FYI: A more comprehensive itinerary of Baku can be found in my entry back in 2015, but this post will fill in some of the gaps I had missed last time. As well as more magic.
I was here once alone back in 2015, and now I’m back with a new crew 2 years later.
Then Nigar, a friend and colleague from residency who unfortunately couldn’t stay long enough to see me when I arrived in Baku, e-introduced me to her local cousin Etibar to show us around. That’s 4.
However, in true classic monsoon magic, Nigar ended up extending her stay an extra night just to surprise me when we went to meet Etibar in Sahil Bagi Park. That’s 5.
They then in turn brought their cousins….and now we had a party.
So quickly how social situations can change. The anatomy of a monsoon strikes again and I am befallen with wonder.
While Elizabeth walked around town and I waited for Brandon to get his bearings to begin the trip, I spent the early afternoon showing Anya around the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, where I had visited last time I was in Baku.
We initially were turned away due to arbitrary closing times and told in true Soviet-era red tape fashion that they had “no idea” when it would open again. But trusting our instincts, we waited outside for around 10 minutes before they opened their doors again.
The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.
After 30 minutes at the center, we returned to the hostel to meet up with Etibar and Nigar (after which I totally lost it when I saw her, thinking she was already on her flight back to NYC) at Sahil Park and had lunch at nearby Café City.
From Café City we walked towards the waterfront and walked around the Park Bulvar Mall…
…meandering along the boulevard for beautiful views of downtown Baku.
Then we turned right towards Fountains Square for a sense of the city nightlife and upper crust.
From Fountains Square we strolled around nearby old town at dusk.
Anya even strolled into a random man’s house which turned out to be a little shop:
At this point Anya had to head back to the hostel and catch her overnight train to Tbilisi while the rest of us joined Etibar and his cousins for outdoor jazz over tea and shisha at a lounge called The Garden. It’s now my new favorite lounge.
The next morning Elizabeth, Brandon and I slept in and caught up on jet lag. At around 11am we headed back to Old Town for Maiden Tower (which I went to the last time I was in Baku) and the Palace of The Shirvanshahs (which I missed).
The palace was built in the 15th-century and served as the inner stronghold of the Baku fortress. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and described as “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture.”
We then had lunch at Sehrli Tendir, the nationally famous cozy restaurant in Old Town:
We then hailed an Uber for the Heydar Aliyev Centre only to find it locked down once again, this time for the first lady’s birthday. Although they closed on us early, outside was a full on display of relic cars that was open for people to get in and pretend-drive.
Afterwards we hailed another Uber to Alley of Honor, a serene cemetery of Azeri heroes and icons.
We then strolled 10 minutes down to Martyrs’ Alley for views of northern Baku.
From here we walked half an hour downhill to the nationally famous Carpet Museum, which I had skipped last time. Entry fee is cheap and the WiFi here is FAST.
The most impressive are the carpets on the top floor that are made to look like paintings.
After an hour inside soaking up the free WiFi, we wandered back down the waterfront during my favorite part of the day.
They even have a “Little Venice” set up in the park here where you can ride a gondola around these manmade canals.
Then we reunited with Etibar for dinner back at The Garden. After all, it’s my new favorite place and according to Etibar, “I only will recommend you the best places, and The Garden is the best place.”
P.S. Back in 2015, there was a building under construction here in Baku that had caught my attention, and so I decided to take a photo of it for no reason:
Now that I’m back, it’s good to see it finally finished!
– At time of posting in Baku, it was 82.4 °F – Humidity: 39% | Wind Speed: 14km/hr | Cloud Cover: mostly sunny