Baku Journals

Azerbaijan: Fire Temples and Caravansarays

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A March 2005 trip to Baku by HobWahid

View Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan More Photos
Quote: Azerbaijan is home to beautiful mountains, ancient temples, caravansarays, and palaces, not to mention the oil town of Baku. Just beware of corruption.

Azerbaijan: Fire Temples and Caravansarays

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Overview

Sheki Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
Baku: An ancient city-cum-oil boomtown that is the chicest town in the Caucusus. A refurbished old city and cool breezes of the Caspian give Baku a unique flair.Sheki: A Khan's palace and a Caravansaray hotel make it one of the most atmospheric cities in the Caucusus. A traditional silk center, the fabric is still made by hand today.Ateshgah: A Medieval Zorastrian temple built on the site of a natural gas leak that ignites upon contact with the air.Qobustan: Ancient petroglyphs and 2,000-year-old Roman graffiti.Quick Tips: Guidebooks for Azerbaijan are very limited. The Lonely Planet is wor...Read More

Velotrek Oteli

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Hotel

Quote:
“There’s no hotel at the Velotrek!”That’s the cry you will inevitable hear from every cabbie in Baku when you tell them where your hotel is, after which they will then offer to take you somewhere else that they insist is better. Don’t listen. The Velotrek hotel was built only in 1994, inside the Baku’s velodrome complex, and thus remains relatively unknown by most in Baku, but it is one of the best deals you will find in the whole Caucusus and the cheapest option in Baku besides the beat-up hotel on a docked oil tanker that doubles as a brothel. They rent rooms by the hour.The Velotrek is far from being a brothel. In fact, it is surprisingly ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 11, 2005

Velotrek Oteli
20th of January Square
Baku, Azerbaijan

The Petroglyphs of Qobustan

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Attraction

Quote:
A short 30-minute marshrutka (minibus) ride to the west of Baku lies the open-air museum of Qobustan, home to 12,000-year-old petroglyphs. It’s one of Azerbaijan’s easiest must-sees to get to and provides a wonderful insight to Azerbaijan’s ancient history.Minibuses leave from just west of Neftciler Meydani, and anybody will be able to point you in the right direction. The minibus driver was perfectly willing to help me out and tell me exactly where to get off. From where the minibus drops you off to the actual site is about 5km. You could walk it if you want, but it involves a fair uphill trek and the heat might be a bit much. Instead, it’s easier to pick up a ta...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 11, 2005

The Petroglyphs of Qobustan
30 minutes south of Baku
Baku, Azerbaijan

Border and Visa Troubles

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Story/Tip

Old City Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
It was a Friday, and I was standing outside the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tbilisi. I wanted to get into Azerbaijan as soon as possible, but the guard on the outside insisted that the consular section was closed. He was Georgian and spoke broken English. Eventually two guys rolled up speaking Turkish. The guard smiled at them and opened the gate. Before they disappeared into the embassy, I shouted at them in Turkish, “He told me the embassy isn’t open!” The Turks turned around and said that it was and that they were picking up their visas. The guard came over, pointed at me, and said, “You Turkish?” I smiled. “One moment,” he said and grabbed the phone. Soon I, and my American friend, were buzzed in. ...Read More

Corruption: A State Policy

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Story/Tip

Tower Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
“Did you ever see that James Bond movie with Baku in it?” My new Azeri friend asked, referring to 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, which was filmed in Baku. “Well, in the end they blow up a large oil rig,” he was preparing himself for the punchline, “It is said that when one of the ministers found out how much the film crew paid to build a fake oil rig and blow it up, he told them, 'You should have just given me the money and I would have let you blow up a real one!'”His friends erupted in laughter. They’d heard the joke before, and it is symbolic of the Azeri attitude towards the rampant corruption in their country. There isn’t anything their ministers won’t do for money....Read More

Sheki: A Night in a Caravansaray

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Story/Tip

Palace Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
As I found out, winter is not prime tourist season for Azerbaijan. While Baku maintains a relative warmth, the rest of the country, especially as you head north towards the Caucusus, retains a bitter cold, and many of the attractions I wanted to see were unavailable to me due to impassible roads. One attraction that I did manage to get to, however, was the town of Sheki in the fertile valleys of Azerbaijan’s north, near the Georgian border. The 7-hour bus ride was long and cold, not to mention lonely. It seems that the huge numbers of Azeri tourists who flee the oppressive heat of Baku in the summer flock to Sheki for its cooler climes, but I was one of the few crazy tourists who decided was heading u...Read More

The Fire Temples of Absheron

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Story/Tip

Tea Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
The landscape of the Absheron Peninsula, surrounding Baku, is enough to make even George Bush think twice about the environmental disaster that drilling for oil can be. The peninsula is an almost completely barren stretch of small hills covered in mud and dirt. Small towns of brick houses compete for space with the perpetually turning oil wells. The oil wells have seemingly been placed indiscriminately around the peninsula. You find them everywhere, even in people’s backyards. Undoubtedly countless people have been uprooted from their homes in the name of drilling. Oil spills out from the pumps, covering the ground in a thick black film. “Now this,” I thought to myself while driving around the peninsu...Read More

Baku: Pearl of the Caspian

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Story/Tip

View Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
For whatever reason, the Caspian Sea always conjured up images of a dark, cold, unforgiving sea full of rusty oil tankers and biting winds. Perhaps it was the product of a Cold War-era primary education, but I had always imaged the Caspian and its surrounding cities to be dark industrial wastelands covered by oil refineries and ripe with the dank smell of rotting fish. Baku, I was happy to discover, is anything but, especially on a sunny March day.One part of my preconception did hold true, and that would be the winds. Baku, it turns out, is famous for its howling winds that come rolling off the Caspian and sweeping through the streets of the city. All the residents talk about it with a se...Read More

The Scars of War

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Story/Tip

Sheki Photo, Baku, Azerbaijan
Quote:
I rolled into the Baku train station early in the morning after 14 hours on a rickety Soviet-era train from Tbilisi in neighboring Georgia. I had barely slept, was groggy, and still nervous after my run-in with the Azeri border guards earlier that night. All I had was the name of a hotel and a whole wad of Georgian Lari in my hand. The Lonely Planet, a worthless piece of junk, provided me with little information on how to get to my hotel and said that I could anticipate the crowd of touts, money changers, and taxi drivers that awaited me as soon as I stepped off the train. Still, though, I was excited. I had always wanted to get to Azerbaijan. After a long time in Turkey, I was anxious to see just wha...Read More