Baku the City - Part 1

Baku Travel Blog

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Nizami Street, a popular Pedestrian shopping street, right near Fountain Square
Baku the City
Baku’s Hyder Ali Airport (everything is named after this dude and his son who is the present ruler) is situated about 45 minutes from the city.  I was picked up by a taxi arranged by my hosts and a taxi driver who spoke no English and had it not been for five words of Azeri I heard him speak, I could  have sworn that he was an interesting find for the Anthropologists of the world as the first driver who didn’t speak any language at all.

The drive from the airport, ah yes, the first thing I noticed was the stench of many oil refineries fighting for my olfactory senses to go into a tizzy.  Of course, smelling is my game, as my business is Fragrances, so many a time, the smells that go undetected by the common nose, suffocate me until I promise to file away the smell into my olfactory memory chip.

The weather in Baku was very uninviting, unlike the wonderful people that live there.  It was cold, miserable, windy, yucky, slushy, rainy, snowing an did I mention cold?  The howling winds made you wonder why Airbus had to build wind tunnels to test their new A-380.  I am not a light weight, but I really felt like superman as I was about to fulfill my dream of flying without a machine.  Add to that the near 0 degree Celsius temperature and the wind chill was down to minus 10 and lower.   It didn’t matter after a while what the temperature was. My ears had fallen off somewhere, my hair was like the windsock on the runway and my jaw felt like it was stuck between frozen and rusted.  I have lived and traveled in many cities in the winter ��" New York, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver to name a few but nothing, I repeat, nothing was like Baku!  Some may think I’m exaggerating, but the only thing I’m doing is showing how stupid I was to brave the weather and walk outside.  Those who think its not that bad, were probably sitting pretty by their fireplace.

And talking about staying warm, the concept of central heating and insulation in homes doesn’t seem to have caught on. The apartment I stayed in ��" this was no “dive” mind you; had all the windows and doors shut, with the curtains dancing away in fury from the wind that made its way from around the window frame between the walls and into my bedroom, bullying the wall mounted heater into almost giving up.

Ok, so much for the bad part. During the day things were better. The sun came out and it was a toasty 5 degrees centigrade, enough to throw my jacket off.  

Baku has a thriving expatriate population, mostly working in the oil industry.  The traffic, real estate and rents have all seen a dramatic increase over the past two years.  It hardly gives you the reminisces of a former Soviet state, except for anything to do with the government.  The Azeri people in Baku, while deeply respecting their values, are modern and progressive thinking.  Despite Western fashion, culture and the presence of foreigners, the Azeri people still manage to respect their traditions and values.  There is an undercurrent of resentment to all things Russian, especially the language.  People prefer to speak Azeri (very similar to Turkish) even though the older generation all speak fluent Russian.  The “20 something” and younger generations don’t speak Russian and if they aren’t from Baku, they probably don’t speak English either.  This is slowly changing, as Azerbaijan is slowly embracing English in favor of Russian.  The government is soon going to make English mandatory in all schools.  In about 15-20 years, Russian may be a forgotten language in the land of fire, Azerbaijan.

HORSCHECK says:
Fantastic travel blog. Very well written.
Posted on: Jun 29, 2014
Hasanli says:
Great Comments.
Posted on: Apr 09, 2009
TYoungTX says:
Thanks for sharing -- you have a good writing style. I appreciate the humor and wit!
Posted on: Feb 06, 2008
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Nizami Street, a popular Pedestria…
Nizami Street, a popular Pedestri…
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photo by: RJawad