13 December 2011

Baku-I think it was worth the visa fuss

Ah Baku. Such an interesting blend of the very old and the very new. Azerbaijan seems to me to be as eastern as a country can be while still being part of the west. It's like the last barrier between Europe and lands of the rising sun as it were. It is also a really surprising mix of the very new and the very old. Azerbaijan has a rich history and its contemporary history includes black gold...oil. This means there's been a great deal of development in Baku especially. Some of that involves brand new modern buildings but it also happily involves putting nice, traditional facades on the ugly concrete blocks left over from Soviet occupation.

Black gold also means that the local currency, the Manat, is worth more than the US dollar. I think the exchange rate was about 1 Manat = 78 US cents. The Euro was only slightly more than the Manat with the Pound being, as ever, the clear winner...although not by much.

These three buildings are called the Three Flames and apparently will be the representation of an eternal flame for Azerbaijan. Gots to love oil money.

 That's a metro station. Seriously! I didn't use the metro but the pictures on Wikipedia look fantastic. Each station is nicely decorated and, shock, well lit!! (hint hint DC metro you bastards).

Getting ready for Christmas.

There were interesting fountains everywhere.

 Large pedestrian shopping area with major brands and high end designers.

This is such a perfect example of the new/old paradigm...the old city with a view of the Three Flames.

Then there's the old city

There was definitely some fun to be had in Baku.

 The fanciest Turkish coffee ever

 Smoking shisha while being entertained by Sophia the parrot.

 Fried cheese. Yes.

They love carousels. I counted three or four. There also seems to be a permanent fair in one of the parks with rides.

I only had three days in Baku but hope I can visit again. The visa was a pain to get and involved a lot of time, money and confusion. Eurovision 2012 is going to be in Baku and I hope they're either going to lift the visa restrictions or at least make the process clearer. I got mine from the Azerbaijan embassy in Tbilisi which we thought would be easier...but it wasn't. It was a nightmare. If you want a visa for this country, plan two months or more ahead.

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