Sitting at the Cafe Mozart in Baku, I turned to Joey and exclaimed, "We could TOTALLY live here!" Ahh, Baku. . . it's a little bit Persian, it's a little bit European, it's suprisingly lacking in the stereotypical Soviet Bloc architectural blocks, it's bustling with newness, it has some ancient history, it has great coffee shops (seriously, best cappuccino ever), amazing food, and being the first stop on our vacation it was, well fantastic! I could imagine myself strolling down it's tree lined avenues or eating breakfast on our very own Baku balcony (all of the houses have these amazing balconies). And I think I actually said "Awesome!" out loud when we walked past a group of stylish Muslim girls rocking their hijab; they made conservative look cool. After months of burqa vision, it was a little bit refreshing to see some hip hijab. Really, Baku was an all around breath of fresh air, which is saying something about air quality in Kabul since Baku is nestled up to the Caspian Sea and about 1000 oil rigs.
Side note about the Caspian Sea: You know how when your out on a boat in a lake or the Sound and the boat leaves a little rainbow of oil behind it? That's what the Caspian Sea looks like all the time. It has such a high oil content. It's not really considered an ideal swimming locale (although I suppose some people take the plunge). But after months of being land locked, we sat for hours on the bulvar (the park by the sea) and people/wave watched.
After the tension that is living in Kabul, it was nice to kick back and relax in the many shaded squares and cafes of Baku. By the way, has anyone noticed that the rest of the world seems way laid back compared to the states? Seriously, Joey and I kept asking each other if it was a holiday or something because no one seemed in a hurry, all of the cafes were full, people were so leisurely. It made me a little jealous.
So, to any of my readers looking for a vacation spot, I highly recommend Baku. I will admit that towards the end of our trip, both of us realized that the "We could TOTALLY live here" comment was heard at every one of our destinations. And realistically, we see ourselves settling in Istanbul before Baku. But Baku was my first of many loves on this trip.