My last day in Baku, Azerbaijan was relaxed, with a stroll down the magnificent 100 metre wide boulevard with its many trees and bushes. Azerbaijan is a great example of a The Green Initiative and they are busy planting 3 million new trees. The ones by the sea are specially designed to give shade, and resist the strong wind, salt air and hot sun.
You may not know, but Baku was a contender of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, won this week by Rio de Janeiro. It fell at the first hurdle with little experience and some strong and formidable contenders, but it is a really super city on a long bay. Next stop if you go by freight ship with a few passengers is the port of Turmkmanbashi on The Caspian`s Eastern shore. it`s about 12-16 hour journey and Turkmenistan is finally opening up after the death of their weird President for Life who named the days of the week and months after his family members.
Azerbaijan has no state religion and you donīt see may women with headscarves, even though 90% of the people are Sunni Muslim. 'Beer drinking Muslims' ,said one observer. On Sunday afternoon, well into the evening, GMT+4 hours, the shops that you might see in Paris, Milan and Los Angeles were open. Bvlgari, Harry Winston,Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent, Lacoste, Tiffany & Co, Gucci, Emporo Armani..... there were also the street stalls selling tacky souvenirs, plus kebabs, soft drinks, candy.
In the evening I went to my favourite outdoor cafe, CAFE ARAZ near Fountain Square, and watched some soccer on the small TV, Everton v Stoke City, Arsenal v Blackburn Rovers, Villareal v Espanyol with a table full of law students from Baku State University. I enjoyed a pot of green tea.
5.00am I slipped past the sleeping night clerk at my hotel in the Old City and wheeled by bag through the cobbled streets and the ancient gate in the walls, to where I thought there would be taxis outside the handsome Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature. I woke up a sleeping policeman in his car and he called for a taxi. There cannot be a more impressive airport drive than the 8 lane Heydar Allyev Boulevard to the Heydar Allyev Airport, which has 2 terminals.On December 23rd, 2005 an Azerbaijan Airlines Analov aircraft plunged into the Caspian Sea 20 kms from the airport with the loss of all 23 passengers and crew. Fortunately I was flying Air Baltic, 4 1/2 hours over Russia and Belarus to Riga, Latvia, which was uneventful.
At Riga bus station I bumped into an American from Mayberry, NC, of The Andy Griffith Show,and who was the only American working in the Latvian Prison system. It`s a ficticious place but he said his town was the one used in the filming. He was looking for a bus to some market town in Lithuania, but I caught the ECOLINES bus to Tallinn, Estonia, 3 latis cheaper than EUROLINES -and my next story.