Short Trip notes on Baku

Jul 9th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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Short Trip notes on Baku

I was the chairman of a panel and a keynote speaker at a conference in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Here are some notes from our two day trip there with my wife. I should also state that the azeris were excellent hosts.

We're back in istanbul. Baku was much more developed than we expected. the people were very friendly, especially to Turks, but they were also very shy. The girls were always dressed up and stand-offish, except when they were dancing to the rock and roll of a good Italian group, as on out last night of the conference, followed by an excellent show of Azeri folk dances and spectacular drum and clarinet show.

One remnant of the russian occupation was that ground floor was "1" but there was a "0" on the elevator call button at the Park Inn, which made us wait a long period at our floor after punching "0" and staring hopefully at the never-opening elevator doors.

There are some difficulties in visiting Azerbaijan, mainly in terms of the visa taking 7-14 days. New 5-7 star hotel capacity is increasing very rapidly in Baku. The Hilton will open soon, The Marriott is on the way and twin sisters to the famous Burj of Dubai tower already loom over the landscape with views of the Caspian Lake (not "sea" because the "sea designation apparently would give more oil retrieval rights to Russia which the other Caspian bordering countries do not like, understandably)

Traffic can be horrendous in the evening on the wide boulevard bordering the huge park by the coast. Somebody must have taught the drivers that when the roads are not jammed you should drive in between lanes by taking the lane dividers as a help to your driving in a straight line. On the other hand, due to a general lack of traffic lights for pedestrians, pedestrians may cross anywhere and cars will usually stop for them, especially if they are in groups of three or more and thus more visible.

The parks are nice, the old town has similarities to medieval European towns. There are almost no tauts and very few tourist shops. We could not find any guide books or maps. Unfortunately, had no time to visit any museums.

We tried to buy a painting or a small sculpture but found them to be over-priced and not good value at the only gallery we could locate during our short stay. Managed to receive the name of an artist but could not find his address so that we could visit him at his studio. We did not ask the prices of the carpets which were the most frequently sold items in the tourist shops.

Service at restaurants is usually poor. We got by better on our Turkish than in English, but even then, it was difficult to get dry wine or paper napkins. We also found restaurants to be rather expensive, especially in view of the income levels of the Azeri middle classes.

We will post some photographs at webshots under my wife’s name. Just google esercelebiler

otherchelebi is offline  
Jul 9th, 2011, 02:23 PM
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Thanks for posting this on the Asia board as well as Europe.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jul 10th, 2011, 04:24 AM
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Here's some additional info:

- Turkish nationals and possibly those of some other countries can get their visas upon arrival at the airport, but after passport control. Take a form. fill it while waiting for passport control and then go to visa desk with two passport size photographs. Simple and not very strict, but may take time.

- Leaving is harder. You go through three security checks including a revolving body scan with arms raised and the customary pat. Boarding passes also frequently checked against name on passport.

- City is safe, we were told, because of large numbers of security forces since the sabotage carried out and attempted by Armenia in the recent past.

- Weather was quite hot 30-39 degrees C when we were there but reducing to 25-27 on the day after we left. However, very high humidity made it uncomfortable. Hotel, restaurants, etc. were comfortably air conditioned.

- Petrol price was $0.72/litre for the higher octane fuel.

- There was a KFC but no US hamburger chains at the food court of the mall across from our hotel. There was a Debenhams and some Turkish men's and women's wear brands as well as small and badly stocked Adidas and Nike shops. Clothing prices were almost twice the ones in Turkey and fast food was 10-20% higher. However, most major European designers from Dior to Escada to Hermes to Valentino and Versace had shops on some of the streets between Park inn and the old Inner City. There was even a "Dior Kids' store.

- There is no swimming in the immediate environs of the city but apparently there are some resorts.

- The Caspian has very high salt content which changes according to distance to the Volga river. Turkmenistan shores have the highest.
otherchelebi is offline  
Jul 11th, 2011, 01:07 PM
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We now have 38 photographs of Baku at esercelebiler's photos and albums at webshots
otherchelebi is offline  
Dec 13th, 2011, 06:19 PM
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Hello,othertchelebi ,I would have loved to see your pictures but unfortunately I couldn't open the web site.
My husband is going on a bussines trip to Azerbaijan next Feb. for 5 weeks, I am thinking to go along but after reading all the posts I am dubting on going for so many seems that there is not much to do. I would appreciate any suggestions?
nalijo is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 01:17 AM
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Hello Nalijo,
Here's the link again :

or you can just google esercelebiler and reach all our photographs on webshots.

Baku itself deserves only about three days of leisurely sightseeing.

Although we have not been to other locations, what we read was about natural beauty, forests and mountains. February will not be the best time for this, I am afraid.

Apparently there are almost no historic sites which have remained or been excavated which are listed. We found tis to be the case in Turkmenistan and possibly also in Kirghizistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhistan also. Ozbekistan have a number of older structures, usually in the major cities.

this is due to the nomadic social life of rthe inhabitants until the last few centuries.

If you have the chance, spending a week with your husband, possibly at the end of his stay could be a good idea. That way, the weather will have improved somewhat and he would be familiar with the city. Or you could go with him in the beginning to share the joy of discovery and face the hardships of the weather together.

in any case, more than a week could be rather tedious. (depends on your husband also. LOL)

One recommendation: He should take enough reading material with him to last five weeks, because we saw no shops stocking English language books, and even if they have a few, they would be limited and would have had to pass some stringent censorship.

Oh, and a warning. The Azeri girls are lovely, many with that twinkle in the eyes and they dress well. That may be one reason for you to accompany him. - however they are not promiscuous. They are very conservative and very difficult to reach. (honestly, we were told this by some friends who spent a lot of time there. This is not personal experience)
otherchelebi is offline  
Dec 14th, 2011, 08:33 AM
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Thank you so much for your prompt answer it was very helpful.
Your pictures are excellent and each has a story to tell.
After reading your post I made up my mind and I will be there only for the last week in March. It sounds terribly cold and I am not particulary in love with bad winter, that was expected for that time of the year.
We are an older couple and my husdband is "retired" we love to travel a lot. I am happy with the idea that he will be entertained by looking at the beautiful girlsI wonder if the men are good lookig as well...
nalijo is offline  
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