My dear travellers, welcome to my blog! The holiday mood is ON, so there is a plenty of time that we can spend on a nice trip. As I promised you a few days ago in the previous posts, August will be very interesting time as we will discover some new unusual destinations together.
When I received an e-mail from the National Tourist Board of Azerbaijan few months ago, I could not imagine that this summer I would have the opportunity to get to know a whole new culture of Azerbaijan. The first email I received from them was short, but it was straightforward with the question of whether I was free this year to meet the land of fire, which is located somewhere between Europe and Asia. I couldn’t even think about the trip, but my minds were already somewhere in the Caucasus region.
In collaboration with the Tourism Board of the Republic of Azerbaijan and their national airline Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL), I was able to visit this incredible country and I’ve got an amazing opportunity to #takeanotherlook. In July, my photographer and I just checked in our suitcases full of dreams and we started our adventure!
After less than 5 hours from cozy Berlin, my photographer and I jumped into summer outfits, because surely the temperature difference at that point was about 20 degrees. Azerbaijan Airlines definitely “bought” me for a little interesting little sign of attention! They had an ice cream on the flight, so far it was the first time that I experienced that on a flight I have dessert like this, so you could enjoy on their flights with this lovely summer sweet treat.
Journeys are a wonderful thing and anyone who is able to go around the world you should pick up magnets just to have some nice memories from the trips, until as they can normally open the door of the refrigerator! 😀
In my case it will be my aspirator in the kitchen where there is no room for new magnets anymore. My mom constantly criticizes me, but again somehow we clean the dust on the aspirator together, so I’m the one who even though I’m scared of heights, climbing on the ladders while mom is cleaning the magnets which I give to her… And so the same story repeats every 2 to 3 months. Sometimes is hard, but that is the price of having some priceless memories.
This is the first picture I made in the capital of Azerbaijan – Baku, a city that you will learn more about in today’s post. At first sight, Baku looks like one city from the future, you see all those skyscrapers that just don’t know which one is bigger. As you approach to the center, you realize that the city has some unusual warmth and architecture is totally different than in other countries.
Previous rulers and politicians have been great lovers of the arts and aesthetes who have strived to beautify their country in the best possible way. The inspiration for the architecture of Baku comes mostly from Europe, specifically from Italy and France, where architects have found unrivaled inspiration.
Baku represents the social, cultural and industrial center of Azerbaijan. In recent years, Baku has become an important place where many international cultural events take place. Azerbaijan hosted the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in 2012, European Games 2015. Baku, the F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix of 2016, also hosted the 2018 UEFA League Finals and will be one of the UEFA Euro 2020 host cities. Impressive isn’t it?!
Since my photographer and I arrived in the evening, we wanted to rest and to prepare for the next day as we had a real adventure and a long tour which will help us to get know Baku! The next morning I woke up fresh and with smile on my face and we could start our first official day in Azerbaijan!
The nice weather, the sun, the full camera battery and the ready photographer was just enough for me to start a new adventure! Of course, my photographer immediately did his best to show me how good I could look in Azerbaijan. I think because of my beard, I was able to pass all out like an Azeri guy…
Whoever has followed my stories on Instagram certainly remembers the intensity of the wind and then I fully understood those words of our old wise people: “The wind blows so heavily that it carries the trees!”, Now I had the opportunity to feel it on my skin. It was quite exciting!
In the picture above in the background you can see 3 buildings that are symbol of the city. Surely you’re wondering why they’re the symbol of the city? These are just three ordinary, beautiful modern buildings. You get the right answer to that question in the evening when these buildings, with the help of modern technology and ice screens, become the “Towers of Flame” that are a symbol of Baku.
After we had finished our photo shooting and we used the morning light, our guide Tural came to us, who was there to reveal to us all the secrets of this lovely land, which lies somewhere between East and West, somewhere between Europe and Asia. Tural told us that if we want to get to know Baku better, we must visit the old part of the city first, because that is the only way to understand the real value of this wonderful city.
About 100,000 years ago, the territory of modern Baku and Apheseron was savannah with rich flora and fauna. The first traces of human settlement date back to the Stone Age. Since the Bronze Age, rock carvings have been discovered near Bajil and a bronze figure of small fish has been discovered in the Old Town.
