Sunday, October 7

Turkey-Iran, Day Thirteen: Baku

Once again today was all about efficiency. The plan was to spend the whole day exploring the city and all it had to offer. Most of it was to be done on foot, which made the location we were staying in a godsend - most things were within walking distance of the apartment.

The first stop was Freedom Square where we happened upon some kind of car racing filming (exciting!). Otherwise the square was pretty dead - except for the Caspian Sea, the volatility of which was fascinating to watch. We then went on to spend some quality time in the H.Z. Taghiyev History Museum. Taghiyev was a millionaire magnate who apparently did a lot for his country; it was a common sight in Azerbaijan to have these kind of celebrations of an individual's accomplishments (see Heydar Aliyev, later). Still, the museum was better than expected and should definitely be on any list of things to do in Baku.

By now we started getting our bearings in Baku, and not just geographically. It really is an unusual city - its claims of being European pan out but its also clearly of a Islamic culture, despite there not being much evidence of regular widespread practice (this is changing apparently). It's certainly the only place I've visited where a woman in a knee high server's uniform would greet you with a salaam. Add to that that its not an Arab place and it just becomes another wonderful example of how diverse Islam actually is once you leave the status quo.

We then jumped on a metro to the Heydar Aliyev Centre. Again a decent place to check out, in spite of its out of the way location.

Our entrance ticket allowed us to multiple sub-museums and exhibitions, some of which were quite random. Heydar Aliyev himself had a permanent station dedicated to his life, but surprisingly most curious for me was the an Art Doll exhibition which had a fair range of weird and wonderful dolls on display.

After a MacDonald's lunch (for shame) we headed back west to spend the remainder of the daylight in Icharishahar, or Old City. You could actually spend a whole day just here, checking out sights such as the Maiden Tower, Mosque Cuma and even a Museum of Miniature Books.

Mosque #22: Baylar Mosque
Mosque #23: Mosque Cuma

But the real gem was the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a complex which kind of distilled the whole of the Old City into a single attraction.

It was now closing time for most attractions, which wasn't a big deal since the remainder of our itinerary was set outdoors, specifically in Upland Park. Offering great views and a couple of sights (including a mosque), it was well worth the trek up (the funicular appeared to have been out of commission for a while).

Mosque #24: Memorial Mosque

And that was pretty much the end of the day. After checking out some closer views of the Flame Towers (as well as trying, unsuccessfully, to get to the top of one) we headed to Sumakh for a fancy dinner, where our plan to try some caviar was scuppered once we saw the price of it.

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