I had the worst headcold while in Baku. The only medicine I managed to bring from the States was a pack of decongestants, which didn’t do as much as I anticipated to lessen the pressure in my head. For much of the time, I felt as though I was walking around with a helmet filled with water. It was in this state that I spent many hours wandering around Baku.
On previous solo-traveling adventures, I was incredibly cautious about returning to the hostel before the sun even began to think of setting – Baku was the first time I pushed boundaries with exploring as the sun was setting and with adventuring out at night with new people I met. For the most part, I felt incredibly safe, and this new-found sense of bravery allowed me to capture the light of the city in a way I’d been unable to in other parts of the world I’ve visited.
There’s a really long stretch of green space that hugs the coast of the Caspian Sea – I spent many hours walking back and forth along the boardwalk. There, I overheard conversations between babushki and their grandchildren about the importance of drinking one’s ayran, listened to groups of young boys play guitar, and avoided attention from photographers looking to make a buck off the Baku skyline and the naivete of tourists. It was jarring to notice how few women I saw on the boardwalk – occasionally I saw small groups of women, but they were accompanied by men, children, or both. In Turkey I had noticed a similar trend, but I was especially aware of the gender disparity while walking through Baku.
Baku is a really lovely place, a fascinating combination of glitzy, shiny buildings and a long history of transformation and culture.