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Asia » Azerbaijan » Baku May 1st 2019

What a busy three days since Sunday's Grand Prix. To start, on Monday, as is often our want when visiting the bigger touristy cities we took a 'Free Walking Tour'. A bit of a misnomer as the expectation is that at the end of the tour you 'tip' the guide according to how good a job you felt they did. Our guide for Baku, Gani, was an early 20s Masters student of Social and European History. And he certainly knew his stuff. The tour's focus was mostly about the Old City which meant that we were walking a lot of the streets we had already walked along, but now with some guidance as to what was what. Firstly, contrary to what we said in our previous blog, most of Baku's city walls are missing.... in so ... read more
Literary Hall
2 girls on a bench
F1 circuit

Asia » Azerbaijan » Baku April 29th 2019

Hi all We're back on the road again for three weeks - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Baku, Azerbaijan, first, as seen in recent months on both Joanna Lumley's 'Silk Road' and the 'Race Across The World' series, where it was the second check-point, after Delphi. Just an aside - #1 On the 2nd part of our flight over, from Kiev to Baku, there were 3 ladies (not, by it looked, together) each sporting an identical over-the-bridge of the nose surgical sticking plaster arrangement. Is Kiev perchance the rhinoplasty capital of Eastern Europe? Just an aside - #2 Now that I've typed the word 'rhinoplasty ' into the draft of this blog on NotepadFree I'm getting Nose Job and Cosmetic surgery adverts when I go to sites from Google! Azerbaijan regained independence from Russia, the old USSR, ... read more
Fountain Square
City centre
Spot the twins, at each end

Asia » Azerbaijan » Seki June 11th 2018

Took the night train from Baku arriving a little ahead of time at Sheki station at 7am. A driver from Ilgar’s Guest House was waiting for us for the 17km journey from the station to the town. Guide book rated this as a pretty town, after a day of wandering we beg to differ! Lots of stone buildings up a steep hill and off up hills in other directions but not well kept and many empty. Cobbled streets (most of which seem to be undergoing water pipe renovation). Ilgar’is s a quaint home-stay, clean and we have a spacious room. Ilgar is very friendly with good English. Further up the hill is a beautiful summer palace of the Shaki Khans from the 1700s set inside some castle walls. It’s only small but beautifully kept with most ... read more
Caravansaray
Kish Albanian Church
Pitti in Sheki

Asia » Azerbaijan » Baku June 10th 2018

BAKU - Capital of Azerbaijan After checking in to Centrum Hostel near Fountain Square we went straight to the old town Metro station for the 10:30 am daily walking tour run by Eldar. Started in old town, stopped outside Palace of the Shirvanshahs, but didn’t longer in old part. Interesting to see the layers of history through the buildings, clearly Eldar's main interest. Many ancient ones destroyed once oil money arrived. Some very grand early 20th century ones. Complicated history of being taken over by different regional players. Good introduction and a great thing to do after a night flight! Second day: Went with the other participant in yesterday's walking tour with a driver out for a day trip to Qobusta where there are mud volcanoes and the nearby Petroglyph reserve. Just under an hour out ... read more
A mud volcanoe
Zaha Hadid bulding
Baku old town

Asia » Azerbaijan June 7th 2018

The three hour flight from Istanbul to Baku was much smoother than the chaotic three hours in Istanbul that preceded the flight! Immigration was efficient and we were soon met outside by another superb day and our guide for the next five days, Farman, to be escorted to our hotel, Central Park Hotel, conveniently situated near the centre of the city. Azerbaijan has been described in Lonely Planet as ‘a tangle of contradictions and contrasts’ and as a ‘new’ nation which is ‘transforming itself with a super-charged gust of petro-spending’. I couldn’t have put it better myself! While the capital Baku seems to be modelling itself on Dubai, or the poor man’s Ashgabat, once out of the metropolitan area there are countless rural villages and lush orchards, backed up by the soaring Caucasus Mountains or the ... read more
Flame Towers showing waving the national flag
Maiden's Tower in Baku's Old City
Yanar Dag, the perennial burning mountain

