Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Then and Now in Baku

This photograph is on the wall in my hotel room. It looked like a familiar place -- even though the photo is from about a hundred years ago.
On my way to my boss's flat for a conference, I saw the view as it is today and snapped a picture. The sun was in the eastern sky, so it came out dark. Whoever shot the one above shot it in the early afternoon when the sun was in the southern sky and lighting the south side of the building in the center.

I'm always at work at that time of day, so I may have to re-shoot this on Sunday or something. There's not a lot of time for being a tourist here.

By the way, the building in the center is now a cafe (the part that faces you) and a multiplex theater on the north side (to the left).
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Waking up in Baku

It was a long journey to Azerbaijan -- about 48 hours from leaving the house to arriving at my room in Baku, the capital of this former Soviet state. It was dark when I made it inside the walls of "The Old City".
They built these old buildings before anyone could ever imagine that there would be automobiles one day. I pulled back the drapes from my room and discovered that my view was filtered through the protective wrought iron bars. I could see a little into the window across the small walkway. It appeared to be an abandoned building. Puzzling.
I unpacked for an hour and then went to breakfast. There was only one other guest. I was the only customer in the restaurant. The night manager covered for the morning cook until she arrived to finish cooking.
After breakfast, he took me to the room of the four-story hotel.
What a view!
The sun had just risen over the Caspian Sea and was hiding behind some morning clouds.
We were surrounded by the hundreds of buildings that have been standing since as early as the 16th century. Apparently they started building the walls that would protect the city clear back in the 14th century. I'm sure I'll learn more later.
I didn't have too much time to learn about things. I had to meet with the man who will be my boss while I'm here. He walked to my hotel and we went together to the area they now call Fountain Square. In the past, they called it the Karl Marx Square.

It reminded me of the center of Belgrade -- no cars allowed. It's a place for people on foot.

The place was alive with people. I'll introduce you to some of those people later, I hope.

There's some construction taking place, so they put up a wooden wall to keep people out. On each panel is an historical photograph of the area.
It was amazing to see views from decades ago of the same walls and turrets that still surround most of The Old City.
I look forward to exploring the area when I'm on my own.
We went to a Mexican Restaurant. The food was great, but not very Mexican -- at least the Mexican I know.

There's so much more I want to share, but I have to prepare for the classes I'll be giving to journalists here in Azerbaijan. From the early briefings -- and from what I've read -- the reporters here face a lot more obstacles that we face in the United States. They have less training and little exposure to the kind of reporting that takes place in other parts of the world.

I'll learn a lot more today when I meet with them for the first time.

I hope you'll come back and join me as I discover this world -- a half-a-way across the globe from the world I temporarily left behind.

I didn't have to change the time on my watch -- it's 12 hours ahead of California.
Posted by Picasa