In short, no. It’s pretty damn impressive, though.
We fly from Tbilisi to Baku and arrive in the evening. On the ride in from the airport, we pass wide boulevards and elegant apartment buildings.
On a material level, it’s way different than shambolic Tbilisi. Where things in Tbilisi often seem to be ramshackle and falling to bits, Baku is sparkling clean and robustly put together. No graffiti.
Of course, a large reason for this is that Georgia is a Western-leaning liberal democracy and Azerbaijan is, well, not. It’s like making the trains run on time – keeping the streets neat and orderly is easier in an authoritarian environment.
Another manifestation of this is, in contrast to Georgia’s hearty support of Ukraine in Putin’s War, in Azerbaijan there is absolutely nothing negative about Russia in the media or on the street. No mention of Ukraine at all. Not surprising, considering Azerbaijan’s best buds are Russia and Turkey, making up as villainous a trio of dictatorships as can be imagined.
Still, it’s an interesting place to visit.
Baku itself is famous for its modern architecture. The skyline is full of it.
From anywhere in the city, the most prominent buildings are the Flame Towers.
Here’s the unusual Azerbaijan Carpet Museum. It’s supposed to look like a rolled-up carpet. The results are, um, different. Maria detests it. The collection, however, is excellent.
At the entrance of the Old Town is the enigmatic Qız Qalası, or Maiden Tower. Nobody knows with certainty how old it is, or why it was originally built.
Even the Old Town is pretty spiffy, in comparison to the reeking alleyways of most ‘Old Towns’.
We take the funicular railway up to Highland Park to see the Flame Towers close up.
The Caspian Sea from above. Note what looks like an unmolested oligarch’s superyacht in the harbour.
We make our way home at the end of the day across Fountains Square.
Sight or Insight of the Day
First noticeable feature about Baku: there are no stray dogs. None. The only dogs to be seen are the designer kind at the end of a leash.
We imagine that because Azerbaijan is a Muslim country (at least nominally – they don’t seem very observant from what we’ve seen so far) they simply destroy them.
There are, however, many cats. And they seem to be as amenable to being stroked by complete strangers as the dogs of Georgia.