I finally arrived here in Baku, very early this morning. Flying in here, I had that great feeling of “This is really cool”. I had that same feeling flying into other new mysterious places like Sri Lanka, Western Sahara and Easter Island. Baku has not disappointed, it is a very cool and an extremely pleasant city.
As you drive in from the aiport, Baku reminds me of Amman, Jordan because it’s very Islamic looking with a lot of oil/bank type things around but under a lot of contruction. As you get into the city, you notice the extreme boom in building that is going on. The old city is being redone in modern and the town is trying to keep up. The old and new are side by side but the people have hardly changed.
The city doesn’t look Russian at all. It’s shocking to me that there is really, at least in my view, any sign that this was ever a Soviet city. Most other Russian and former Soviet cities I have been to are clearly Russian in their grandiose and cold architecture. The only signs here are the signs because they are in Russian but the architecture looks like France in the city and especially down by the waterfront on the oil filled Caspian Sea. When I say oil filled, that means literally. A truly lovely walk along the water smells like oil and at a closer look it is oil floating around in the water, so needless to say I wasn’t taking a dip, even in this brutally oppressive heat of at least 95 degrees plus sick humidity.
After walking around all morning and the early afternoon, I headed back to my hotel to relax and chill at the pool. The water was freezing but perfect because as soon as you got out, it was scorching again. I then made the rookie mistake of taking a nap in the middle of the day when I should’ve forced my self to stay up until the night to help alleviate the jet lag, but I was so tired and have been in transit for seemingly days now. Anyway, so I am now up and walking around the main square late at night and probably going to grab a beer at one of the pubs here if they are still open because sometimes Muslim countries close down bars at certain times.
Tomorrow I have a very long day that will involve a day trip to Nakhichevan, a possible bribe to get into Iran and then a late flight to Tbilisi, Georgia. The flight results from my Lonely Planet being outdated. I originally planned to take the overnight train that left very late so I wouldn’t have to rush and then could just sleep on the train but apparently my book is from 2002 and things have changed. Shocking that they don’t update the Azerbaijan LP each year-I’m sure it’s one of their best sellers, haha.
The coolest thing about being here is that the people I have met today and talked to are all on the same page with being here. The fact that it’s out of the way and strange to visit is cool to them and they have interesting things to say and they know where I am coming from. I was talking to a guy who had just taken the old silk route through Central Asia and described each place to me in detail and I loved it. I know where and how I want to do it next year or whenever I do the Stans. It’s funny to hear people talk about the Stans in a very very positive light.
I love hearing that Bishkek, Krzgyzstan has fun night life and great mountain scenery. Thats one of the great things about travelling, the global community of travelers is very small and everybody understands what you are doing, I love that. I ask people here about my next destination of Tbilisi and everyone here gives a recommendation on where to go and stay, etc.
Anyway, hopefully I will sleep a bit tonight because I have a 4am wake up call to head to Nakhichevan and possibly Iran, I have good info that you can pay the border guards like $100 and they will let you head into Kulfa-I think thats what it’s called for a half hour or so without a visa…we shall see