by Johann Paulo Camaddo

The first thing we did is find some shade, freshen up, drink some water, and relax. Then, an old-looking person came, and started talking to my Azerbaijani friend. No word of English, but he was excited to see us. He was actually our tour guide. He talked and talked and talked more. Still, no clue what he was saying, but there was something interesting about him that caught my attention. It might be because he reminded me of my grandfather—a person who is very honest, respectful, and has a lot of value. I remember, when I was in the Philippines, having a cold beer, I would listen to my grandfather’s stories all day. They were stories about his childhood, work, achievements, and love life. His stories were the best, and he talked about them as if they happened yesterday. 

When I looked at our tour guide, I saw my grandfather. By the way, his name was "Vidadi" but they pronounce it "Vidaaadi." Even though he wasn’t speaking English, you could still understand his deliverance through his voice intonation, body language, and, of course, help from friends translating. 
He was passionate about what he was saying, and that made an impact on me because you could feel that he loved telling stories about the Madakan Tower. It made a huge difference in comparison to tours guides of museums. Sometimes, you have the feeling of pressing the "on" button, and words would come out. Vidadi was different. You could feel his happiness of having us and showing us the tower. He was alive and passionate about what he was saying.

The Mardakan Tower is a defense tower in case of attacks, and it has a few observing towers in its surroundings. There is an underground tunnel connected to other towers for faster communication, and holes are on the floor used as fridge and as a storage for food. The first thing that came into my mind was, "This place is so cool for shooting a video clip." It looked liked fortress in movies, and that Juliette is on top of the tower. In addition, there is an escape tunnel to hide in case of defeat.

The stairs are really high, and there is no light. Imagine how it was in the 22nd century, running with a torch and a heavy armor. The sight from the top is beautiful. You could admire the sea, the land, and the mountains. We could spot other surveillance tower as well. Vidadi told me that he climbs this tower every day to maintain it. To be honest, I would do it as well, to catch the fresh air and admire the view.

After visiting the place, Vidadi talked a lot again. He told stories of other tourists, and his trips to other countries. I remember when he told us that he was in love with a Russian girl, and he even got a tattoo of her name. But his mom didn’t accept this relationship, because he should marry an Azerbaijani girl. 
Sadly, they had to separate, and he had to erase the tattoo. You could see the sadness in his face while he was showing us the old scar with her name.

Vidadi brought me down to Earth, and I could see the smile on the faces of the people in our group. He was just so interesting and honest. Whatever your language, you would still understand him.

He had such a great time that he decided to charge us one AZN instead of five. I couldn’t agree with that fee so I gave him five AZN, and I gave him a Swiss franc as a souvenir. He was so nice that he deserved our gratitude as well. It turns out he collected coins, and the Swiss franc was added to his collection.

Like my grandfather, it was hard for him to say goodbye. I could see tears in his eyes, as it was hard to let go. 

While we were walking away from the tower, my Azerbaijani friend told me that he invited us for dinner. I would have said, "yes," so I could listen to his stories and enjoy his company. But, unfortunately, we had to leave. At one point, I became emotional, as I hadn't seen my grandfather for the past three years.

Meeting him reminded me of my values in life, which are honesty, respect, and meaning. Anywhere you find yourself in the world, you don’t have to speak the language to understand people. Shared emotions and memories of people are what make our lives valuable, and I am sure I will remember Vidadi for a long time.

It made me cry as we got further from the tower, but it made me stronger as a person and it made feel proud about myself. Thank you, Vidadi.


About The Writer

Born in the Philippines, grew up in Switzerland and now living in the UK, Paulo developed an interest in travel at a young age. He is passionate about cultures and try to understand it through a local’s perspective. Whenever he is not abroad, you will find him in London studying music business, more specifically in artist management. -> 


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