The Caspian Jewel
Which is your favorite city in the world? The one you enjoy in any season and with any company?
I have been planning to write about mine for a long time, but every time I would start typing, my heart would get overwhelmed with deep emotions towards this town, and I just couldn’t turn them into words and gave up.
However, this morning is different. Today I woke up in Tbilisi, went out for breakfast and came across non-smoking lovely cafe (I am underlining non-smoking, because this is the first place not smelling with smoke I was able to locate in Tbilisi). Inspired with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and pastry, I opened a notepad and decided to share with the planet and tell you about my soul - my Baku!
The mood of Baku is of course created by the people living here. These are amazing people, trust me. I am Russian and we are known by wide soul, hospitality and readiness to help, but everytime I come to Baku, I realize that I know absolutely nothing about hospitality. Starting from the arrival at the airport you feel welcomed. Are you a woman travelling alone? Don't even try to unload your luggage yourself from the luggage belt! At least in this part of the world, woman is still perceived as a weaker creature and every man is happy to be at your service (isn't this a paradise?).
If you ask for directions on the street, don't be surprised if a person who is walking the other way will walk you over to your destination, just to show you the route and tell you some city legends. Same goes for taxi drivers, they are very talkative people, who will tell you everything from political situation in the country to history of major landmarks, and show you on the way.
This is a city where you make friends fast, and those are friendships for life.
Ones you landed here for business, suddenly you find yourself searching for other and new opportunities so you can come back visiting friends as well. I have been so lucky to meet inordinate people here, and feel very blessed to know the people I know. People of Azerbaijan are amazing, very kind and generous, well educated, intelligent, and honest. They have such an incredible energy and an ability to open up the whole world for you.
Baku, as I call it the sunshine town. All buildings are made from the light yellow sand stone that wraps the city in warm buttery sunlight tone. Eclectic architecture where medieval city towers are neighboring next to gothic buildings, or traditional Islamic mosques, with breathtaking glass constructions, or baroque Russian imperial style next to modern and postmodern unique structures of the city landscape.
A must see attraction is the Old Town, or the Inner City (as referred to by locals) with its Maiden Tower, that has been recently renovated and now merges objects of the greatest historical importance with hi-tech tools to showcase it. Old Town is an incredible place to stroll around and breathe in the history and hospitality of the city.
Walk. Inhale. Close Your eyes and listen.
Next take a long walk on the Baku Boulevard, the astonishing park by the sea that starts with the National Flag Square and stretches up to the Freedom Square. The flag post itself is something that is not to be missed; it used to be the tallest flagpole in the world, however this World record has been recently reset by Tajikistan, which installed one of their own that is 3 meters higher - 165 meters tall. When you stand just below the flag pole, look up above and feel as a tiny-tiny being.
Next on my list are Fountain Square and Heydar Aliyev Center. The latter is, Oh My God, the most imaginative building I have ever seen, and it is as impressive from outside as it is from the inside. Take your time, walk around, give this joy to your eyes and leave with a stimulating feeling of light inside you.
And finally - food! Swear by Allah God and God of Sun - Azeri food is the best in the whole world! Are you a meat lover? This is a paradise for you - fresh lamb, veal, poultry, you name it (there is no pork of course, but who considers pork a meat anyway, ha?). Craving for good fish? This is the place to have grilled sturgeon or some beluga.
Mmmm… clean and fresh products, without the need for sauces to improve taste, because the quality of meat and fish is impeccable and doesn't need enhancements or seasoning. All of main courses are served with fresh vegetables as a garnish. Fresh Azeri tomatoes are the sweetest tomatoes you will ever have in your life, different herbs and greens are excellent pairing.
And pastry, ohhhh…. Starting with fresh baked bread hot from stone oven, which is submerged underground, followed by with a variety of pies with meat, cheese and greens.
For dessert enjoy some baklava, sweet pastry with lots of layers soaked in honey and mixed nuts, and take some thyme tea (it helps digestion after heavy food intakes) with white cherry and walnut jam.
Yes you will gain some weight, just accept it and go on the diet upon your return home, never in Baku.
I don't know if I managed to make you yearn for a visit to Baku yet, but I tried to share my impression from the city with words, while you need to feel its vibe once to want to stay there forever.
Spring is coming soon, and that is the loveliest time to visit this part of the world. Ponder on the idea and take the adventure. I will be happy if Baku will make you feel it’s incredible energy of warm and piece.
From Baku with Love.
- By Jana Belugina