These findings led many to the existence of Bronze Age settlements in the city. Near Nardaran, at a place called Umid Gaia, a prehistoric observatory was discovered, on which rock images of the sun and various constellations were carved along with a primitive astronomical board.
Further archaeological excavations revealed various prehistoric settlements, temples, statues and other artifacts in and around the modern city. In the 1st century BC, the Romans organized two Caucasian actions and reached Baku. Near the city, in Gobustan, Roman inscriptions dating from 84-96 BC have been discovered. This is one of the earliest written evidence relating to Baku and Azerbaijan.
Maiden Tower (Azerbaijan: Kız kalası) is a 12th century monument located in the Old Town of Baku, Azerbaijan. Along with the Shirvanshah Palace, dating from the 15th century, it forms a group of historical monuments that were listed as a cultural property by the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001. It is one of the most prominent national symbols of Azerbaijan, so this tower can be found on Azerbaijani banknotes and coins.
There are various mysteries and legends related to the Maiden Tower. However, the main mystery is the design and purpose of the tower itself. In the meantime, there are 20 legends related to the Maiden Tower. A large number of them are related to the Islamic and medieval period of Baku history. Quite a few legends are deeply rooted in Azerbaijani Zoroastrian or pre-Islamic history, religion and culture. Probably the most famous legend is that of a fiery-haired girl who rescued the Baku people from slavery. The epic shows the roots of the Azerbaijani Zoroastrian faith and culture and reaches to the modern day.
The view from the Maiden’s Tower is amazing and it is worth climbing to the very top where I was able to take the photo you can see above. The Maiden Tower houses a museum that tells the story of the historical development of the city of Baku. It also owns a souvenir shop. The view from the top crosses the streets and minarets of the Old City, Baku Boulevard, De Gaulle House and Baku Bay View.
The Old Town is the first ideal stop for every tourist who comes to meet Baku. It is a city with a long and rich history that will intrigue everyone, legends that leave people breathless.
Azerbaijan is different, their culture is unique and when you come in contact with it you should be open minded to understand its value and essence. This trip has completely changed my picture of countries in the East.
After tour of the Old City, it was time to visit unusual modern part of Baku. As we crossed the line from traditional part of Baku that led straight into the modern era of new Baku, our guide told us so many legends about the emergence of modern Baku that even 10 posts would not be enough for you to write down all the stories in detail.
On the other hand, somewhere in the streets of modern Baku you will see a bunch of cars and very wide boulevards that are mostly one-way streets. To be clear what I’m talking about since I was a kid growing up in Europe, one ordinary boulevard in downtown Baku is wider than some boulevard in Paris and all lines are one-way. Maybe now you can just figure out what I’m talking about.
Little Marko didn’t miss the opportunity to take some photos on the streets of Baku, the photos turned out great at the end thanks to my photographer. Due to its unusual architecture, the city is extremely photogenic, so it was easy to make good pictures. Baku has some special energy, which perfectly matched my sensibility.
In the heart of the city is a monument to Nizami Ganjavi, a medieval Persian poet in Nizami Square. The opening ceremony of the monument was held in April 1949.
The position of the monument is set symbolically so that the famous poet will look in the arts – the National Museum of Literature Nizami Ganjavi. This museum represents the largest and best collection of rich Azerbaijani culture. Collecting, researching and storing scientific and other materials on Azerbaijani literature and culture presents these materials in the exhibition and is the main objective of this museum.
Sculptures of eminent Azerbaijani poets and writers were placed on the facade of the museum by this order: Muhammad Fuzuli, Molla Panah Vagif, Mirza Fatali Akhundov, Khurshidbanu Natavan, Jalil Mammadguluzadeh and Jafar Jabbarli. There are 120.000 exhibits in the museum’s rich collection.
In the picture above you can see what the Heydar Aliyev Foundation looks like. This institution is a charitable foundation headed by First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyev. The foundation is named in honor of the former leader of Azerbaijan – Mr. Heydar Aliyev, who was also the father of the current President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. The people of Azerbaijan really appreciate and love Mr. Heydar and many establishments in Baku is named after by him. In this post I will show you what the Museum of Modern Art looks like, which also bears his name – Heydar Aliev Centre.
