Various groups of friends are planning their summer expeditions along the already well-trodden paths of Lanzarote, Nice or far-flung beaches in Greece .
I am hoping to give an overview of different destinations every so often on Broadsheet based on my own travels and the first to come to mind is Azerbaijan (Azer-what? I hear you say).
The pragmatic side of things – you need a visa which costs around €20 (the price of your entry to Coppers and about one pint in there for our culchie brethren).
But what could be in Azerbaijan?
The capital Baku has been ruled over by the Soviets, the Ottamans and rests on a confluence of culture of Turkish/Russian/Middle Eastern and lately European culture. Food alone is worth a visit.
The national dish is Plov, a pilau rice based dish based on fruit, rice and cooked in a rich stock somewhat savoury and somewhat sweet but never quite both in extremis.
Baku the capital has had money poured into it by the oil rich and ‘ruler’ Aliyev. Unemployment is unheard of as those who otherwise might be unemployed are gainfully employed as car parking attendants or road sweepers.
Baku lies on the Black Sea and is a major transport hub. Standing just over the promenade is the three flame towers in which the colours of the Azerbaijani flag dance interchangeably in what counts as one of the biggest white elephants in existence.
Only about the first ten floors are used and the rest is just tens of floors of glass, however pointless it is, it is spectacular.
An old town winds around part of the city littered with stray cats but also littered with little shops, bakeries, restaurants and bars.
Ignore the carpet museum (the only other place I encountered an Irish guy who was raised in Luxembourg) as most of the tapestries are like the DUP – pointless and were probably last relevant 80 to a 100 years ago if even.
What is worth seeing is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs which is spectacular.
My only visit was December 2017. After a day of sightseeing I ended up going to a pub called The Shakespeare and happened upon a conversation between a local and two Canadians.
The Canadians stared amazingly as we had about six pints each before criticising us for how much we drank. After they fupped off, the local invited me to a basement club where there was about ten Georgians and a Russian woman.
After fending off an approach from the Russian woman and us all singing trad songs (Fairytale of New York counts) and numerous rounds of traditional liqeur (brandy and Baileys) I became engrossed in conversation with one Georgian man who tells me about his interests, one of which was Eurovision – we add each other on FB and discover we have ten friends we know in real life…what are the odds…eh?
Unorthodox, way to go if you ask me…