In this chapter, we go fishing at the Caspian Sea! On with the Caviar Diaries adventure!
The next day we went fishing. Cavid is a painter and a passionate fisherman. We met at 7:00 in the morning and drove through the mountainous region of Gobustan and we eventually arrived at the Caspian Sea. The first thing that struck me were the platforms in the open sea – all on massive pillars. Comparable to oil-platforms, of which there are plenty in the Caspian Sea, these are solely made for fishing. They are private property and people come to fish there on the weekend or during the holidays. There are little houses on top. But before we checked them out, we went off shore with a fisherman – strictly speaking with a fisherman who didn’t have a permit. But fish don’t tend to ask for a license. And they bite like crazy. Our mysterious friend, whose name we shall disguise out of sympathy, has three nets all about a hundred metres long. A bottle serves as buoy and the fish are skilfully slipped into a box, which is hidden underneath the bottom of the boat. Our friend takes everything, small and big, pale and colourful. In total, he caught 15 kilogrammes that day, which is really something! The cycle is always the same. First you throw the nets and leave them. Then you collect the nets and repair them, and then you throw them again.
After work comes pleasure. We steer the boat to one of the platforms where we can now see some people. We ask if we can enter. And it was like it always is in the East. When I first approached, I was a little sceptical but then the two couples revealed themselves to be overwhelmingly friendly hosts. I was fed, and I mean that literally, with all kinds of food and it wasn’t long until the vodka was passed round. I felt good. I felt so good, that I jumped into the sea from the top. I couldn’t go to a farm or a factory for caviar, but I swam with the sturgeons and felt how pleasant the water is, first-hand. By far not as salty as the Black Sea or the Adriatic Sea.
On my last night in Baku, I was invited by Aysel to attend dinner with some partners and friends. Among them was the most famous folk-singer in the country and a legendary TV host. It is a special occasion, when such a strange visitor with a unique assignment suddenly appears in Baku. We went to a Georgian restaurant because among us was a Georgian director. And there it was: the black caviar. Our generous host Raphael served up a round and we celebrated by spreading it on fresh bread. It’s actually not so easy to open the glass of caviar with the trademark blue cap. You need some sort of bottle-opener and a lot of muscle-juice. I have to say it’s tasty, if you like fish, but it is actually the myth you are digesting that makes caviar so special. Of course “dinner” was not the right term. It was a feast overflowing with food and drinks. I tried my best to take part in the traditional Azeri dances and even managed not to embarrass myself. I even got a present, which this time was not just a lousy fish. This time it was a glass of the finest Azeri caviar which I carried with me at all times and finally delivered it with my films to the Lomography HQ in Vienna.
Caviar Diaries was written by Willie Schumann. Visit his LomoHome here
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