Monday, October 8

Turkey-Iran, Day Fourteen: Day Tripping

A common way to spend a day in Baku is to join an excursion to the few out of town sights that the region has to offer. We kept today (which was pretty much our last day here) for this purpose and joined TesTour on such a tour.

We started with the Mud Volcanoes which was definitely novel but definitely not as thrilling as the marketing suggested. Caused by escaping gas, there is potential for things to get hairy so we may have just arrived on an uneventful day. Still, the landscape was pretty alien and it was fun to literally mess around in mud for half an hour.

The next stop was at the Gobustan National Park, where the main sights were cave paintings and dwellings dating back 5,000-20,000 years. Apart from these the park also offered a decent view of some of the oil towns and infrastructure of Azerbaijan.

The next stop was Ateshgah, a Zoroastrian fire temple that until relatively recently had a naturally burning altar that was continuously lit. Although the flame is still present, it's now supplied via pipeline, which is a bit of a shame. The educational rooms were interesting enough and gave a good background on how and when the temple was built, as well as some its the wider social implications, not always religious.

The final stop was at Yanardag, a burning mountain which unlike Ateshgah was still burning a natural source. That said it was probably the least interesting sight on the itinerary today - it turns out that just because something is on fire doesn't make it exciting.

After returning to Baku, we spent the remainder of the day mopping up the various mosques and shrines that we missed out on yesterday.

Mosque #25: Heydar Mosque

Architecturally the most impressive was the Heydar Mosque, which holds both congregational and governmental religious roles. Unfortunately although the basement was naturally open for prayer, the main building proper was closed at the time we visited so we only managed to check it from the outside.

Mosque #26: Sultanbey Mosque
Mosque #27: Teze Pir
Mosque #28: Bibiheybet

The remaining three places of worship were all very different in ages and architecture, but all three were worth a visit - Teze Pir was the only one that was closed completely which was unfortunate as it appeared to be the most grand.

It was quite late by this point, so the remainder of the night was spent walking along the promenade and streets of Baku, trying to soak up more of the vibe we had enjoyed since arriving.

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