So Much to See, So Little Time
Azerbaijan was part of a whirlwind seven-country jaunt that would start in Turkey, run through the Caucuses and end up in The Middle East.
As usual, I had a lot to see, and only a little time to see it, and working with flights on these trips are akin to putting together a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. I’d arrive in the capital, Baku, at 2:30AM, and leave later that same day at 10PM. I’d have less than 20 hours on the ground, and I’d spend a good portion of that sleeping, but it’s the only way I could get this aggressive schedule to work. I was on my way to country #100 this week!
It was past three in the morning by the time I cleared customs and immigration in Baku. Luckily there was a hotel right there at the airport and that would be my first stop; and straight to bed! I’d need at least some sleep if I was gonna spend the day seeing Baku on foot. Lights out.
A few hours later I was up and it was time to head into town to explore Baku. I’d check in at another hotel near the city. I’d originally planned to stay that night in Azerbaijan and take a flight out the next morning, but had to flip some flights around. Sadly, the room was non-refundable, so it basically turned into the world’s most expensive luggage storage. No time to enjoy the beautiful room with views of the water; I’d need to get going if I wanted to see country #98!
The Long Walk
Note that I said that second hotel was “near” town. It was actually a good three and a half mile trek into the center of town, but most of the walk was along a beautiful cement-tiled boardwalk along the Caspian Sea. The path cut through parks and along fountains, gardens, piers and coffee shops; all part of an area called Milli Park. The hotel was certainly a little farther out of the city center than I would’ve preferred, but the walk was nice, the weather was perfect, and God knows I could use the steps–I needed to work off all that great bread I consumed in Georgia. Just before arriving into the city center, I stumbled upon a stand selling these really cool, and fresh-as-can-be potato slices. I watched the man place the spud inside some sort of metal contraption, turn the crank, and suddenly this giant potato was turned into delicate slices–or “chips” as us Americans call them. They were then lightly fried, seasoned and handed over to me on a stick. It was delicious and somehow I felt a little less guilty about eating these fried potatoes, even though they were still basically french fries, just in a different shape and on a stick!
The Old City
After that really long, but beautiful seaside walk, I’d arrived in the center of town and strolled right on into the “old city.” This UNESCO World Heritage site dates back to at least to the 12th century, with some contending that construction dates as far back as the 7th century! I’ve been to these old, walled cities before, but really liked this one in particular because it wasn’t absolutely crammed with tourists like most. In fact, many of the alleys and streets of this old city were actually pretty desolate. It seemed less like a tourist trap, and a little more real-life. The backdrop of modern glass and steel buildings peeking up over the ancient walls made for a pretty awe inspiring scene. Baku’s unique beauty was shining this Saturday afternoon.
Beyond The Walls
I enjoyed wandering the old city and finished my exploration inside the walls with a nice meal at a local joint. Then it was out to wander the “outside,” which had no shortage of surprises including the hard to miss Flame Towers and a set of very tall and wide stairs that led me up to a massive observation deck that was part of Upland Park, that featured outstanding views of the city and Caspian Sea. The area up top was really something, with monuments, gardens, a fancy cemetery, and oh, those views! It was only after I returned home and started writing this blog that I discovered that I’d missed the funicular–drat! I love me a funicular! I really did enjoy walking Baku, with no preparation or notes whatsoever. I probably missed some good stuff, but I felt like simply wandering on this stop, and I really enjoyed my one day in Baku.
All in all, Baku was really nice. It was super clean and very well organized. The old city inside the new city was neat, and I think my only mistake was getting a hotel (that I really didn’t use anyway) so far out from the city center. I cabbed it back at sundown, to grab my bags and then head to the airport. While I would like to return to see other parts of Azerbaijan in the future, I did feel that my one day in the city was enough to satisfy me.
This entry was posted in Asia