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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Azerbaijan - 12 September, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Baku (Hotel Absheron) N4022.446' E04951.344' -21 meters .
-  City tour on foot . . . 10 km (on foot)
Finish Baku (Hotel Absheron) N4022.446' E04951.344' -21 meters

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Total Leg 3:

976 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

6,147 km

 

Weather: Clear, sunny and very very hot.  Slightly humid.  Cool overnight.

 

 

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Breakfast is in the hotel on the 16th floor - where the pick-up bar is at night.  It has a very nice view of the city.  It also has a decent spread, so we head off on our city tour with a full stomach.  It is going to be on foot, so we will need the nourishment.

 

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We head along the water front, with the first sight just near our hotel being the Government House which was built by German prisoners during Soviet times after the Second World War.  It is located on what used to be called Lenin Square, where the independence movement took place and hundreds of people were massacred by the Red Army.  Feelings about this still run deep.

 

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We walk by the carpet museum, which used to be the Lenin museum.  But we do not have time to go there.  In any case, the building has no air-conditioning and it is supposed to be sweltering in there.  As the waterfront slowly begins to curve out, we come upon the old city walls.  We make our way into the old city and go and visit the Shirvanshah's Palace.

 

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The palace complex was built in the 15th century and consists of a number of terraces.  The complex has a number of very intricate and beautiful stone carvings.  The mosque is simple, but elegant (a little secret recently discovered was that the architect had put his name on the front on top of the Sultan's, but it was written backwards so was never discovered by the Sultan who would have executed the architect if he had known).  More recent gruesome history is found in the main courtyard.  One wall is punctuated by many, scattered holes and some red stains (blood can sometimes be hard to wash away) - it was the place of execution for the Red Army.  We cannot go inside the palace as the interior is undergoing extensive renovation and restoration.

 

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From the palace we wander through the narrow, winding lanes of the old city until we come upon the old caravanserai.  It is a huge complex occupying both sides of the street.  On the street level you can see the open courtyard with the many chamber radiating off from it.  They also take us downstairs to check out the many rooms that extend into the cellar.  It is a huge place and quite nifty.

 

Then onto our final stop on the tour - the mysterious Maiden's Tower.  Estimates of the date of construction range from the 7th century BC to the 12th century AD, with no one knowing what it's original purpose was.  They theorise that it may have been a defensive tower, light house, fire beacon, lookout tower, temple or even astronomical observatory.  The design and shape are certainly unique.

 

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It is massive - 30 meters high and 16 meters in diameter, with walls up to five meters thick.  A solid buttress projects from the south side.  There are eight floors, with access to the first floor originally through a trap door from which a ladder was dropped down.  There is a doorway on the third floor that opens into thin air purpose unknown.  The most popular theory about the tower is that it was a Zoroastrian Temple where the dead were laid out for their bones to be stripped clean by vultures.  Anyway, we made the long walk up to the top and were rewarded with excellent views over the old city and the Caspian Sea.

 

The tour finished here and we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the streets of the city shopping and taking in the sights.  There were plenty of shops in the old town, but we did not find much of interest.  We had a light lunch and then carried on into the new town. An important stop was at the Teze Market - a bit out of the way -but critical.  We wanted some caviar.  Just as we walked into the market, a man approached us and asked if we wanted some.  He then took us to the back room in his shop and brought out a selection from his fridge.  In the end, we were not happy with the price or quality (he would not let is try).

 

We wandered around the market, filled with butchers, and found another shop in a back corner.  It almost seemed like we were dealing with illegal drugs, the way everything was sealed by thick steel doors (it just could be that caviar is more valuable than drugs).  We were given a wide selection to choose from and we could sample different grades.  Also present were two local ladies buying for their bosses to take to France and they seemed to think it was good quality and the price was right.  So, we got 520 grams of Beluga caviar nicely wrapped up in four small jars.  After checking our email at the internet cafe, we headed back to the hotel to relax, wash-up and re-pack some of our stuff.

 

Then it is off for dinner at the caravanserai.  We take a couple of taxis there and despite having to use sign language and point out the way, we made it.  It was a great spot with good atmosphere, but we had quite some trouble with the ordering.  They could not explain anything on the menu, so in the end, it was hit and miss.  Some were lucky with what they ordered, others not so.  But what was clearly very good was the vodka and it was only a few dollars a bottle for the best stuff.  So that made up for the food.

 

A little more trouble came when we were told that the belly dancer was not coming - she had already left.  We had a near mutiny on our hands, especially when they tried to charge us for it.  In the end, it was resolved, but not a nice way to finish off the evening.  After we head out, we decide to walk back to the hotel, making our way along the waterfront getting back just after midnight.  We decide to check out the bar upstairs, but it is a bit too sleazy and decide to go to bed.

 

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