Morning in Baku
Ate early so I could sit in the park before my driver arrived. The weather is slightly cloudy, very windy (I understand it always is in the morning and evening), and the temperature is in the low 70's. Absolutely beautiful. I now understand what they mean when they say classic European weather. This is close to heaven.
The tree-lined park has people strolling through it, dogs chasing each other around, birds singing and flying everywhere. It is nice to see that there are police booths every couple of blocks, all occupied, and they walk around and seem to be spending most of their time casually talking with local residents. Not a police-state feeling or anything intrusive. Just calm and comforting.
To avoid our driver getting hung up in traffic near the hotel, we get out and walk through the park, a couple of plazas, and along some back streets. I see what is meant about old world charm. People sweeping the streets in front of their businesses. Stop at the pub and get a pint of Guiness. Try for some onion rings. They have to check. Maybe the gas is not working today. If not, no hot food. No one worries. Other foods available. Beer and liquor available. Cold cuts and salads available. No problem. Love that attitude.
Bag search in the underground
Following some bombings in the underground from the part of some extremist islamists, entry to metro stations is subjected to bag search, a very superficial one at least when it comes to tourists. However, after using the same station for a couple of times, the same police guys remembered us, so just saying hello and being friendly was enough.
Place to relax
Aroma Cafe is not necessarily for nightlife. It opens around midday and doesn't close till midnight. One of the coolest cafes in downtown Baku, Aroma Cafe is the place to be these days ;-) It's a 2-storey place, part of an old building and has big windows. The service is very good, staff speaks English and the quality of food is quite high. The best thing about this place is that there is a non-smoking section even though there are only 3 tables there. The design is awesome and there are big couches and arm-chairs and of course free Wi-Fi available.
The most stylish youth can be spotted going in and out of this place all the time, but the ambiance is so nice and relaxing that you can't be bothered with anything ;-) Anything really
Walk the old town
While not very big, the old town is very pretty and tends to be where people stroll around when they get a chance. An hour or so will let you see most of whats there, with the gem being the evocatively named Maidens tower, which was actually part of the old city walls.
Palace of Shirvan-Shahs
The complex was constructed in the 15th century to serve as court for the ruling dynasty of that time, the Shirvan Shahs. Walking through the pavilions, courtyards, palace rooms, the crypt, the cistern, the Turskih bathhoous, the mosque, etc., you get a real feel for the every day life within the palace walls.
Massive restoration works in 2003, some wings look “brand new”, with their aluminium & plastic window frames, while the palace itself seems to be used for conferences & business meetings as well.
Although officially open until 5pm, the complex can be visited even later, provided that you are polite and do not require a ticket in exchange for the 2 manat entry paid. There is an extra “photo fee”, but this can be easily avoided, as tenants will not follow you beyond the entrance. A guide costs 5 manats, but is not necessary unless you want to exchange thoughts with a nice Azeri girl.