Flaming towers Baku

By good fortune or good timing we have just missed the sweltering mid 40s temperatures of high summer to hit the country's capital Baku but a word of warning for senior citizens: Azerbaijan is not a country for the infirm: they love steps, steps up, steps down then up again and not a handrail in sight. Note to Boris: there's a big new market opportunity for handrails in Baku.

Apart from this minor inconvenience what's the capital like? In a word (or two): unexpectedly exciting. The architecture is turn of the (20th) century European boulevardeian with a French or Spanish feel surrounding the remnants of the original medieval old city within its old city walls and Turkish style balconies. At least in the central area most of the Russian influence has been eliminated since the Russians moved out in 1991.

It sits in a bay on the deep blue Caspian Sea facing Turkmenistan to the East dotted with oil rigs making bathing a not too pleasant experience. Sadly the famous Caspian caviar is no longer available for a few pounds as it was but 100 dollars should get you a decent portion. Perhaps the sturgeons did not like the taste of all that oil.

The most well known landmark is the Maiden Tower, so-called because it was never penetrated. Branson would have renamed it Virgin Tower, the Donald: Trump Tower of course.

But there is more that marks this city as exciting, namely outstanding examples of leading-edge architectural design including the all white hyperbolic paraboloid shaped Cultural Centre, British designed too, the Carpet Centre built like a rolled up carpet and above all the Flaming Towers which every night are illuminated like the Towering Inferno in this oil city of fire.

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