Where to begin about Baku…it is a crazy city with big dreams. Since we had 7 days here, we can speak a bit more about our experiences in this city. Fortunately, it has quite some oil reserves that will keep it prosperous for the next 20 years. One can only hope that Azerbaijan will do what the UAE has done with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to preserve its wealth for when the natural reserves run dry. Only time will tell.
|Baku Old City with the Maiden Tower|
Baku is an expensive city, 1 Manat is 1 Euro. You can find some deals around town to eat, but if you are in a tourist world, it can be just as expensive as Paris both food and lodging.
|When coming to Baku, bring money|
One of the most striking things about the city is how the government is simply covering up the old by adding a new sandstone façade to all the buildings that show to the Park Bulevar.
|Old City view at night|
There are new constructions that have been slapped together quickly with the same coverings, however, when you look at the detail under the façade, the poor craftsmanship in construction can be seen.
|Newly remodeled building...|
Lastly, there are these 3 rather ugly (in our opinion) flame towers up on the hill that look down upon the city. The come out of nowhere and simply to not mesh well with the city’s old appeal.
|They look like space worms coming out of the city|
Again, this is just a humble observation from a couple people who spent 7 days there while waiting for the ferry to Aktau.
Despite covering up the old with a new sandstone cover, the people remain true. They are very nice and giving. They all want to chat and have çai (tea).
|our trusty companion, cai|
It is a warm culture. The people of Baku are proud of their city and their location. They love to share their knowledge about the city and the country. It is very inspiring. Almost all the locals we met had travelled some, even if it were just to Russia. I think the number one question was if were came for the EuroVision Song Contest…haha, no.
|Road to EuroVision Song Contest|
We stayed at 2 different spots in the city: Fawlty Towers and the Caspien Hostel. Both were nice in their respective regards. Fawlty towers is a hotel (and more expensive, but affordable) while the Caspian is a hostel (less expensive and perfect for multiple nights waiting for the ferry).
What we liked about he Caspian was the location in the Old City and meeting all the people there.
|The Caspian Hostel|
Peter – he is an English/German cyclist living in Belgium who is cycling to Beijing from Istanbul. He has taken off almost 8 months to do this. It is pretty amazing.
|Peter and Rolf|
Rolf – a swiss traveler who has taken off about 6 months to backpack around the region floating from one place to another
Vicente – a Spanish guy from Madrid who was waiting for a visa to Iran to spend 3 weeks there
Rado – a Slovakian doing half work half travel around the region
Mischa – the owners brother who speaks a few words of English
Aika – the owner – very friendly who helped us considerably with calling the ferry
Aika’s daughters – they spoke English and did a lot of the translating
Aika’s sister – also speaks English and guided us to the place
Aika’s parents – who are there looking over the place
|Scott's favorite food, Tombik Doner - thanks Johan!|
Harm Jan has an old friend in Baku, Johan. He is working for a drilling company in Baku and met up with us one afternoon for drinks, food and drinks. He gave us a nice expat overview of Azerbaijan and Baku and showed us nice places to eat and drink.
|Harm-Jan and Johan|
Emil, a friend of ours from the EMBA program, put us in contact with a friend of a friend, Sevil. She is a student in Baku and she offered to take us around the city to get to know it a bit more. She has a wealth of knowledge that she learned from her grandfather.
We spent a good portion of Thursday 3 May with her, showing us some sites around the city, places to eat, and places to drink. She brought a rejuvenated optimism about the city. We had been a bit jaded by all the hassles trying to leave. She was a nice breath of fresh air. Thanks Sevil!
|Scott, Sevil, Harm-Jan|
In the end, we were happy to leave Baku and disappointed that we were not able to visit more of the countryside, due to our visa issue.
|Baku by night from the pier - AmbiLight has arrived to Azerbaijan|
Our recommendation is that if you travel here overland and the embassy or consulate says you can only get a transit visa, stop the process and reapply. There are wonderful sites to see outside Baku, but you need time.
|Our favorite drinking hole|