Azerbaijan is in the South Caucasus region and is surrounded by Russia, Georgia, Türkiye, Iran and the Caspian Sea.
After being warned in Armenia and subsequently reading online, we were prepared to be hassled upon arrival since we have an Armenian stamp in our passports. You’re either with us or against us in our continuing border war. Immigration was supposed to grill us, inventory our medicine with prescriptions, count our money, prove our hotel AND flight out of the country and perhaps deny us entry.
Fake news – I say! Immigration and customs was a breeze. No questions asked. Welcome to Azerbaijan!
As we flew over the capital city of Baku it looked parched and dry but the city couldn’t have been more different on the ground.
Not sure if it had anything to do with it being a week after the Formula 1 race but the city is stunning! Baku rests 92 feet below sea level. The lowest national city in the world and the largest city below sea level.
Lonely Planets describes it as “the architectural love child of Paris and Dubai”, and one of the fastest changing cities in the world. It’s a great combination of old and new architecture.
We stayed within the ancient walled city – an UNESCO World Heritage site. A wonderful place to get lost in its narrowing winding alleyways. Sandstone buildings and cobblestone roads make for warm, nostalgic feelings.
Just outside the wall are parks with huge fountains and stunning landscaping. Metropolitan with a few suburban qualities.
On the shore of the Caspian Sea, which I learned is a huge lake and historically may have been connected to the Black Sea, is a long and wide promenade with views of modern glass buildings and the old town.
In Bill’s adventure to follow the Silk Road we drove to the Caucasus mountain town of Sheki – an important city that welcomed merchants and travellers from all over the world, founded in the 1st century BC. We walked the grounds of another caravanserai which now functions as a museum and hotel and the UNESCO site of Sheki Kahn Palace. The Way came from Tabriz and passed on to Sinhnaghi in Georgia. Up the road is the village of Kish. Here, built over a pagan temple, sits the oldest Albanian Orthodox Church, built perhaps in 50-60 A.D. . The convent, walled grounds and access road are built of river rock, and all still used and well-maintained. This church, begun by disciple Elishe, is probably the oldest Christian church in Central Asia, a vast area under Albanian control (no relation to Eastern European Albania) before Turkic, Macedonian and Mongol (then Russia) took turns invading and destroying much of the ancient civilization.
The balance of the valleys and foothills are verdant with grapes, apples and wheat growing over hill and dale.
Similar to Armenia and Georgia sheep and cows are watched by shepherds as there are no fences.
Natural gas burning in the desert sand was mystical to early inhabitants. A massive gas field discovery in recent years is fueling the flame of progress. The Flame Towers symbolize the country’s close relationship with fire.
On a side note: the airport is beautiful. They have these sleeping pods available for free and these “Cocoons” are filled with stores and restaurants.