May 21 – Baku III

I’m making progress in Baku. I met Ishamel at the shipyard and after some loud talking between himself and the very large Russian looking man, I was told to leave my bike sitting next to some cars at the shipyard. The ship is currently loading its cargo and once it fills up (hopefully tomorrow, but may be Saturday), I’ll get a call to come down, buy a ticket and load my bike, I’ll then be off. It sounds like no additional documentation will be needed from Customs since I’m leaving the bike behind the customs fence. I certainly hope tomorrow is the day.

I made good use of my time wandering around the city today looking very American in my flip-flops and lightweight sun shirt hoodie. I’m shocked at the amount of stares I get at my feet. I started taking note of others and it appears with the exception of a few women, I’m about the only one wearing sandals.   Now enter in the hoody sun shirt and people are certainly taken back. It could be the hoody is a little too close to the women’s headdress? Being very white and easy to burn, I continue to roll around covered up and hood up regardless of the stares. Maybe people are thinking they’re getting it all wrong, trying to copy the American look with their blue jeans and tight polo/rugby shirts, stamped somewhere on the front or back with large American logos… I could be starting the new dressing trend in Baku.

I had lunch this afternoon at 4:00 with Ishamel and grilled him on government, economics and religion in AZ. All the things one shouldn’t discuss, but definitely a few items I wanted to hear a local’s perspective on. As I suspected, trickle down economics stops with the savvy few who understand how turn a buck on it. Outside the city walls, the poverty continues.

I’ve never had much use for fancy clothing; fancy being described as anything more than a cotton t-shirt and loose fitting pants, typically Carhart. This was quite apparent when I stepped onto the 25th floor of the Hilton with its rotating tower bar. The bar is filled with well-healed locals and tourists drinking cocktails that looked more like fruit juice than liquor. Silk suits, fancy shoes, and watches the size of small wall clocks were everywhere. The entire floor rotates for a 360 deg view, taking somewhere around an hour to make a full rotation. After a Jack (because I’m American), and a Cuban (again because I’m American), I strolled back to my hotel on the seemingly very safe streets of Baku.

With my credit card about melted down, this place has me a long ways from preferred travel, sleeping in the dirt and eating whatever I could find at the local market that day. With any luck I’ll be out of here tomorrow.

A few photos of the old city and palace.

Amazing masonry chisel scroll work

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A very typical scene of old men playing checkers or backgammon.

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