Sunday, August 19, 2018

NEW YORK CITY ART AND ARCHITECTURE: WORLD TRADE CENTER MEMORIAL

I think art is in the water in NYC. There just aren't many bare walls, no matter where you go. Here are a few samples from the subway:


I'm a lover of graffiti/street art, and NYC has plenty of that:


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

SLEEPING AND EATING IN NEW YORK CITY, JANUARY 2018

Last January we flew to New York during one of the coldest weeks on record to visit our son, who is living in Harlem and whose art was being featured in a show in downtown New York City.  

We left from LAX, where we were surprised to see the invasion of a New York City staple. I don't think LA has sent In-n-Out to NYC yet:

We thought we'd be adventurous and stay somewhere new. On our last couple of trips, we had stayed just across the George Washington Bridge in a nice hotel in Fort Lee, New Jersey. On this trip, we found a private apartment in The Bronx on Airbnb. We were quite please with it:



This was our view of Wales Ave. from our apartment window.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

GOING HOME (FINALLY): BAKU. AZERBAIJAN, TO LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, VIA DOHA, QATAR

After almost 24 days of non-stop travel, which included seven countries and an unprecedented number of miles covered (compared to all previous trips we have taken), I was SOOOO ready to go home, but we still had one more major hurdle to leap over: the flight home, which would entail five segments:

1. Arrive 2 hours early at Baku Airport for our international flight

2. Flight #1: Baku, Azerbaizan, to Doha, Qatar - 2 hours 50 minutes (1700 km / 1,056 miles)

3.  A layover of about 1 hour 35 minutes in Qatar

4. Flight #2: Doha, Qatar, to Los Angeles, California - 16 hours 10 minutes (3,360 km / 8,302 miles)

5. Drive home in mid-afternoon LA traffic - about 2 hours after retrieving our luggage and our car, which takes about 1 hour (85 miles)

If things went well, from the time we arrived at the Baku Airport to the time we arrived in our home, we would have been traveling for for 25 hours 35 minutes, would have covered 9,443 miles, and would have gone through a time change of 11 hours. (When we arrived at LAX at 2:05 PM, it was 1:05 AM the next day in Baku.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

LAHIC, AZERBAIJAN

We wanted to see something outside of Baku, and my niece, who has spent some time in Azerbaijan for work, suggested that we drive into the Caucasus mountains to visit an artists' colony named Lahic. It is a distance of about 115 miles, but it takes three hours to drive because of the narrow mountain roads. 

We made several stops along the way. The first was at this roadside stand, one of many selling a conglomeration of fruits, vegetables, honey, and pickled and bottled items.

We were especially intrigued by this transparent disks of dried fruit that hung in rows like stained glass wind chimes. Our guide Yalchin told us what all the flavors were, and we bought a couple to try.

I'll just say that they were much more beautiful than they were tasty.

Friday, August 3, 2018

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN: ART AND ARCHITECTURE

On our first night in Baku, our guide took us to an observation point that looked out over the city. To get there, we had to climb about a million stairs (okay, may just a hundred thousand). We had gotten very little sleep the night before because of our 3:30 AM flight, and I was grumbling and grumpy.

However, as promised, the view from the top was a not-to-be-missed spectacular panorama of the capital and largest city in Azerbaijan. (Actually, there are no other large cities in Azerbaijan.) Most of the city actually lies below sea level, making it the lowest-lying national capital in the world:

The real reason people climb those bazillion steps at night, however, is to see the iconic Flame Towers, a trio of skyscrapers constructed between 2007 and 2012 that includes the tallest building in the country (about 600 feet - not so big by California standards). They have a wonderful, wavy shape, much like the flame on the tip of a candle:

Monday, July 30, 2018

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN: SITES AROUND TOWN

Warning. Long post, but LOTS of pictures, not so much text.

1. THE WORLD'S FIRST INDUSTRIALLY DRILLED OIL WELL

. . . is in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Who knew??
This well hit oil at only 21 meters deep. By 1901, Baku was producing 11 million tons (212,000 barrels) of oil per day, more than 50% of what was being produced worldwide. During the first year of the World War, Azerbaijan produced a record 25.4 million tons of oil. Hitler aimed to capture Baku so as to control this vast resource, but the Nazi defeat at Stalingrad in 1942 forced a retreat from the area, and Hitler never realized his goal. 

Production declined after the war, but oil production is back up now, and crude oil is pumped to Europe in the second-longest oil pipeline in the world, which has the capacity to transport 1 million barrels/day.  These days they are producing about 875,000 barrels of oil/day. That doesn't touch the 10 million barrels/day produced by the US in 2107, but remember, it's a country the size of South Carolina. 

Considering all the natural gas leaking out of cracks in the rocks in the area, it shouldn't be a surprise that there is plenty of petroleum down there as well.

Marco Polo wrote: "Near the Georgian border [somewhere in Azerbaijan] there is a spring from which gushes a stream of oil, in such abundance that a hundred ships may load there at once. This oil is not good to eat; but it is good for burning and as a salve for men and camels affected with itch or scab. Men come from a long distance to fetch this oil . . . ."

Friday, July 27, 2018

AZERBAIJAN: BIBI-HEYBAT MOSQUE, JUMA MOSQUE OF SHAMAKHI, JUMA MOSQUE OF BAKU

Azerbaijan is almost completely Muslim (99.2%, according to the Pew Research Center), with two-thirds belonging to the Shia branch and one-third belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam. However, while there is a Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, few locals are "religious" because of the Soviet prohibition of religious practice during the seventy-one years Azerbaijan was part of the USSR. In other words, most of them have lived their entire lives without religion and appear to be fine to have it continue that way.

Still, Islam is a significant part of their ethnic/national identity, and slowly, slowly, young people are being drawn back.

We visited two important mosques built since Azerbaijan became an independent nation in 1991: the Bibi-Heybat Mosque in Baku and the Juma (or Friday) Mosque of Shamakhi. We also visited a third mosque that was remodeled at the end of the 19th century, the Juma Mosque of Baku.

1. Bibi-Heybat Mosque

Although this mosque was built in the 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it is a recreation of a 13th-century mosque by the same name that was blown up in 1934 by the Bolsheviks as part of their anti-religion campaign. It is the first Stalin-destroyed mosque to have been rebuilt in the post Soviet era.

It sits on one of the major highways of Baku alongside the Caspian Sea:
View from across the highway

View from the courtyard on the Caspian Sea side

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