Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Baku, Azerbaijan, the new city

Today I walked around Baku for a couple of hours. I was admiring the city and people.  There is the Old City where hotel, Noah's Ark, that I am staying at is located. All around this is a modern metropolis which is very cosmopolitan indeed.
The harbour is truly beautiful with a lovely gardened promenade. The architecture of the new buildings is incredible.  I loved the curving lines as opposed to squares.  I love Chicago for it's linear architecture but this is almost rococo by comparison.  It's apparent that the designers have made the most of the increased strength and other properties of  new materials.
In my wandering , I happened upon a hat maker and tried on several hats but unfortunately the one I liked didn't quite fit me. My mother used to say that I had  "big head". She wasn't just being metaphorical. My father, brother and I all take a larger hat size. The very pleasant and helpful hat salesman would gladly have made one to order but I wasn't staying but did enjoy seeing this works of art reminiscent of the great hats men have worn in northern climes.  Some were as distinctively Russian as the beaver hats are Canadian.  I would recommend this shop to anyone wanting the best of service and finest of head gear.
I didn't have time to shop but there was a veritable endless choice with all ranges of clothing available. I had heard from Bridgette the day before how good shopping was here and saw for myself the variety.  I was walking and feasting my eyes on the city, enjoying all that I saw. No wonder it's going to be the site for the European Winter Games.  It's a truly beautiful city with all a tourist could wish to experience.
What I liked best were the fountains and parks where lovers sat and people stopped for a break.  There were cafes a plenty I would return to if I had time just to drink coffee and enjoy the view or stream of well dressed people passing by.  The part of the city I was in was downtown, where the Fairmount and Four Seasons Hotels are.  I'm sure there are slums as every city has poor people. What I liked was that I could walk safely through this district without being accosted by people.
It may sound callous but travelling I don't want to be preyed on and respect when a city separates its own problems from the mainstream so that I can enjoy my vacation. In my own city I am working, paying taxes and helping through church and work with the people who are most in need.  In my own city I know where not to walk but the demarcation is  not so wise as it was here.  Having been mugged in Anthens, and much older than my younger days of travel I was very thankful that walking about this city of Baku I felt safe.
That was so for people visiting Vancouver but I'd like it if some of the effort to ensure the city was at its finest were maintained because increasingly I don't like feeling at risk near where I work downtown.  In the centre of a city where there are major thoroughfares where the city's finest tourist area is there should be more consideration of those working there.  People criticize the 'restoration' of cities but restoration is good I believe. What is needed however is better housing and alternatives further from the centre of the city where subsidized communities can develop without undermining the main economy and commerce of the whole.  What goes wrong though is that city developers don't hold up their own with alternatives and naturally people object to being pushed aside in these modernization developments.  This is going on right now in Baku. Nancy discussed her concerns for the old people who were being displaced for modern thoroughfares and how alternatives were not being offered.
It always reminds me of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the earth is destroyed by the Vorgon to make a better inter galaxy spaceship freeway. It puts things into persecutive.
Because it's a predominantly Muslim country, cats are common but dogs are rare. Missing my wonderful cockapoo, Gilbert, I enjoyed seeing a lovely woman walking her dogs.  Boys being boys, were joking it up with the girl statue outside the upscale looking MacDonalds.
For what I saw, the tourist perspective, the city really is beautiful and no doubt all the construction is contributing greatly to jobs as the wealth of the oil and mining industry benefits people locally as will the increase in tourism and commerce that these developments will warrant.
The Fairmont Flame Towers conference centre is extraordinary and quite beyond anything I've seen and I've seen a lot of Conference buildings.
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