10/12/08 Sunday – Baku/Ashgabat
After a late morning checkout from our hotel, we had 12 hours to kill before our evening flight to Turkmenistan. It turned out to be a rewarding 12 hours.
We drove northeast of Baku on the Abseron Peninsula to Suraxani, site of the Atesgeh Fire Temple. For centuries it was a sacred Zoroastrian site where an underground vent of natural gas provided an “eternal” flame, particularly appropriate for fire worshipping Zoroastrians. By the 18th C. the grounds were occupied by Indian Shivas who indulged in a variety of ascetic practices such as walking on hot coals.
We returned to the center of Baku for a cruise out into the Caspian Sea which afforded panoramic views of the entire city though it was shrouded in heavy clouds. I took a final long walk to Fountain Square and then along the coast to Wedding Cake style Government House. Just to the east of this beautiful building we had dinner on the top floor of the 13 story Abseron Hotel which has dramatic city views of the main boulevard along the sea.
After dinner we drove to the airport and shortly before the day ended we arrived at the Grand Turkemen Hotel in Ashghabat.