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Published: June 30th 2016
Sunday June 26 - I didn't sleep well last night and was up by 5:30, still packing and sorting. Poor Jeroen, having to hear all of that. I also had a weird incident with my cat. She was playing with a plastic bag, which she loves, and found herself stuck it in. This caused her to run like mad and luckily I saw what was happening and caught her as she flew out of the bedroom door. I was able to get the bag off but she scratched my finger in a couple places when I caught her. Band-aid required. Jeroen and I walked to the tram stop but saw the bus coming and had a quick good bye instead. I decided to take the bus to the other tram to be faster. I left at 9am to take the bus to the tram to the train to Zurich airport. Then a flight to Kiev and another to Baku. All day I had only some bread, since I had this stomach problem. I arrived in Baku at 12:35am, 13 hours after I started (with the time change). A long day. I wasn't sure what time I would arrive, since it originally
said 12:35 but the boarding pass said 1:35. Luckily the driver picking me up (a friend of a friend) was there when I arrived, even though I had sent him a message to say that the flight would be late. Getting through passport control was easy and quick and I picked up the bag and we were on our way. When we got to my airbnb, it was awkward, because my host wasn't answering her phone. It was almost 2am and she obviously fell asleep. Rasim (the driver) had asked why I didn't have a cell phone. In th end, we called up from the street by screaming, and she came down. No cell phone required. Later she also asked why I didn't have one. No need, apparently. I had a quick shower and then it was time for bed - at 3am.
Monday June 27 - Even though I was up late, I still didn't get enough sleep. But that is partially summer. I've noticed that since it is light earlier and stays light later, it is hard to get enough sleep. I got up and got ready slowly, leaving by 11am. I started with a walk around
the old town with an audio guide for 2 hours. Getting the guide was comical because I did not have anything to leave her with, in form of ID. I did remember that I had a copy of my passport, and she took that. It was a good intro to the city, and let me see all the main sights from the outside. I wasn't that hungry, and was still nervous about food and my stomach, though this was the first day with no problems. So I ate only some bread again, and drank tons of water. It was sunny and very hot.
I went to fountain square, a super popular place for people to stroll and linger. There are a couple of bronze statues of women with bellies showing, talking on a cell phone or applying lipstick. Hilarious. I also discovered this is the premier place for selfies. Everyone was doing it and no one was embarrassed. I walked for ages all around, and then went back to the Maiden's tower to see the inside. I guess I missed the ticket place, because there was nowhere to buy one inside and all the guards were on the phones
and didn't even look up. The building is possibly millenium old, and has a very good view from the top. The real use of the tower is still unknown, though many theories abound.
Next I went to the Bulwar, the walkway next to the seaside. Quite hot in the sun, but I walked for a bit. I even walked far enough to make it the mall to check out the movie offerings. Turns out there was nothing in English. Shame. With my flight rescheduled a day later than the original, I feel like I have too much time in Baku, and a movie would have been good. Overall, Baku is quite a nice city and easy to get around. It has a great walled old town and the new town is nice. On my way home I went a little too far, and almost ended up at the Flame towers, three enormous buildings shaped like flames. Luckily I saw my mistake and made it back. When I got back, I had a headache. Maybe from being in the sun? It got worse and worse, and I took some advil and laid down. Laying down hurt so I moved to
the floor. Somehow that was better. But then the family of my hosts arrived for dinner. I am staying with a girl and her mom. The dining room is directly across from my room, and although it was not too noisy, a little boy came in 3 separate times. Annoying. I laid down for about an hour and half on the floor and then felt better. My host later brought me some water and some tea and cookies and plums. I saved a couple plums for breakfast and had a bite of a cookie, as a test. I had also made myself a cup of tea, and all of this before bed. I thought I would sleep early, but it was nearly midnight when I went to sleep. I even watched John Oliver and Outlander, as I know that after here, internet will be not so prevalent.
Tuesday June 28 - Today I was up by 8am, but didn't get out of the apartment until 11am again. I spent a lot of time trying to make contacts on a forum, looking for travel partners for certain legs of the trip, and getting quotes for other things. It is so
time consuming. I find myself become a reluctant traveler. I love the initial plannig and excitement, but when the time comes to do it, I'm less and less interested and perhaps more and more frantic. I wonder if I need to stop traveling and have a normal life? First stop was a market to buy water. But it had no price and the price he quoted seemed too high, so I left. Next stop I got more water for less. Ha! That said, stuff is dirt cheap here.
Next I went to the Miniature Book Museum. It is a free museum and had all kinds of tiny books. Many are the same length and width as a business card. Microbooks are even smaller, and require a magnifying glass to read. Adorable. From there I went to the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, from the 15th century. I enjoyed walking around there and it was much larger than I expected. At first the woman convinced me to get a guide, but then I realized the guide was more expensive than I thought, so I went without. You can't be cheap and then stop being cheap, just like that. My next destination
was the literature museum, but it seemed to be closed, so I went on to the History museum. It took me a little time to locate it, but then I spent a couple hours looking around. It turns out that history museums the world over are quite similar. Maybe I've just been to too many at this point. From there I took quite a long walk - about 35 minutes - to the Museum of Modern Art. I'm not much of a fan of modern art, but thought I would give it another try. Nope, still not a fan. But the museum itself was interesting. After the museum it was late afternoon, and I decided to try to eat something that wasn't bread. I stopped in a little restaurant and ordered qutab, a type of small pancake stuffed with greens. I had two and they were quite good. I might be getting healthy, at this point.
