And so we were faced with a perfect architectural blend. The medieval city wall encloses the stone buildings of the old town. Huge skyscrapers parade along the hillside to protect the nineteenth-century buildings and neoclassical places just down. The golden brown facades were sumptuous and elegant. The Flame Towers, with the three futuristic skyscrapers, remind everyone that Azerbaijan is the ancient land of fire.
The appeal of Baku is everything in this mix of old and new, tradition and innovation. The eternal flames still burn in the Yanar Dag National Park and the Temple of Zoroastrian Atashgakh. We saw flames burn spontaneously from the mountain during our day trip to Yanar Dag. It was reminiscent of the times when the fire was worshiped as a symbol of purification and rebirth.
Today descendants of the ancient men loyal to the flames come here in search of their roots. It is on the Abseron Peninsula, not far from Baku, on the Caspian Sea. Here one blowhole of natural gas produces a flame that burns continuously from the bowels of the mountain. It is an interesting feature that Marco Polo described in his travel chronicles.
Ancient archaeological finds, stone circles, and votive tanks testify that distant past. The Caspian Sea coast finally gave us another emotion in the rock carvings of Qobustan. They date back 12,000 years past and are perfectly preserved in an environment of rare beauty. Petroglyphs carved into the rock of ancient caves then collapsed and remained intact. There were thousands of ancient petroglyphs in the Gobustan region.
Around the urban suburbs branch out cobwebs of gas and oil pipelines, which have taken the place of the ancient caravans of the Silk Road. The National Carpet Museum, built on the great boulevard full of shops, in fact, has a huge pile of rolled up carpets.
Despite efforts to make itself known, few think of Azerbaijan as a tourist destination. This relatively small country in the Caucasus overlooking the Caspian Sea reserves countless surprises. A trip to Azerbaijan surely will leave unforgettable memories to the visitor.
Azerbaijan Travel Tips
Baku is a lively capital. With a nineteenth-century historic center, the city is surprisingly rich in Art Nouveau buildings. The city has now expanded with ultramodern neighborhoods and has an artistic life worthy of the greatest cities in the world. From here begins our trip to Azerbaijan.
The area of petroglyphs is filled with more than 6,000 stone carvings, some dating back almost 40,000 years. It is also home to the remains of inhabited caves and burial sites, bearing the testimony from the Upper Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The engravings represent men, animals, battle scenes, ritual dances, camel caravans, boats and even the sun and the stars.
The mud volcanoes, a particularly strong eruption phenomenon in Azerbaijan is home to nearly half of the known eruptive vents on the entire earth's surface. The natural phenomenon is considered the origin of sun worship (Zoroastrianism). Approximately every twenty years spectacular eruptions with flames rise from the ground. The sludge also possesses therapeutic properties that also attract visitors to benefit from their medicinal virtues.
The curious and almost unbelievable story is of the Mountain Jews in the village of Krasnaya Sloboda (Red Village). This Jewish Diaspora dates back to the Dark Ages when Jewish communities dispersed to Central Eastern Europe and partly to Anatolia. They found shelter in those mountains and rebuilt the Shtetl, or traditional villages, where until now it has retained the use of Yiddish.
You can integrate the trip to Azerbaijan with the enclave of Nakhichevan, the land that preserves the supposed tomb of Noah or with Georgia.