Last night I took my shaman fishing in Azshara, to help with getting her cooking skill up to Outland standards.
Azshara is a strange zone. It's sad and desolate, full of elven ruins and completely devoid of players most of the time. Yet it's also hauntingly beautiful, what with the weather appearing to be perpetually stuck on a sunny autumn day.
I remember the first time I went to Azshara on my night elf priest. One of my friends had somehow stumbled across the quest Arcane Runes in Ironforge, which sends you to Azshara to investigate some naga-infested ruins and then call onto an NPC on a small island off the coast. So we set off to find this Azshara place... and then proceeded to get lost a lot. The zone really lends itself to that, what with all the cliffs that make it very easy to fall off somewhere and then find yourself stuck in some ravine with no easily apparent way to get back up. We also barely escaped death by murlocs and other wildlife more than once, what with all of them being three or four levels above our own at the time. We didn't get a whole lot done I suppose, but it felt like a truly epic adventure at the time.
On my mage I went to Azshara to do the quest to get Polymorph: Pig, a bizarre venture that required me to sheep naga and then kill lots of weak little sheep with arcane explosions... Imagine my surprise when I first found out about Archmage Xylem's tower! A whole freaking tower that I hadn't even known was there! And yet so easy to miss if you don't happen to talk to a certain elf NPC sat in the middle of nowhere...
Much later I remember coming to Azshara on one of my Horde characters, I think it was my priest, falling off a cliff somewhere while exploring and randomly landing next to Captain Beltis, who gave me a little stand-alone quest to protect her crew from a naga attack. Certainly not what I expected to find at the bottom of a random cliff.
Oh, and all the level fifty class quests that lead you to Azshara of course! I thought the hunter one was the worst. Hello there, wavethrasher scales with a horrible drop rate. Hello there, wavethrashers with a horrible spawn rate. Ugh.
Anyway, all this left me with the impression that Azshara was very big and empty, but held a lot of secrets if you only knew where to look and followed the right quest chains. To an extent that's true, but not entirely. There are some quests there, but still a lot less than in most other zones. Plus there are a lot of things that just scream "unfinished content", like the locked gate to what looks like another section of Timbermaw Hold, or the instance entrances with Horde and Alliance flags that were apparently meant for a battleground that never went live.
Even Blizzard basically acknowledged that the zone isn't what they want it to be right now, and that it will thus receive a drastic overhaul in Cataclysm. If I recall correctly they said that the goblins will build a settlement there, and that it will be turned into a zone for a much lower level range (twenties or so). I'm quite looking forward to that, picturing an Azshara that is less sad and more alive.
However, my inner explorer is also a little disappointed once again. There is something to be said for a zone that very much feels like just a place. A place where you can go explore, pick flowers, go fish and discover a secret here and there, but not somewhere you go just to knock out the next ten levels (because it simply doesn't lend itself to that kind of thing). I'll try to appreciate that while I still can.