Saturday 7 May 2016
It was Lynn's birthday today. After breakfast we went for a walk along the seaside promenade to the south with the intention of travelling by the funicular to the top of the hill where there is a lookout near the Flame Towers buildings. We walked along the seafront – it was a beautiful day, fine and sunny, bit of a breeze. When we reached the funicular, it wasn't working, surprise, surprise. So we walked up to the top up about a thousand steps to see the city of Baku laid out in front of us. Situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea, it has many old and new buildings, the latter mostly in a European style and some surprising ones as well with unusual architecture . Once we reached the top, there was a very large “walk of remembrance” with memories of the numerous wars the Azeris had fought in. We talked a while with a local man who passionately explained some of the history for us. As part of the USSR, this country suffered particularly badly in WW2, losing about one tenth of its population on the front line. There were also memorials to the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 1992-1994, which still has not been completely resolved. Suffice to say, they don't like Armenia much here. We lingered for a while admiring the view, Lynn couldn't resist buying some fairy floss, then we went back down the thousand steps to the bottom again, heading towards the Ferris wheel situated by the water. For 5 manat each (about $A4) we were both terrified for about half an hour, then walked on to the National Flag Park – apparently this is the largest flag pole in Asia. We then came back and looked through the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, three floors of history, sponsored by the President of Azerbaijan. After all that walking we went back to our hotel, had a beer then went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant for Lynn's birthday.
Sunday 8 May 2016
It was our last breakfast in this current hotel (still don't know its name) this morning before we join the next trip this evening. We had our usual mystery juice, tea, bread butter and cheese or devon, hard boiled egg and second cup of tea. Somewhat comforting – same every day, but not what you might normally have for breakfast. We then went back to the room to pack. When we came to check out, they didn't accept credit card because of a “technical issue” so we had to pay cash – so we paid cash and then asked for a receipt, which took a number of phone calls, requests for Lynn’s passport, much photocopying and discussion and a 1 hour and 20 minute wait and it finally arrived, a very official looking document complete with official stamp, and we were able to leave, so we headed off towards our new hotel further up the town. On the way, we stopped and had a small lunch and a drink. On our way up the road towards our new hotel, the bicycle riders for the Tour of Azerbaijan were finishing their race. We stopped by the side of the road and took some photos and videos of the cyclists and then walked the rest of the way to our hotel, checking in at around 3:00pm. We are on the 9th floor with a view over houses and also out to the sea over the city. There are many apartments nearby and also some old houses which look primed for redevelopment. Tonight we are having dinner in the hotel and will meet the group with whom we will be travelling for the next 17 days through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. We already know one of the group as we travelled with her in Turkmenistan.