Mon, Nov 11, 2013
We arrived in Baku around 5pm (4pm after the time difference) and it took about 2 hours to get off the boat and thru immigration and customs. We were in Azerbaijan!
We had a short drive from the port to our hotel in the middle of town. This was culture shock! It feels as if we are in any European city – Mercedes everywhere, shops like Diesel, BCBG, and Versace. The police cars are BMWs! The buildings are either regal, or very modern, or both.
After checking into the hotel, some of us headed out for dinner but the walk to the restaurant was long and I was losing patience and wanted time to see the city at night and get back to catch up on computer stuff. I had seen and ad for McDonald’s with some menu items we don’t have in the US so I set off for a mall food court back in the center of the city. On the way, I stopped to take photos of Baku at night and I rode the Ferris wheel. There was a big tower that displayed the time, temperature, and humidity. Humidity of 85% felt weird after such a long time in the various deserts of central Asia.
I got to the mall food court. There was a big wall that said McDonald’s but I couldn’t find it. I asked a security guard and he crossed his arms – the Central Asian hand gesture for closed. I went to KFC instead and upon ordering an item, I was told there wasn’t any. So, I ordered a value meal for just over $4 that included a chicken patty the size and shape of a hot dog, a tiny fries and coke, and a sundae. I walked around the mall for a little while – this could have been any mall in America. I was surprised to see that the mall restroom had toilet paper and you could actually flush it down the toilet (for the rest of the trip, we’ve been placing it in a rubbish bin since the plumbing isn’t strong enough to suck the TP down the drain). I spent a little more time walking in the park on the side of the Sea – I was surprised to see so many people out enjoying the park so late on a drizzly Monday night.
Tues, Nov 12
We didn’t have to leave Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan until 1 pm so Mindy, Sam, Chris, Anna, Barb, and I set off for a walk to Old Town. We had breakfast and then walked along the promenade park.
At old town, we first walked along the outside of the western wall in a nice park with fountains. There was a second lower wall that had recently been unearthed. Back in the time the walls were used for protection, there was a trench between the walls that was filled with oil and set afire if an enemy came.
We then walked around inside the Old Town, looking at the interesting narrow streets, the open air museum with old stone carvings, and the Maiden Tower.
We looked at some souvenir shops and I bought a fridge magnet and a table cloth. The rest wanted to stop for coffee at an outdoor cafe. The weather was super nice today and so warm we had removed all our layers until our T-shirts. I decided to walk farther and eventually arrive at the Shirakhans Palace. This complex was built in the 1400’s and included a mosque, hamman, house, and other buildings. I ran into a huge tour group from Arizona which seemed quite odd to see so many Americans in Azerbaijan.
I took quite a bit of photos here and then made my way down the winding alleyways and went back to the promenade to get lunch at the Bulvar mall. I returned to KFC and then sat on the lovely outdoor deck overlooking the Caspian. I had a little time to spare so I went to the supermarket to get some soft drinks and I found a cool tea tin in the shape of the Maiden Tower (a Baku tourist attraction) filled with Azerchai (the Azeri brand of tea). Baku is such a nice city. I could have spent some more time there, but we will be happy to maximize our time in Georgia.