The Telegraph: Baku's regeneration has been flamboyant

Azerbaijan Materials 24 May 2012 23:53 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 24 / Trend E.Tariverdiyeva /

Baku's regeneration has been flamboyant after the Soviet Union's collapse, The Telegraph's Travel supplement says.

The city has thrown up more glitz and glass than the opening credits of Dallas. Pricey restaurants and showy "VIP" clubs have opened, the gaudy trappings of a city keen to attract those with cash, the newspaper says.

Indeed, the programme of renovation has been so glossy that the casual observer will see little evidence of the city's dusty, desert roots, author Ben Illis writes.

According to the article's author, Baku combines a lot of great high-end hotels, both in the city center and removed from the downtown bustle, while low salinity seawater laps some surprisingly golden beaches, rigs shimmering surreally on the horizon.

When it comes to eating out, things are no less evolved, the newspaper says, listing the names of several major restaurants in the center of Baku.

The author writes that in his opinion, the best dishes are served in national restaurants in Old City.

"In my experience, the Old City just takes the culinary crown," Illis says.

Baku, he says, does offer something completely different for travellers looking for genuinely fresh challenges.

Baku is a city like no other. And there is so much more than the brash and glitzy glass towers, the Telegraph says.

There's the grand Boulevard, with its creaky, yet charismatic, Soviet-era fairground rides. There's the mazelike Old City, stuffed with cafés and carpet shops.

"The Modern Art Museum is impressive," the author says.

He says the rest of this remarkable land is no less surprising. Incredibly, for a country the size of England, it has nine of the world's 11 possible climatic zones, Illis notes.

"There are significant prehistoric stone carvings; a ski resort; half the world's mud volcanoes, Day-Glo pink salt lakes, burning mountain sides, flaming rivers and springs; Soviet-era sanatoria, offering some most peculiar therapies, involving, for example, languishing up to the neck in oily mud, or spending a month underground in a salt cave," the newspaper says.

The author stresses there are spectacular mountain ranges and barren, oily wastelands; palaces of intricate miniaturist frescoes and glorious stained glass; the world's first Christian church; the world's largest all-Jewish settlement outside Israel; an ancient community of animist Christians; mountain villages whose inhabitants speak dialects of a civilisation that died out a millennium ago.

Given the unpredictable historical fortunes of Azerbaijan and the sheer number of unexpected sights, terrains and culture spread across the land, the advent of Eurovision makes a curious kind of sense, the author says.