I have to admit, I’ve had the blog title sorted out for this entry for a few weeks now. If you don’t get it try pronouncing Baku properly, Ba-Koo. On first glance, the city of Baku is a blend of old and new. Baku, I think is technically in Asia, actually, I believe most of Azerbaijan is in Asia, although like Australia it competes in Eurovision song contest, so it must be in Europe. Geographically confused? I’m a geography nerd and I’m not 100% sure where the Europe and Asia border is these days. Baku has lovely European style streets and feels very European.
I arrived much later than expected as a dust storm in Dubai meant I was stuck in the plane for 2 hrs before takeoff and another 2 and a half hours of flight time. The taxi drivers decided to try me on for 50 Manat (about $40 AUD), but I got them down to 30 Manat as soon as the express bus rocked up. The road from the airport to the city was a lovely 8 lane expressway with speed limits of 120 km/h, which was only noticed by myself when I thought the taxi driver was going fast!
The late arrival though was just in time for the locals to be out and wandering the pedestrian streets, in the lovely balmy evening weather. Baku sits on the Caspian Sea, which is the worlds only inland sea, now the Aral Sea is mostly dried up. I have no idea why its a sea and not a lake, but it is big and I presume the water is salty. I found a place called Mado and sat down for dinner at 7:30pm and the waiter asked if I wanted the sweets menu. Everyone was eating cakes and sweet food. I soon worked out that Toyuq is chicken and ordered what turned out to be Chicken skewers with veggies and rice. The meal was quite tasty and by the time I left everyone was eating dinner. Maybe 7:30pm is too early and 8pm is dinner time?
This morning I was awake quite early, probably a bit of jet lag still. I managed to find a place for breakfast and ended up with a huge bowl or porridge and something that resembled small pancakes with berries and cream. It was delicious and filling and exactly what I needed to go and explore the old city of Baku. Now I’d seen the old walls many times watching the Formula 1 GP on TV, but I had no idea what to expect in the old city. It turns out much of the architecture is very similar to the streets I wandered through to get here, however, the inner streets became the standard too narrow for cars that is common in cities that predate cars and hadn’t been demolished due to war or natural disaster.
After exploring the streets I found my way to the Maidens Tower, which I’d left for last. If you believe the hype, the historians claim they don’t know what the tower is for. Personally, I reckon if you build a tower with 5 metre thick walls, then its probably some kind of defensive tower, but that hasn’t stopped someone trying to find a reason like used for astronomy. Inside there were numerous levels, with a small staircase inside the walls between each floor. On each floor were some exhibits, some of them were very futuristic, with LCD animations in clear glass overlaying an object behind it.
I went and found a place for lunch and ended up with what I think was turkish pide, but not sure as it may have been an Azerbaijani pide. Its hard to tell, then again they only had the Turkish beer Efes.
After an afternoon nap, I went for a walk along the “Bulvar” a large park that runs along the waterfront. Fortunately, the park is lovely, as the sea is very polluted. The park contained such things as merry go rounds, dodge-em cars, a cactus garden and a Mini Venice that resembles Las Vegas more than Venice itself. That was in the 2 kilometres or so that I walked through.
I found my way to the funicular for lazy people to go to the top of the hill to see the flame towers up close. At the top, the sun had just set and a mosque was lit up with the flame towers behind. The Flame towers have a hotel in one and apparently, a Ferrari store is at the base of one of the others. They certainly have a unique architectural look.
I headed back down the hill to see the Flame Towers light show. The lighting on the buildings rotated between a few different displays, such as the national flag and flames themselves. It wasn’t up there with the Hong Kong light and laser show, but it also lived up to expectations unlike the said show in hong Kong.
My stay in Baku is short and sweet. I took the opportunity to stop here as the flights all seemed to go through Baku to get to Tbilisi in Georgia. It is an interesting city and glad I visited. I think that a full day is enough to see the highlights. I didn’t go into any museums though and may do some tomorrow before heading to the airport. Fortunately, the flight is only an hour long tomorrow. You can expect a lot of photos of old churches and mountain scenery over the next two weeks.