By the time, Baku became a metropolis with sophisticated architecture. Each corner is unique and original, the parks are beautiful (especially Philharmonia Garden which you can see in the photo above) and represent a real little paradise where you can rest your eyes and soul. Surely you may be wondering how Baku “became so green”? Tural told us an interesting legend that Baku has become so green. Few decades ago, Baku was like a desert, they had oil, but they had no nature at all. The rulers implored their dear guests who plan to visit Azerbaijan to bring seeds of their plants and plant trees instead of expensive gifts and to contribute to the improvement of nature in Baku.
However, it did not help too much either! Then they thought of asking their customers to send a certain amount of soil for each gallon of oil sold, to allow them to create suitable conditions for the land to be able to plant some plants and plant trees. That’s how this “green” story began, and so Baku became a green oasis where you can find pomegranate trees. I have to admit that in Azerbaijan, for the first time in my life, I saw the trees of pomegranate.
After we are done with the city tour, it is time to fulfill my promise and present to you the collection of modern art – the Heydar Aliyev Center. The Heydar Aliiev Center is a 600,000-square-foot construction complex in Baku, Azerbaijan, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, and she is recognizable for its distinctive architecture, curved style that emerges from sharp angles. The center is named after Heydar Aliyev, the first secretary of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and the president of the Azerbaijan Republic from October 1993 to October 2003.
As a great piece of post-modern architecture, the shape of the building is an eternal cycle of life, which connects the past with the present. The building has a conference room, galleries, museums and more and the basic idea is to unite people of different backgrounds in the place of common ideas. The building won the prestigious London Museum of Design Award in 2014.
In this rich art treasure house you can always find masterpieces of contemporary art. In addition to modern art, one part of the center is dedicated to Mr. Heydar Aliyev, a man who was the father of democracy in Azerbaijan and the president for life of the Republic of Azerbaijan until his death in 2003. A museum dedicated to his life and work depicts the political development of Azerbaijan until modern times and when his son Mr. Ilham Aliyev became the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Also, you can learn some new and interesting information about Azerbaijan, see what the Scriptures and the Koran looked like, as well as some of their traditional musical instruments. This museum is unusual and has an interesting doll exhibition. The dolls are made to look natural, I also learned that the hair, eyelashes and eyebrows on the dolls are also natural.
Also, I was impressed by the exhibition of dolls depicting society in Azerbaijan. The museum is suitable for all ages, so I’m sure it will be enjoyed by both young and slightly older visitors. Believe me, fun is guaranteed here!
For the end of today’s post, I decided to show you the Bibi-Heybat Mosque. The Bibi Heybat Mosque (Azeri: Bibiheibət məscidi) is a shrine located six kilometers southwest of Baku, Azerbaijan. Fatima al-Sughra, daughter of Imam al-Kazim, was buried in this mosque. This place is also called Pir Bibi-Heibat and is referred to by the locals as the Fatima al-Zahra Mosque. The mausoleum was built during the Safavid dynasty, but was destroyed when Stalin conquered the area. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Azerbaijan, the President of the country ordered that this shrine be restored.
This mausoleum – the mosque hides a very sad love story, but of course it is part of history, there are many legends, but people always believe in the power of love. This mosque was decorated because its original purpose was to be the place where the daughter of the imam would rest in peace, but later it became a mosque.
My dear travellers, once again we have come to the end of our post. Time just flies so fast when you are having a good time! At the end of this post, I would like to thank my friends from National Tourism Promotion Bureau of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan Airlines for this incredible adventure and Boulevard Hotel Baku for their huge efforts to make our stay unforgettable and I felt like at home.
How do you like this post about Azerbaijan? Have you ever visited Baku? Have you maybe had a chance to visit Azerbaijan before? I would like to share with me your experience! In a couple of days we will continue our adventure in Azerbaijan, and I will show you one interesting Lahij village which I visited during my visit. Stay tuned!
If you have a question, comment, suggestion or message for me, you can write me down in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via mail or social media, which you can find on the CONTACT page.