The Soviets came and wrecked havoc and destroyed many monuments during the USSR period. The environmental disaster they left behind is on catastrophic scale and can still felt and seen clearly today. The war they had with Russia and Armenia in the late 1980’s and 1990’s has left them licking their wounds, but beside all this you can still and feel the great potential they have with the great oil wealth which hasn’t been fully utilized.
The silk route passed through Baku, the capital and the only cosmopolitan city in Azerbaijan. This old city was destroyed time and again by various invaders and only small parts of it survived. This part of town, and its surrounding area which includes the parliament, many old mansions and buildings form Baku’s golden era are truly charming and worth a visit.
The people, although, they are technically European seemed to me 100% Middle Eastern in mannerism, looks and attitude. They appeared to be a mix between the Persians and Turks, however, they associate themselves with the Turks due to the language similarities and the common interest they have against Armenia. The Azeris even adopted the new alphabet and grammar that was introduced by the Turkish leader Ataturk, who abandoned the Arabic script to distance Turkey from Islam and the Middle East. They major difference with Turkey is that they are religious, the majority of them are shia, and they do not have an Islamic phobia like Turkey does. The country is safe and the people are very helpful, but are a bit cold.
The area outsides of Baku are small towns and villages and although modern facilities are available, they lack any source of entertainment or luxury. Only Azeri restaurants are found and they serve a very limited menu which are mainly kebabs or ‘lule’ kebabs, which are yummy. Their fruits and vegetables are amazing and very tasty since they are natural and they are not genetic modification, don’t use pesticide or any other chemicals and preservatives.
The scenery around Azerbaijan beautiful, except for the abandoned mammoth factories left by the Soviets. The mountain peaks are covered by snow, while rivers cross most towns and villages we visited and most areas are covered by a blanket of green vegetation. Unlike what I had in mind, the country is safe and the people are very helpful, but are a bit cold. Although, you can see the Soviet influence in the building towns the Azeri influence is more predominate. However, if you’ve seen Turkey and Iran before, Azerbaijan won’t make a great impression on you.