My short, but intense stay in Lahic came to an end all too soon. On another hot morning, I sat with the staff of TISA outdoors on the terrace that offered splendid views of the boundless and timeless mountains. The last hearty breakfast was served at a pleasantly slow pace, giving us the time to enjoy the local cheese, bread and honey one more time. Then, it was back onto the bus, all of us well strapped in and solemnly promising to our driver to remain in our seats during the four hour drive back to the city.
Even the very young love to speak about football.
My remaining four days and four nights were spent exploring Baku. I roamed the narrow cobble-stoned streets of the old city, getting to know the waiters and shop-keepers. Upon hearing that I was from Spain, each and everyone of them began to speak about football – that strange international language – never tiring to bring up the conversation.
Amongst the gems I saw was the Maiden’s Tower, emerging enigmatically on the southern edge of the Old City looking out to the Caspian Sea while hiding its origins within its walls. There are varying theories on this, with some experts arguing that it was built between the 4th and 6th century, while others are of the belief that it was erected in the 11th century. One way or another, the people of Baku are extremely proud of this magnificent monument.
My wanders around the old quarters led me to the Miniture Book Museum, the only private one of its kind in the world. I eagerly, yet gingerly entered this world of miniature books, full of respect for these tiny works of art, not knowing exactly what to find. To my joy, I saw or rather heard Zarifa Salahova, the owner and an authority on miniature books, avidly giving explanations and descriptions of her private museum. I was only too sorry that I did not understand Azerí or Russian to appreciate her very personal account of the collection. However, I did manage to gather that Zarifa Salahova opened the doors of this magical, miniature book museum to the public in April 2002. I could see it boasted a collection of over 5,600 books from 66 countries, each book with its own personal story behind it.
I never tired of my days in Baku. I strolled along the wide and majestic promenade, with the Caspian Sea gently lapping the shore. I visited Martyr’s Lane, Baku’s memorial cemetry, wandering up and down the alleys with the faces of endless war victims staring blankly at me. The inscriptions on the tombs revealed the horrors of Black January, 1990 and the Nagarno-Karabakh War that raged between 1988-1994.
The future is here in Baku, in the H.Aliyev Centre.