After a month of traveling through the poorer parts of the ex-Soviet Union on incredibly bad roads (for the most part), arriving in Azerbaijan was quite a shock!
In our <3 days in the country (we could only get a 3-day permit for the truck), I discovered that:
- the roads are great
- there are Western clothes, icons and food everywhere you look. Everything from KFC to Planet Hollywood to Starbucks, as well as many of the famous retail stores are here
- WiFi is prevalent and fast
- there are police (and very fancy police stations) seemingly on every corner
- The number of people who smoke (something that was very rare in the ‘Stans) is unbelievable! It appears to me that in both Central Asia and in Latin America, the prevalence of smoking is a key indicator for how much disposable income the population has (I’m thinking of you, Chile!).
The other thing that was very different was that as we drove along the highways, there was a seemingly infinite number of places to eat. You are definitely not going to go hungry on your road-trip through Azerbaijan!
Unfortunately I didn’t get many photos to illustrate this post, but two random things that stood out for me:
There is a huge number of billboards advertising tea in Azerbaijan. I have no idea why. They didn’t strike me as tea connoisseurs in particular.
Many of the houses have decorated roofs and gables. Most of the roofs I saw had a variation on spires at either end and a miniature building in the middle, while the gables showcased all sorts of decorative tin masterpieces.
This practice actually continued over into Georgia as well, but Azerbaijan was the first place I saw it.
Our time in Azerbaijan was way too short, so these are very superficial impressions for the time being. That being said, my overwhelming impression of Azerbaijan was that it definitely felt more like Europe than Central Asia!