The last couple of Saturdays, we stayed at home all day long. After a busy week, we had no desire to go out in the cold and do something when we can stay in the warm, not spend any money and just relax. It takes especially a lot of motivation to get William dressed in a warm jacket, boots, hat, scarf and mittens while he's screaming like we're killing him. And then once he's in his stroller, after a lot of screaming of course, we have to keep him happy and content pretty much the entire time he's in there and distract him with snacks, peekaboo, and chasing Anthon.
But last weekend, we finally managed to go out and do something fun. And it felt great!
We really enjoy walking along the promenade. The city has done a great job protecting this area, keeping it very clean and making it look beautiful with all the different kinds of trees, fountains, cafes, carousels, and malls.
I thought that the Boulevard was a relatively new landmark, and was surprised to find out that it is over a hundred years old. The Maiden Tower, that is now about 150m away from the seaside, used to be only 5-10m away from the water in 1806. Along the shore, rich oil barons built their beautiful homes.
|In this drawing from before the 19th century, you can see that the Maiden Tower was right at or in the water. In 1806, it was already 5-10m away from the sea.|
In the course of time, the Caspian Sea receded and some land was reclaimed along the shore.
Around 1880, Baku's Mayor passed a decree that every ship coming in from Iran had to pay taxes in form of fertile soil to further help build up the seafront.
Four years later, the construction of one of the major avenues in Baku was built along the shore to connect the oil fields south of Baku with the oil refineries in the north west. This avenue is today called the Neftchilar Avenue, the "Oilmen Avenue". At this point, there was still no Boulevard.
|The seafront that was built up with the fertile soil tax. |
The building in the background is the Maiden Tower.
After a few years, however, enough soil was collected to also develop a broad, about 700 meter long seafront right next to the Neftchilar Avenue from the Socar circle to where the Children's Puppet Theater is now located.
|The black building in the left background is the Maiden Tower.|
You can see the oil barons' houses near the Maiden Tower along the sea where the soil hadn't been filled in yet
In the beginning of the 20th century, all kinds of trees and shrubs were planted and a few years later, the history of the "Boulevard" officially began.
In 1910, another project started to beautify the boulevard and make it an area for relaxation. A luxurious restaurant was built, several pavilions, a casino that later became the Children's Puppet Theater as we know it today, and a bathing house. Unfortunately, the bathing house had to be closed again in the late 1940s due to poor maintenance and poor water quality due to the oil extraction and lacking waste management in the Caspian Sea.
|The Boulevard around 1900 with the Maiden Tower on the upper left side of the picture|
|The Maiden Tower and on the right the House of Hajinsky, some time after 1910 after all the trees and shrubs had been planted|
|The Maiden Tower and the House of Hajinsky today. |
The houses of the oil barons seen in the previous picture are now gone.
In 1936, a 75-meter high, derrick-shaped parachute tower was built for extreme activities. But after a fatal accident in the 1960s, parachuting from the tower was banned, and the tower was turned into a weather forecast table. I've always wondered about this rather unattractive tower in the middle of the Boulevard, but that makes sense now :-)
Throughout the years, the Boulevard has been modified and extended.
In the last 7 years, several landmarks were built at the Boulevard including the
- shopping mall Park Bulvar
- a National Flag Square with a ginormous 35x70 meter flag
- the beautiful multipurpose sports and concert arena Baku Chrystal Hall where the Eurovision Song Contest took place in 2012
- the 60 meter high Baku Ferris Wheel also called the "Baku Eye"
- Baku's first open-air cinema
- Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
- Baku Water Palace at the southern end of the Boulevard, which was built to host the aquatic sports events during the First European Olympic Games in 2015.
There are also several smaller buildings like the
- Mugham Center, dedicated to a traditional Azerbaijani folk music style, and the
- Mini-Venice complex where you can ride a gondola around. Mini-Venice was already built in the 1960s, but it was greatly expanded in recent years. There is at least one restaurant in that building, but we haven't been there yet and don't know whether it is good or not.
|Park Bulvar Shopping Mall|
|The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, shaped like an unrolling carpet|
|Still under construction, but this is what the Caspian Waterfront Mall next to the carpet museum is going to look like.|
|The "Baku Eye" ferris wheel, and in the background the Flag Square and Baku Chrystal Hall at night. It is only 5 Manat ($2.62) per person for a ride in the ferris wheel.|
|National Flag Square, and to the left Baku Chrystal Hall, where stars like Rhianna, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Eros Ramazzotti have performed at.|
|Baku's Aquatic Center at the southern end of the Boulevard|
|View over Baku at night from Dagüstü Park. The view over the city is much better from here than from the Ferris Wheel (click here to see the Dagüstü Park location)|
Here are a few pictures of our walk along the seashore last weekend.
|"Nar", one of the two Mascots for the first European Olympic Games that took place in Baku last year|