It’s been a whirlwind 20-something hours since I arrived in Azerbaijan. Before I got to Baku, I had a layover in Moscow. There, I saw a team of Iranian sportsmen carrying trophies with a bear holding a Mongolian flag. I’m not sure what they were doing or what the competition had been, but, it was an interesting site after nearly 10 hours on a plane. I met a kind woman from Brighton Beach on the plane from Moscow, who waited with me for my luggage and chatted about her children. Fortunately Elza, my host, quickly spotted me, and we were off to her apartment in a friend’s car. Baku is a strange city to look at from a car window – shanty-like apartment buildings contrast sharply with extravagant palaces and huge fountains built with government oil money. The city is in a desert, but there are patches of green where there are parks.
At Elza’s, I was able to shower and take a nap. I had heard it was a bad idea to leave your hair wet after a shower here, so I took the extra time to towel dry my hair. Even so, I was told it is dangerous to leave one’s hair so wet, and I had to blow dry it before I could sleep a bit.
Elza’s husband returned later as we were watching Turkish music videos on TV. He told us to grab our passports for bike rentals, and we were out the door at 11pm. We took a bus, which costs 20 cents to ride, into the Old City. From there we walked along the seaside prospect, where it is possible to see the world’s second tallest flagpole and a giant, shimmering concert hall (where Eurovision was held in 2012) that is apparently no loner used. After a bit more wandering, we took a taxi back to their apartment. Despite the time (after midnight), we sat down for dinner and tea. By the time the meal was finished, I don’t think I had ever been more tired in my life.
In the morning, we ate a slow breakfast of pednir (like salty творог/farmers cheese), made by Elza’s aunt, some sort of berry jelly, butter, and bread. After the amount if airline food consumed the previous day, I was fine to have a small breakfast. Elza’s husband’s brother came to visit, and we waited several hours for Elza’s ride to get her for a trip into the mountains. Rufat and I spent the next few hours going around the city – first to my hostel, then to exchange money, then back to the hostel, then to the Academy of Science, where I had an interview, then to buy a phone, etc. etc. All in all, this guy and I ended up spending like four hours together, which I felt sort of bad about since my interview was probably boring for him and he probably has cooler things to do around town. In any case, I was incredibly thankful for his help.
I’m now about to wash my hair and go to sleep – here’s to hoping it dries sufficiently overnight. It will be a few days before I have pictures up, too (sorry, grandma).