On my way back through Fountain Square, I was stopped by a couple asking me if I could help them. He is in love with a girl and is making a video of foreigners saying that he loves the girl in different languages.
All of this was explained to me by a friend of his, and she filmed me saying it. Seemed weird, but I think it was legit. Too bad the boy who is so in love never smiled. Not even once. That girl should run.
Back at the apartment, I spent hours more booking my flight from Tashkent to Urgench (Khiva), and booking hostels for Tashkent, Khiva and Bukhara. Now I'm thinking about it and I hope I can deal with a few dorms. I am trying to save money now, because some of the activities I want to do later are more expensive. I brought a lot of US dollars with me, because ATMs are not good in many of the places I will visit, but it's hard to know how long it will last. A little stressy. I also put out some feelers for quotes for different options later on, as well as on message boards to see if I can find other travelers to rent a car/driver with for the Pamir highway. So far it looks promising.
To relax, I skyped with Jeroen and the cats and watched Full Frontal with Sam Bee. Awesome every time.
Wednesday June 29 - I went to bed late again last night and woke up early again. But I stayed in bed dozing until 8am. Then I spent another three hours on planning. It goes quickly. I haven't even had time to journal. I feel like I'm running out of things to see in Baku, though I'm sure that is not exactly true. I thought my driver Rasim was going to take me to see the mud volcanoes either today or tomorrow during the day, but he has to work, so we will go tomorrow evening, just before the airport. That left me with today and all day tomorrow.
I had an apple and some leftover bread for breakfast and then headed out for Martyr's Lane, near the Flame towers. It is a memorial to Azerbaijanis killed by the Red Army in a 1990 attack, as well as to Turkish soldiers killed in WWI and the Brits who died fighting them. It has a great view over the Bay, but it was just so sunny and hot. I really should do these things earlier and then sleep in the middle of the day.
From there I walked
into town and tried the Literature Museum again. This time I peeked in the massive doors and saw a girl sitting on the stairs inside, looking at her phone. So I tried the non-descript door next to the large ornate one, and that was the entrance. The ticket comes with a guide, and I really enjoyed it. Once I got over how weird it is just to be the only one that the guide is talking to, it was fun. I asked her a little about the culture here and about women and their role. She was funny and it was good to talk to someone local. This is a difficulty for me, normally. I am good at finding and meeting other travelers, but I'm not good at making connections with locals. I think this makes me a bad traveler. I mean, I'm here to learn about the place, and the people make the place, but I don't often find the means or the time to interct with them. After the museum I stopped in a restaurant for a late lunch, with real food - salad, soup, meat and rice and water, all for about $3. It was a "business"
lunch deal. It was nice to eat real food again. From there I went to the sea and sat under a bench for a while and then at the sea ledge. I realized I'm never really relaxed when I travel. Or maybe it's just when I travel alone, especially in particularly foreign cultures. I wish I could just breathe it all in and relax. But I'm constantly thinking - where to go next, what to do, how to get there, this flight, that flight, border crossings, what's that guy looking at? It's worse than a job, in some ways. And yet I choose to do it. Very weird. I am thinking I need to start to slow it down, travel less, or at least slower. See fewer places at one time. I'm not sure if I can, but it would be worth a try. Perhaps I can get Jeroen to travel with me in October, after all. Plus, why am I traveling in summer, in hot places? Foolish. I have worn the same clothes for 4 days in a row, three of them sweating all day. This doesn't bother me. But it now appears that the shirt, though new, has
been permanently discolored in the belly area, from sweat, I presume. It's gone from green to yellow. Classy. I even ewashed it tonight. Now as it is drying, it looks misshapen. Not good on day 4 of 42. I'm already looking forward to getting home.
I stopped at the shop on the way home to pick up some yogurt for dinner if I get hungry, and some for breakfast. I cannot find fruit, oddly. Within a short time of being home, my stomach melodrama came back. Does this mean I actually do need antibiotics? Such a drama. And so uncomfortable to be away from home with these issues. Especially when I just booked three dorms last night! Maybe back to bread for the next 5 weeks?
Thursday June 30 - Last day of June, last day in Baku. Another late start - every day is a bit later. More planning in the morning and packing. I talked to my host and she suggested a place I had not visited yet - the Heydar Aliyev center. It is a super modern building with no straight lines and has several museums inside. I had to take the metro there -
first metro ride in Baku! And a round trip cost something like 30 cents! Amazing. The building was pretty cool looking, both inside and out. But they made me put my camera in a locker, and since only mobile pictures were allowed, I don't have any inside. But it was worth seeing. On the way back to the metro I stopped in three pharmacies to ask about my stomach. Only women worked in all of them, which was awesome. They spoke a little English and wanted to give me immodium, which I have but don't want to take. I just want to fix the cause. In the end I bought some more healthy bacteria and some electrolytes. Afterwards I did my learning-how-to-relax thing, and wrote in my journal on a park bench in the shade. No real relaxing, but I did get some writing done. Back at the apartment, I'm just getting ready for my driver Rasim to pick me up at 5pm and then we're off to the mud volcanoes and petroglyphs before the airport. A long night of flying after that.
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