We awoke on the 10th September to desert, desert and more desert for the last few hours before Baku. On the train there was no food or drink except for a large urn with boiling water to make tea. We had eaten the night before and had taken a couple of bananas and as we were 2hours late and didn’t get in until 11am we ate those. The two ‘Ludmillas’ in our carriage had lightened up overnight and were our best friends by the time we departed.

We couldn’t imagine the city arising from the wasteland but suddenly we were in a very European type of
environment with beautiful architecture and a huge promenade and park along the Caspian sea. The city
was spotless with many people cleaning the roads ad emptying rubbish bins.
As a 90percent muslim country I expected it to be much more conservative than we found it.
There were very few headscarves and most people dressed in a western way.
When I asked our driver Vugar if I had to dress more modestly in the outer regions he said not at all and such was the case. Like Georgia it seemed to be a very secular and tolerant society. The older peopole however spoke little English like in Georgia but a lot of young people either spoke English or wanted to practise their English.

We had not heard much or anything really about Azerbaijan except for what we read online so we decided to
spend just ten days there otherwise if we were there for longer we would have to report to a police station
which wouldn’t have been a problem as they were everywhere. No one liked the President whose picture
was on large posters all over the country or the police who were corrupt and liked to stop cars willy nilly
to fulfil their budget. There was especially a heavy police and military presence before the 15th September,
Baku’s independence day when they were practising for the big parade. Maurice and I were lucky to witness it
with aircraft and helicopter flyovers, infantry and cavalry along the Bulvar promenade.

Unfortunately there was no ATM at the train station even though it was new and a state of the art facility.
I parked Maurice with the luggage and walked 5minutes to the 28 Mall down the road to an ATM. I then organised
a taxi (a dreadful driver as we found out) and managed to change my money into smaller denominations back at the
station and got our return tickets printed all within 1/2 hour so it was a good start.
Our lovely airbnb apartment was in the smallest street in the old town and in a very quiet location. A man in
from the carpet shop kindly helped us with our luggage.
There was a little boutique hotel opposite where I could get a good coffee in the morning and we had a parting
coffee there the day we left on Maurice’s birthday and they wouldn’t let us pay for it. The little Russian
receptionist was a fountain of information and even though we weren’t staying at the hotel he helped us with
the bags as we had a flight of stairs to the apartment.

The day we arrived in Baku we did another free walking tour, this time with Gani and it was excellent. There were only four of us on the tour – another Australian and a local who wanted to learn more about his city of just over
2.5million people.

We met our driver/guide Vugar the next day (who I had found on Indy Guides) and we did a day’s trip to Qobustan
about 70kms away to see the many Petroglyphs and interesting rock formations there before heading back to the
peninsula to see Atsegah a former Zoroastrian town. Yanadag was our last stop for the day where a continuous
fire burns on the hillside from the underground gas in the region.

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