8 Things We Didn’t Do In Baku

We’re in Azerbaijan for two nights this week, as part of a fantastic (and crazy) 10-day itinerary. Baku seems like a fantastic city, and when we travel together it generally falls to me to write up the stuff we do on the ground, so I’ve been looking forward to telling y’all about it. But we have a slight obstacle to that this time.

I’d love to tell you about seeing petroglyphs and oil rigs and mud volcanoes. I’d like to show you pictures of grand Soviet metro stations, the view from the top of the Maiden’s Tower, and beautifully-preserved Zoroastrian temples.

I’d relish describing Baku’s cosmopolitan and bustling nightlife, or even just sharing how the weeks I’d spent practicing Turkish really came in handy as we were sampling dushbara, plov, and qutab in tiny local restaurants.

But none of that happened, so this is not that post.

Sometimes, travel doesn’t go the way you plan.

We’re in the middle of a fairly ambitious itinerary, having been through Moscow, Belgrade, New York, and now Baku since leaving California a week ago. Combine that with our work schedules, and there’s not a lot of margin for error.

We’ve been pretty lucky on this trip so far though, with no major delays or travel disruptions. We have, however, had a series of very, very, extremely minor annoyances. And as stupid little things are wont to do, each minuscule inconvenience compounded.

On top of that, my travel companion is as sick as I’ve ever seen him. Ben doesn’t complain, but you know he feels awful when he’s talking about canceling flights.

It really comes down to this – I’ve been awake at exactly the wrong times to be able to do much of anything in Baku. Everything I’ve read says Azerbaijan is a very safe country for tourists, but that probably doesn’t extend to solo female sightseeing at 3AM.

And, of course, when we set time aside during the day to explore the city we dragged ourselves out of bed and into a rainstorm, which was predictably miserable.

Despite the crappy weather, loving Baku — beautiful balance between old and new. 🇦🇿

A post shared by Ben Schlappig (@onemileatatime) on

Not pictured: inside-out umbrellas and sopping wet shoes

Literally, it’s been the kind of trip that people (usually falsely) accuse us of taking, with every meal in the hotel and limited sightseeing opportunities, but which is (fortunately) far removed from actual reality.

If this is how we traveled all the time we’d probably quit the game – there is no joy in traveling this way.

But sometimes that’s how it goes. And despite the perfect storm of inconveniences putting some severe restrictions on this part of our itinerary, I’m still glad we’re here. We get to spend some rare time together, even if it’s with puffy eyes and headaches, and next time someone asks either of us if we’ve been to Azerbaijan we can respond with “Funny you should ask…”

We did sneak out to a darling tea house, at least

I guess the takeaway is that travel isn’t always aspirational and glossy and glamorous. People get tired, and people get sick. Weather happens. Sometimes things just don’t work out like you’d planned.

I think there has to be an acceptance of that at some level. If you expect things to be perfect you leave yourself open to a lot of disappointment, and probably an unnecessary amount of frustration with your travel companions.

At the end of the day we are beyond privileged to be able to travel at all, much less in the manner and at the rate we do. That doesn’t change because one part of a trip falls flat, and I think it’s so important to recognize that, and appreciate all the ridiculously fantastic experiences we get to have otherwise.

You win some, you lose some. It’s all still awesome.

I really hope to be able to come back to Azerbaijan someday, as I was really looking forward to this trip. The good news is that I get to keep looking forward to it!

The people we’ve interacted with have seemed genuine and interesting, and the architecture is incredible. Baku seems like a city I would love, and I can’t wait to actually explore it in the future.

Have you ever had a trip go not quite as planned? And anything we should see in Baku next time?

Comments

  1. Appreciate the honesty of the post, Tiffany. Really enjoy your writing style and the reviews you and Ben post.

  2. “Everything I’ve read says Azerbaijan is a very safe country for tourists, but that probably doesn’t extend to solo female sightseeing at 3AM.”

    Are many places “very safe” for solo females sightseeing at 3AM?

  3. Love your post Tiffany! Well, for years whenever I traveled to Europe, I had horrible problems with flight cancellations, 12 hour delays, one trip after the other. Sometimes I felt that even if someone planned those things to go that wrong, could not have done a better job. I know you guys love what you do, but I could/would never do that much travel even if it was in the best first class suite. Travel does wear most people out.

  4. Thanks for this post, Tiffany. Great reminder that we are all human and things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes we get so caught up in the itinerary and the schedule that we feel like the vacation is ruined if we don’t follow it exactly.

