What German blogger saw in Azerbaijan
Popular German travel blogger Clemens Sehi shared his impressions of his trip to Azerbaijan in his Anekdotique blog
The author writes in his article titled 'Azerbaijan travel: Torn between tradition and modernity': "Azerbaijan is no ordinary holiday destination. Those who nevertheless decide for a tour, can expect a country that seems to be torn between the East and the West, between tradition and modernity. Azerbaijan travel experiences range from Baku, the vibrant capital city, to the most remote mountain villages in the middle of nowhere in the Caucasus. Welcome to a country that seems to have not yet really found its future between Europe and Asia".
The traveler further describes his first impressions of the Azerbaijani capital: "Arrival in Baku, 6:40pm. The sun glows deeply red-hot on the horizon as it gets ready to set the stage for the night. The youth sits along palm-lined boulevards near to the UNESCO-protected Old Town, smokes water pipes and sips their Tanqueray gin tonic. Huge, flashing billboards hang on bluish-silver-coated glass facades while one can hear American hip-hop blaring from German luxury cars passing by. The famous Flame Towers flicker promisingly in LED above the city".
"One immediately recognizes that Baku has probably already arrived in the present a long time ago. The 2.1 million metropolis on the coast of the Caspian Sea is full of modern age status symbols and architecturally daring new buildings such as the Heydar Aliyev Center, ingeniously designed by the recently deceased Iraqi-British star architect Zaha Hadid," Clemens Sehi notes.
In his report, the blogger talks about the western, European side of Azerbaijan. "There is not doubt that the Land of Fire, a name that relates to the burning of natural gas resources in the region, has developed rapidly. Azerbaijan has never been more similar to Europe than nowadays. This is partly due to the capital, which has held a number of major events and thereby put the area in the spotlight, such as the 2015 European Games and the Eurovision Song Contest in 2012. This night that made Swedish pop singer Loreen a superstar and Baku one of the most modern metropolises in Western Asia".
"On the other hand, the city is proud of an emerging elite with an urge to develop innovative start-ups, design boutiques and lively co-working spaces," the article reads.
The blogger, criticizing the media freedom situation, drew attention to the atmosphere of religious tolerance in the country. "It is impressive that religious minorities are very well tolerated in the Republic of Azerbaijan, given that 98% of its population is Muslim and thereby the clear majority. A prime example is the district of Krasnaya Sloboda, rather called the 'Red Settlement', a Jewish community in the middle of Rayon Quba. This is a place where about 4,000 Mountain Jews live peacefully alongside their Muslim neighbours. Synagogues stand alongside mosques. Jewish bakers sell their fragrant bread while the muezzin calls to prayer. There is even a Shiite mosque that once used to be a Christian church. There are things here you do not expect to see initially," the German blogger cannot hide his surprise.
In his article, Clemens Sehi also tells about his trip to the high-mountain village of Xinaliq: "The mountain village on the edge of the 4,243 meter high Şahdağ Massif is considered the highest altitude village in Azerbaijan. Certainly, however, it is the most remote and most isolated of all. We see unreal green valleys that alternate with rugged mountain ranges and hills so picturesque, as if painted into the landscape personally by Caspar David Friedrich. With every new sight, one has to rub one’s eyes".
In the final part of his article, the blogger tells about another unforgettable impression from Azerbaijan - a meeting with a fortune-teller in Baku. "First, she kisses everyone on the cheek as if we were all good old friends. Then, successively, we join her on the bench and let us predict the future, which is not read out of our hands. Instead the old lady just asks a few personal questions. Are you successful in your job? Do you have back pain? Are you divorced? Did you almost drown as a child? While our guide interpreter can hardly keep up with translating, a queasy feeling is beginning to spread in the tour group. The old woman is actually right with so many statements. But how does she know all that? A question that will remain unanswered. And so the fortune-teller will soon disappear as she came, in the entrance of a metro station in glittering Baku with nothing else but a big grin on her face".