A city that is full of sculptures always seems more sophisticated to me. There’s something progressive about a city council that appreciates the arts, and puts money behind it to make a stroll through the city feel like a walk through an outdoor gallery. That’s exactly what I found when I headed to Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital city last weekend for a friends wedding.
It’s known as the windy city, which I had somehow forgotten, so our first day there was a rainy, blustery affair, but then the gods smiled on us the next morning and it was a picture perfect day, ideal for a stroll from our hotel to the Old City. So we headed straight out onto the Bulvar, which is a very long, impressively maintained boulevard and park, that runs right across the city centre, alongside the ocean.
It wasn’t far into our walk before we met an assortment of interesting bronze sculpted characters. The artist that received this commission must have been very happy, because there was a different character every few hundred metres. It was great to see so many in such pristine condition because there are quite a few cities where that definitely wouldn’t be the case. (And yes, I had to pose with at least one).
When we left the Bulvar and crossed the busy Neftchilar Avenue into the Old City (which is a UNESCO world heritage site), we didn’t find any more bronzed sculptures, but we did find a few other interesting art works on the walls, down the alleyways and outside the small, neatly kept stores. (But that’s all in another story specifically about the Old City).
Leaving the Old City, we decided to take a different path back to the hotel, and were very thankful we did, because we stumbled onto the pedestrianised city centre that’s closed to all traffic. Which is awesome, because not only is the entire seafront a walkway, but so is half the city, which means you can walk for hours in well landscaped, reconstructed areas with loads of interesting and quirky things to see along the way.
No matter where we went, we found sculptures, stone carvings and even pop-up dogs having a great time on the lawn. We also found some artworks on a ceiling running the length of a large department store, and bird houses that looked more like bird hotels, nestled in many of the trees.
The outskirts of Baku may not be that attractive, (the same could be said for any city, including Prague or Paris), but the reconstruction and development of the city centre makes downtown Baku a beautiful place.
Dubai isn’t a good walking city at all, so for me, being able to walk in traffic-free areas all day was a luxury. If you’re headed to Baku any time soon, I recommend packing a good pair of trainers and strolling about for a few hours in one of the cleanest, prettiest and most pleasant city centres you’ll find anywhere in the region.