  5. How was the shopping on Targova street? Did you enjoy seeing the children in school uniforms walking around the walled Old City? People watching at Park Boulevard? Learn from a docent emerging trends at the Museum of Modern Art? Counting sheep as they pass on the streets, absorb the view of oil platforms from an open-air cafe, the list goes on and on.

  6. Ben is gonna have to start rethinking these really crazy trips. He will need to spend more time at each city to let his body adjust to the time difference.the biggest change he will have to make is his binge drinking on flights. One glass of wine or Krug. Keep these crazy trips and drinking up and you will have tons of health peoblems

  7. I can’t say I’ve had a trip where so many little things conspired to make it a not good trip, fortunately.

    I will say, keep doing as much long-haul travel as you can while you can. I may or may not fall somewhere in the middle of, say, 30 and 70 years old, give or take a year or two, and I can tell you that as time goes on, a lot of the longer-haul trips leave me feeling like I’ve had the crap beaten out of me, and I only fly internationally in first, with the occasional trip in business. It didn’t always feel this way.

    tl;dr – Travel while you’re young! 🙂

    Oh, and please post every day, I love reading your pieces.

  8. Ok. Ben is sick from the planes – being overly exhausted . He should immediately get to Germany and see a doctor.

  9. @ Tiffany — You inspire me! FCQ and I have been distracted with lots of personal crap lately and consequently our travel has been very uninspiring. I was thinking we may be near quitting the “game,” but your post renews my outlook.

    I hope Ben feels better soon.

  10. It REALLY sucks to be sick when traveling and stuck for hours on a long haul flight. I usually travel with cold/allergy medication in my bag to make sure I have something to help should I start getting sick.

  11. Tiffany,

    Every post of yours is a gem. Your combination of humility and positive attitude is wonderful, and it comes through in your great writing style.

  12. Tiffany I was looking through your Instagram (not in a creepy way) and saw you prefer Business on the American A321. Can you do a follow up post on that? Would love to hear why.

  13. Great, honest post. I think you’re exactly right – you win some, you lose some. I’ve come to accept this from travel which makes me accept that even though I can’t travel as much as I want (damn work) I also can’t beat myself up if it doesn’t go as I had hoped.

  14. Good reminder of the right attitude to keep while traveling!

    I’ve missed out on seeing Cimitero Island in Venice due to heavy rain, and my time last year in Hiroshima was dampened due to Spouse’s big illness. I’ve also had a few light illnesses myself while traveling (note: Italian cough drops from the pharmacy are great!), but regardless, I’m still glad that I experienced as much of those destinations as possible at the time.

  15. Such a disappointment! I really enjoyed Baku (it’s really an under-the-radar gem) and I was hoping Ben & Tif would enjoy it as well.

    Anyway, I so very much appreciate and love Tiffany’s attitude towards all of this:

    “I really hope to be able to come back to Azerbaijan some day, as I was really looking forward to this trip. The good news is that I get to keep looking forward to it!”

    A truly wonderful attitude to have! And Azerbaijan is, indeed, worth looking forward to. May I suggest combining Baku with a sidetrip to the very lovely city of Tbilisi?

  16. The flame tower hotel building is pretty amazing at night. What hotel are you guys at? The JW Marriott is very nice there. And I am in Tblisi right now, so hi from the Caucasus’s.

  17. I was also awake at weird times when I was in Baku, and didn’t get on a proper sleep schedule until going out to Sheki. If you do get back to Azerbaijan I would highly recommend visiting Sheki, it’s a small town out in the mountains and a great place to escape the lowland heat in the summer!

  18. Sorry to hear Tiffany! Hope Ben feels better soon. Kudos to both of you for all your travel and for inspiring us to do just that – who could have imagined this 20 years ago?

  19. This may be one of my favorite posts yet- thank you for your candor and real-life post. Travel doesn’t always work out how you imagined it would. People get sick- traveling or not- and it can ruin plans. But your attitude and outlook is beautiful. Leaving something for next time and you are spending time together! I have to admit I glamorize the travel bloggers life, but I think I like this blog even more after this post!

  20. My own sightseeing trip to Baku resulted in a blizzard, minus 15 temperature (I live in the Middle East so this was a shock) and some deeply strange Fawlty Towers style behavior in restaurants by our guides. But, even in the blizzard…the Carpet Museum was open.

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