This monsoon, inspired by a mix of real longing and Instagram-fuelled nostalgia, I found myself gripped by the desire to fuel my wanderlust for a while. Then again, so have many of my digital buddies (and the travel-fluencers I secretly stalk)! The only way to do this right (aka score some serious social media points) was to leave the popular choices and go somewhere so eclectic that my D.M.s would be flooded with queries, and I would become THE guide for aspiring wanderlusters. And that’s where Baku in Azerbaijan comes in!
Truth be told, it is difficult to resist The City Of Winds! The sweeping coasts, a blend of Western & Eastern architecture, rich culture and earthy pubs reverberating with otherworldly, beguiling views are a recurring draw. Stepping onto its bustling streets feels like entering a time machine that simultaneously transports you to the past and propels you into the future.
But let’s rewind a bit and start from the moment I landed in this enigmatic city. As the plane descended, I could already sense that my journey in Baku was going to be unlike any other. The crisp, salty breeze from the Caspian Sea welcomed me, carrying whispers of adventures yet to come.
Exploring the old city of Icherisheher
My first stop was the historic heart of Baku, the Old City, or as the locals call it, Icherisheher. Narrow cobblestone streets and ancient buildings wrapped me in a time capsule. I wandered through this labyrinth and stumbled upon two hidden gems – Maiden Tower and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs. Each so beautiful! I couldn’t help but admire the intricate Persian architecture.
Indulging in the culinary delights of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani cuisine was an absolute culinary revelation. I dined at Safi – a traditional restaurant that delighted my taste buds with fragrant plov and succulent kebabs. The fusion of flavours, influenced by centuries of Silk Road trade, was an appetizing journey in itself. And for those readers secretly judging me for overindulging, I invite you to try the mouth-watering Lyulya kebab yourself.
Mesmerized by the majesty of Flame Towers
Baku seamlessly blends the old with the new, and nowhere is this more evident than at the Flame Tower skyscrapers. Perched on a hill overlooking the Caspian Sea, this mega-construction has transformed Baku’s skyline. At night, a mesmerizing LED show cast a magical spell over the city (and my heart).
Heydar Aliyev Center: Redefining ‘architectural wonder’
The highlight of my trip was visiting this 57,500 m² building complex designed by the visionary Zaha Hadid. Its fluid, modern architecture broadens one’s understanding of space and form. Of course, it also generates an awe-inspiring response when you realize how brilliant the mind of its Iraqi-British creator must be. Inside, the Azerbaijani art and culture ignited in me a deeper appreciation for the nation’s way of life.
In the end, Baku is more than just a lesser-known destination that can glam up your Insta-quotient. The place is a well-blended contrast of history and modernity waiting to be explored by today’s discerning travellers. So, whether you are drawn by the historic charm, the futuristic allure, or the tantalizing cuisine, the city invites you to write your own Insta-worthy chapter in its captivating story.