Monday – arrival in Baku

I woke to the sound of the anchor being rolled out. It was 6.00 am. We were ‘parked’ out in the channel outside of Baku harbour. Dotted around were other vessels waiting to dock. I had had a good sleep so got up to watch the sun coming up. It was a beautiful sunrise. The morning was quite grey, but the sun appeared as a salmon pink ball on the horizon.

As daylight came we could gradually make out the amazing architecture of modern Baku. There are some terrific designer buildings that compare very well with modern buildings in London or Dubai. It was not at all what we were expecting! Having said this neither of us had heard of Baku! Two enormous grey fin like structures were particularly noticeable. When the cloud dispersed they shone in the sunlight. There was a lot of glass and wonderful shapes to be seen from our vantage point in the harbour. Baku is a wealthy city and it shows.

We then had a long wait. When it was allowed to approach the dock, the ferry had two attempts to lock on to the rails on the jetty to enable it to unload its train. I found it a very tense business, although I think our Captain had done it before! Once the berthing had taken place, all sorts of upmarket passengers emerged who we had not seen on board before. They were certainly not in our accommodation! We were definitely in ‘steerage’ – I am not sure what that means but it was certainly mentioned on the TItanic!

We eventually got off the ferry at about 12.30. Following a lengthy border control and customs process (we were behind the televisions, washing machine and carpet) we arrived at our hotel at 3.00, having left Penelope in the border control car park. Penelope can only be in Azerbaijan for 72 hours, so the longer the truck can stay in their compound the later it is before the clock starts ticking for us to leave Azerbaijan. All very technical!

We dumped our bags at the hotel and set out for the old town. We had already experienced Baku traffic during our brief taxi ride from the port. The jams were chronic. Every cross roads was completely gridlocked. The cars were very upmarket with Porsches, land cruisers and range rovers all very much in evidence. Surprisingly there are also London taxis! I think their traffic light system could do with attention!

Apparently Baku is one of the oldest cities in the world with evidence of a town here back as far as 600 BC. It is much bigger now than it was and has extended way beyond its old boundaries, but many of the outer walls of the old city remain. The skyline of the old town is dominated by something called the Maiden’s Tower a very oddly shaped building – a tower at one end and a stabilising brick wall to one side. At the base of this are some old buildings including three Caravanserai – the ancient traders accommodation we have seen all along the Silk Road. Today these are now an upmarket shop and restaurants.

We wandered the old narrow streets and up and down the steps inside the city wall. There were some distinctive old houses with huge wooden balconies, two mosques and an amazing palace which we went in to investigate. I was very frustrated in that I had no means of taking photographs as my phone had completely run out of charge following our Caspian Sea crossing.

Having had a thorough wander around the old town, we set off to find Paul’s, a bar said to sell champagne. We found the bar – no champagne, but excellent wheat beer and wonderful steaks – after two days of snacking we really enjoyed our meal. Steak has never tasted so good!

It was then home to bed with the thought of not having to get up in the morning!!

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