Azerbeijan (May 2019)
The name of the border town between Iran and Azerbeijan is Astara, and this town is shared by both countries. Good thing about this border is that you literally walk from one side of the town into the other and you are in other country. No need to find transport to the border, just get to Astara, and walk across to the other Astara.
On the Iranian side, exchange offices offer much better rates than the money changers hanging around near the border. In Azeri Astara, the local market has money changers with good rates. So better to change money in the Iran side.
Until I read the book Persepolis I dint know Azerbaijan was part of Iran and got independence in 1981.
There was a huge crowd for the immigration from Iran to Azerbeijan. Each person with more than 10 bags carrying lot of things. Later I got to know why people thronging with so many bags, the money value is so cheap in Iran when compared to Azerbaijan. The currency value in Iran is 1 dollar equals 42000 riyals where as 1 manat, the Azerbaijan currency is 0.75 USD. So people come to Iran and shop and go to Azerbaijan, that’s makes the border crossing too crowded.
The immigration office was a complete mess with people jumping over the bars and pushing and running and carrying 10 bags each. It was so different to see an immigration office like that. We were waiting and waiting decently in the crowd for the reason we could not push them and go front like others. One of the officer saw us with backpacks waiting for so long and called us in the front, we could not go in the front since the queue was rushing and we dint have an option we had to cross the bars and walked over the luggage’s and finally reached the door and he called us in and closed the doors.
So this is the place for exit from Iran and to get into Azerbeijan. You cross this bridge and you are in Azerbeijan. It was raining and too lazy of opening the backpack and taking the jacket, got this sheet and used it for protection from rain. Just after immigration you can see a lot of taxi drivers approaching you to take you to Baku. Baku is the capital of Azerbeijan and is 3 to 4 hrs drive from Astara. I finalized with a taxi guy for a reasonable rate and took a ride to Baku.
Baku, the capital and commercial hub of Azerbaijan, is a low-lying city with coastline along the Caspian Sea. It’s famed for its medieval walled old city, which contains the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a vast royal complex, and the iconic stone Maiden Tower. Contemporary landmarks include the Zaha Hadid–designed Heydar Aliyev Center, and the Flame Towers, 3 pointed skyscrapers covered with LED screens.
That evening around 6 pm reached Baku. Baku was very cold; it is in the coast of Caspian Sea. We just walked around Azadliq square in Baku which was a happening place. After being in Iran for 10 days where you could not see any MacDonald, KFC, Dominos, Pizza Hut, due to US sanctions, here in contrast all the outlets were available and my Son was so happy to see all these outlets. That night we went to Dominos and enjoyed the food.
We just had a plan for 2 day stay in Baku and had to fly out to St.Petersburg from here. So we wanted to quickly check out the important places.
The evening walk in the Azadliq Square… One of the hustle bustle square in Baku, such a lively place for an evening walk. I was excited to look at Zara, and Marks and Spencers shops. Had a quick visit to those shops to at least check and compare the prices with India shops.
Next day morning we decided to check out the flame tower. Flame Towers (Azerbaijani) is a trio of skyscrapers in Baku, Azerbaijan, the height of the tallest tower is 182 m. The three flame-shaped towers symbolize the element of fire – historically resonant in a region where natural gas flares shoot from the earth and Zoroastrian worshippers saw in fire a symbol of the divine.
That evening we decided to see the old city of Baku. Old City or Inner City (Azerbaijan) is the historical core of Baku. The Old City is the most ancient part of Baku, which is surrounded by walls which were easily defended. In December 2000, the Old City of Baku, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The 800 years old Inner City will astonish you with its architecture, atmosphere and vintage shops.
Few more shots of the Old City…
Next day we decided to go around and see the new city of Baku. Baku is full of sky scrapers and very different styles of buildings. I dint know when I was there, but later I noticed it in few movies.
Yet another architecture of Baku. These buildings are shot in few movies.
In May 2019 F1 race was happening in Baku city. The whole city was getting prepared for it. The roads were blocked, construction for the queue, advertisement in all corners… We race was happening just after 2 days of our return from Baku. I was too upset we are missing to see F1 just by 2 days. But could not help our tickets were booked.We had no idea about this or we could have planned accordingly.
After being in Baku how can you miss the Caspian sea. Had a nice evening walk in Caspian Sea. It was too chili, I had to borrow all warm clothes from my son and husband.
The last day before departing to the airport, just relaxing in the balcony of the room looking on to the busy roads of Baku…
Here we are in the Baku airport. So that was a quick visit to Baku, Azerbeijan. One tip here I wanted to mention is DO NOT carry back the mannat currency, thinking you can exchange in other countries. We did carry almost 200 mannat currency equal to 10,000 rs Indian money thinking we can exchange it in Russia but then realized it cannot be exchanged anywhere outside Azerbeijan.
So leaving Baku, to St.peterburg with no stay booked for the night. We will reach St.Peterburg by 12pm night and still not booked any hotel for that night. Looking forward for the next adventure and to know what’s in our plate next…