Cuttino's Georgian Life

A journal of my Peace Corps service in the Republic of Georgia, 2006-2008.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Azerbaijan, Part 4--Baku

After the fun in Lankaran, I headed up the coastline to Baku, that boom town on the Caspian. The city is flush with cash--oil and gas revenues--and so it feels way more cosmopolitan than anywhere else I've been in the Caucasus. It has a much larger foreign population than Tbilisi, many of whom work for BP and other oil companies. There's a definite sense that the city is going places. Its one of the fastest growing in the world, if all those construction cranes are any indication.

Baku panorama. The gothic-looking building is a Soviet-era government building.

In Baku, I stayed with a young expat couple who are working for BP. It was a bit strange to move from Peace Corps Volunteers to young professionals; I sometimes felt as if they had picked up some scraggly homeless man of the street. Needless to say that their living standards are much higher than mine--no bucket baths for them. But I was very grateful for their hospitality and showing me a good time. Incidentally, one of my hosts was one of the engineer sfor the Shah Deniz gas field, the main source of natural gas for Georgia. I now know who to complain to the next time we have a gas shortage.

Baku has a beautiful historic section filled with old mosques, carpet shops and hamams. The centerpiece of Old Town is the Maiden Tower, a bizarre looking building from the 12th century. Aside from the center, there is little else for a tourist to do. Fortunately, there's some good shopping, including a huge selection of cheap 3-dollar DVDs. No doubt these come from the most reputable of sources.

Historic Baku

My return to Georgia was more or less uneventful, aside from a wheezy old Azeri man who kept calling me "puppy" in Russian. Its also possible he was using some diminutive name from the word "son" (like "sonny boy"), but it sounded more like the former. We got into an argument over my origins; he insisted that I was British, even though I showed him my American passport again and again.
But he made up for the minor annoyance by sharing some dinner and vodka.

I returned to Georgia early in the morning to find the miserable April weather gone. The leaves were green and the weather was warm...not a bad homecoming, not bad at all...


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