Heydar Aliev's Birthday

Baku Travel Blog

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An overcast day from Martyr's alley
To understand Azerbaijan, you must be familiar with the name Heydar Aliev.  Almost everywhere you go, you will see his picture.  He is considered the father of modern Azerbaijan although there were two rulers of the country prior to his tenure.  During Soviet times, he was a member of the Azerbaijani KGB, and he also became a member of the Soviet Politburo.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, Aliev moved to his native Nakhchivan (the placed I lived in for a year) before returning to power.  The Rector of Nakhchivan State University once told me that he was thankful for the direction Heydar took the country.  As he explained it, he could have went the way of Iran in the south and followed the path of conservative Islam, he could have followed the way of Russia in the north and merely have become another puppet for "Mother Russia" or he could have followed the way of Turkey in the west and worked with the West.
  As he put it Heydar chose the latter and that move was what brought Azerbaijan into the modern era.  While I am not one to judge, let's just say Heydar Aliev is looked up here the same way as Washington is looked up in the States and Ataturk is looked up in Turkey, perhaps more so.  I will not go into any more details about his political life.  If you are interested in it, you can google it and read about the postives and negatives for yourself.

Just knowing the name of Heydar Aliev can solve a lot of problems for you.  If you find yourself in a bind anywhere in Azerbaijan, just say Heydar Aliev and people will be cool with you.  When i lived in Nakhchivan, Heydar Aliev was my answer to everything.  If someone asked who I was, how I was feeling, or if I wanted a beer, my answer was always Heydar Aliev.

Saturday, May 10 would have been his 85th birthday.  There were big plans for celebrations in the city and throughout the country.  The day before, my friend Emine, a secretary for the Turkish Consulate in Nakhchivan, took a bus from Nakh-town, through Iran and into Baku.  For those of you who do not know, there is no direct land route from Nakhchivan to the rest of the country as Armenia divides Azerbaijan and the two countries have been at war for many years, although there is a ceasefire.  To get from Nakh-town to Baku, you can either travel into Turkey, and then into Georgia and then into Azerbaijan; fly but prices are more expensive for foreigners, or take the bus that goes into Iran.
Either an old theater or an Armenian church...depends on who you listen to.

Emine was my walking companion in Nakhchivan and we have not seen each other since last July when i left Nakhchivan.  We had a mix-up on where we were to meet and i spent about an hour walking around the area surrounding Fountain Square.  I eventually found her and we walked back to my apartment.  It was nice to see her again.  I set up the couch for her and retired to my room as I have an early morning the next day.

On Saturday morning, I had a teacher's workshop to give.  I was not expecting too many people to show up and had a grand total of two.  I completed the workshop and returned home.  Emine and i walked up to Martyrs' Alley.  This is the second time I have been there in the daytime.  i usually prefer to go late at night as there are less people and it extremely quiet.
  (If you would like to read my original review you can here: http://www.travbuddy.com/Martyrs-Alley-v8911 .)  One thing that I will say about going during the day is that you get to see the entire area for what it is.  In the evenings it is way too dark and too poorly lit.  We started off with the view of the Caspian.  In my opinion the view from here is one of the best in the country.  We later moved onto the Tower of the Eternal Flame, and yes there is a flame burning there.  I really like the tower as the design reminds me of some of the mausoleums in Nakhchivan.  We moved to the actual graveyard of the martyrs, mostly from the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, but also from the massacre of January 20, 1990 (?) when the Soviet Union sent in troops into Baku.
Heydar Aliev's birthday
  The one thing that i have noticed from the graveyards here is that almost all of them feature an engraving or etching of the person's face on the grave.  For me personally, it has a more startling effect just seeing what someone looked like.  Then the name on the grave is no longer a name but there is a face with it too.  We went to the Turkish Mosque and the moments at the front.  There is a good view of the Azerbaijani Parliment from there. 

We got something to eat and then had to go to the Turkish Embassy for Emine to drop something off.  We decided to go by the Metro to the Ganlick area and walk over.  It might have been a little bit longer to walk than taking the metro to 28 May, but I had my camera and wanted to take some photos of this building that I walk by almost everyday when I go to work at the Medicial University.
  One doctor told me that the building was an old Soviet theater, but someone else told me that it was an old Armenia church.  I do not know, but it is an interesting building with a Russian star along with the sickle and hammer.  We made it to the embassy and then cut back through Zorge Park and into Djaparidize Park.  Djaparidize is fairly non-descript.  There is a huge statue in front of someone I have never heard of and a fountain, but every park in Baku has a fountain. 

After Djaparidize, we walked down to Fizuli Park.  Fizuli is one of the main parks in Baku.  There is a huge statue of Heydar Aliev along with several fountains.  It is well maintained and i often walk through it during the Spring and Summer when I complete my job in the evening and walk home.
  Today, it was a madhouse as there was a huge festival for Heydar's birthday.  i had a little girl come up and ask if she could talk to me, because she wanted to practice her English.  How can you say no to a kid who just wants to talk to you?  I know i can't.  She was a sweetheart.   Her mom videotaped us talking.  After saying goodbye to the girl, we walked around the park and the place was getting crowded, even the sidewalks were crowded.  We left the park and went to the Vanilla Cafe.  I think the place should rename itself the Pretenious Cafe -- overpriced coffee and food along with a crowd that smokes too much and talks about art like they are actually artists -- no thanks.

We headed back home and i took a nap as i only got a few hours of sleep that evening.
Some serious donar
  Less than an hour later, the fireworks began over the Caspian.  I had a decent view from the door of my apartment.  I tried to get a few shots and I should have used a tripod, but oh well.  We then went back to Fountain Square and tried to find a decent club.  Amazingly, the nightlife was a little dead.  We ended up at Sharks, a nice pub with live music and had a few beers.  We then returned home.  I was beat. 

I think that we covered at least 30km walking.  I am not for sure, but I do know i slept like a baby that night.
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An overcast day from Martyrs alley
An overcast day from Martyr's alley
Either an old theater or an Armeni…
Either an old theater or an Armen…
Heydar Alievs birthday
Heydar Aliev's birthday
Some serious donar
Some serious donar
It would not be a park in Azerbaij…
It would not be a park in Azerbai…
photo by: RJawad