Trip Start May 28, 2006
Trip End May 17, 2007

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Flag of Azerbaijan  ,
Monday, June 26, 2006

After a day driving across the beautifully varied, but increasingly barren landscape we arrived in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. We're due to stay here for two days. The Lonely Planet draws your attention to the crude oil seeping out of the ground and the hundreds of small nodding donkeys, or oil derriks, in peoples' back yards.

But perhaps the most striking thing after arriving here from Georgia only a couple of days ago, is the sense there is money here - big oil money. Houses are being built everywhere and although there clearly is poverty, the people seem to have much more disposable income than their neighbours across the border.

Baku is a fantastically varied city - Ladas and brand new air-conditioned Mercs compete for space on the roads and there are police everywhere. It is so hot - about 40 degrees and so our sightseeing has been a bit listless.

We did make it to the UNESCO protected walled old town and walked around the Palace of the Shirvan Shahs. This, though not as spectacular as the Kahn's Palace in Sheki, is historically very interesting - I especially liked the story about how the Hammam was used by matchmakers - at the time of building in the late 15th Century the women were all veiled and husbands only got to see their bride's faces after marriage so mothers would go the baths and while all the women were naked they'd pick suitable brides for their sons. The views from the medieval Maiden tower in the medina over the Caspian sea are also worth a visit.

No time to update you on the mud volcanos and Zoroastrian fire temple at the moment as we have to race to catch our boat across the Caspian to the weird and wonderful world of Turkmenistan. We expect to be followed by the secret police and have all our hotel rooms bugged. Little chance of updates from there so we'll store it all up for next time we're able!
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