Now I live in Germany, in a small town where the philatelic scene is not so lively. I have seen a collector's shop somewhere in the town center, but have never really visited as I suspect there won't be anything too exciting there.
At any rate, I suppose from now on I am back to regular programming, and for my first post I would like to share some SASE's that I managed to send while I was in Azerbaijan.
Of course, this is only a small selection of covers that I sent. I sent covers from as many branches in Baku (the capital city) and of course, when possible, from all the other towns I managed to visit in the country: Zaqatala, Ordubad, Naxçıvan, Şəki, Gəncə, etc. I also sent out some covers with wrong addresses in order to obtain postmarks from obscure, smaller towns like Daşkəsən and Astara.
Here are a few samples of the Azerbaijani covers that have enriched my collection:
The postmarks in Azerbaijan are, unlike in the Philippines, uniform. All of the ones I saw being used (although admittedly the ones I usually saw were in the bigger cities and towns) used the same machine and had the same format: "Azərbaycan" (Azerbaijan in the Azerbaijani language) on top, two eight-pointed Azerbaijani stars on the sides, and then the city or town name at the bottom, written in Azerbaijani. Under "Azərbaycan" is the postal code of the city/town (format: AZ-0000) and on top of the city/town name is where they add some sort of postal agent or department notation. In Baku, it is usually a letter, which I suppose refers to the agent who handled the letter. In other towns, there would be something that says "Letter section" or something to that effect in Azerbaijani.
The postmarks are almost always blue and use a self-inking rubber stamp machine. Only once did I see a non-blue postmark, and this was a purple one from Daşkəsən, which, as I understand, is an extremely small town in the middle of nowhere (as most of Azerbaijan outside of Baku is).
Here is a cover with meter postage. I saw a meter postage machine only at the central post office in Baku, and I suppose the one machine they have is more than enough for the entire country as mail is not so widely used there outside of business transactions and official notices, and I suspect most of these kinds of things happen only in Baku.
I quite like the franking from the machine. The round part on the side reads " 1 Saylı Poçt Filialı (Post Branch Number One), AZ-1000." The top of the box part reads "Azərbaycan Poçtu" (Azerbaijan Post) and the bottom reads "Milli Operator" (National Operator).
The funny thing about this meter stamp is that it can only be used for registered letters and the ladies at the post office cannot be persuaded to use it for other types of letters, such as, say, normal airmail.
Azerbaijan's currency is called the Manat (AZN), and is divided into 100 qəpik. Manat was the word used for the Ruble during the Soviet Union and qəpik is the Azerbaijani version of the word "kopek." The Manat's value is at present almost equal to the Euro, but the case was not always so. The Azerbaijani currency was revalued in 2005 at the exchange rate of 5000 old Manat = 1 new Manat. It's actually quite strange because, although the Manat and the Euro are almost at par, there are unbelievable stark differences in the quality of life in the European Union and in Azerbaijan. The value of the Azerbaijani currency does not seem to reflect the true status quo in the country.
The Azerbaijani alphabet is similar to that used by Turkish in that it has ö, ü, ş, ç, and ğ, and there is a difference between i and ı.
Speaking of Turkish, the design of the meter stamp is very similar to that of one I got in Turkey, seen below:
Here is a registered local cover I sent from Naxçıvan, an exclave of Azerbaijan that is separated from the rest of the country by the nation's mortal enemy, Armenia. The only way to get there is by flying or going through Iran. If you are an American citizen like I am, then the latter is not an option!
Here are a few more covers:
Twenty years of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, one of the last issues before I left
Azerbaijan - Mexico joint issue, among my favorites
90 years of the first Republic of Azerbaijan, which was proclaimed in 1918.