Asia » Azerbaijan » Baku May 30th 2018

Life hasn't always been easy for Bakuvians, as poor infrastructure, poverty, unemployment and conflicts blighted their shakier past, so the success story of the present day is little short of a miracle, especially if we are judging by comparison. Behind all this is the mainstay of the Azerbaijani economy, namely natural gas and black gold (oil, to those in the know), although it is worth pointing out that this has also contributed in no small measure to Baku being the world's most toxic city, on ground level, not that air pollution levels actually match. On a city tour of boomtown Baku, the key starting point is most likely to be the enclave of the Old Town, as a few of the city's main landmarks, namely Maiden Tower, Juma Mosque and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs are ... read more
Yanar Dag; Azerbaijan
Gobustan mud volcanoes; Azerbaijan
Mini Venice, Baku; Azerbaijan

Asia » Azerbaijan » Ganja May 27th 2018

Travel agent "Good morning Simon. Another trip for us to arrange then.....what have you got in mind today?" Simon "Well, rather than me propose my latest plan, I was thinking that this time you could come up with something of interest." T.A. "What did you have in mind, and I'll work around your basic description?" Simon "A place where few tourists go, the cost of living is low, the building styles are worth 2 dozen photos at least, it is friendly, and the place name will make you smile" T.A. "In that case, I've got just the place for you, a few days and nights in Ganja, the second city of Azerbaijan. May I assume you've not been before?" Simon "You assume correctly Sir, could you possibly brief me further as to what I will be ... read more
Imamzadeh mosque; Azerbaijan
Lake Maralgol; Azerbaijan
Palace,Sheki; Azerbaijan

Asia » Azerbaijan » Baku February 25th 2018

The journey from Dubai to Baku is just a few hours and the airport is modern having opened not long ago, it was so good I took some photographs which I don’t normally do in airports. Azerbaijan is oil rich, so I wasn’t surprised to see some Dubaiesque skyscrapers with the Flame Towers perhaps the pick of the modern architecture. The guy from the hostel came to meet me at the airport and we travelled into the city centre in a London Cab which was cool. Stopping at the impressive Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre along the way was also worthwhile as its design is certainly futuristic. The city runs along the Caspian Sea and has walled old town surrounded by the 19th century city surrounded by soviet and modern architecture. From here we continued to the ... read more
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre

Asia » Azerbaijan » Baku October 12th 2017

First, we must find our train to Baku. It's not that Tbilisi station has a huge number of trains, but the station is hidden inside a shopping centre. We find the platforms on level two, but the information sign, telling us which platform to use, is on level three. Train found, we are soon making ourselves at home in our two berth sleeping compartment, home for the next 15 hours. Our friendly lady conductor is busy keeping her carriage clean and in order, providing clean sheets and bedding as we pull out. The evening passes well, helped by a bottle of Georgian wine, glasses provided by our lovely conductor. After an hour we arrive at the border post to leave Georgia. Lots of uniformed men in big peaked caps but a pretty smooth process. Then a ... read more
Our sleeper
Buku
Flame temple

Asia » Azerbaijan » Seki June 11th 2017

Over the years, the way I travel and the way I look at travelling have changed several times. My motivation, however, has stayed the same: curiosity in its purest form. I wanna see, I wanna know, I wanna experience and live it, growing in the process. Alexander von Humboldt, one of the purest travellers imaginable, said that "The most dangerous worldviews are the worldviews of those who have never viewed the world", and never has this quote rung truer than these days. The more you travel, the more you understand, provided you learn how to listen and to see. If your motivation is to take the same picture as everybody else for those precious FB likes, well, just stay at home. You don't deserve to travel, and the locals in those countries on your bucket list ... read more
Putting together the stained glass windows in the Xan Sarayi (Khan's Palace)
Kiş River
Çay Çay Çay, endless Çay




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