities such as fairs, events, and food and wine tastings. The result is a convivial community that interacts and works as a system, welcoming visitors who discover it through food. The project seeks to develop tourist itineraries and services through the promotion of local cultural, agro-food, and gastronomic biodiversity, thanks to the participation of visitors (visits to food companies and farms, tastings, events, etc.). Its ultimate goal is to educate and raise awareness among visitors about the conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage, identities, and local gastronomy, as well as to develop connections between virtuous businesses in different locations in order to spread a more sustainable model of tourism.

The first step for developing SFT for Azerbaijan was to have a study trip to Italy in October, where we experienced SFT in action. This visit was quite useful as we got the practical experience of Slow Food travel. If I summarize this visit in one sentence, Slow Food Travel is all about paying respect to the soil and hard work of people who are behind each meal, which comes to our table, to learn the story of each ingredient and the process. Besides, I see Slow Food Travel as an engine, which spreads the money across the community. Instead of staying in one place and having a meal at the accommodation, travelers go out to discover stories behind the good, clean, and fair food, which make up meals. Besides guests have a chance to buy different products from producers (with labels and packages).

The second step was the mapping for SFT in order to decide who will be the participants (producers, restaurants, accommodation and sightseeing places). With special SFT questionnaires, we went for the field trip in November and December and determined the eligibility of these participants in Shamakhi, Ismayilli, Gabala, Sheki, and Gakh. Afterward, we created suggested itineraries with SFT activities from 2 days to 5 days. I will share examples of SFT activities: 

  • Goyler Village in Shamakhi (Rahil and Yasemen). The guests can participate in milking cows, making ayran (plain yogurt), shaking up “nehra” (steel churn), and taking their own butter/cream to taste.
  • Visit Teymur or Pergar in Madrasa village. To have tasted their Madrasa wines, served with their home products like cheese, eggs, etc. 
  • Rosehip picking at the house of Aghami in Zarat village in Ismayilli.
  • The guests can be taken to the watermill of Qurbaneli in Sheki where they see the preparation of flour for halva, then taken to Yahya halva maker to participate in the master class in preparation of Tel and Sheki halva.

The next thing will be to determine exact participants so we can organize networking and capacity building events.

Article by Nasimi Sadigzada (Local Slow Food Travel Expert)