When I departed Baku one year ago, I wasn't sure if I'd ever be back. But I was ecstatic when the opportunity arose for a return visit.
One reason to visit was the Formula 1 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Although I'm not into car racing or Formula 1, I had attended the inaugural Baku Formula 1 in 2016, had a great time, and was looking forward to a repeat experience. Happily, Formula 1 did not disappoint. In addition to offering an energizing atmosphere with good friends, the race was described as BONKERS by one journalist: after banging wheels multiple times, the two Red Bull teammates finally crashed into each other, knocking them both out of the race; a car crashed into the wall only five laps later; with less then four laps to go, the lead car locked up his tires and fell to fourth place; one lap later, the new lead car punctured a tire and did not finish. A crazy race indeed!
|Baku Formula One Baby!|
While I was back in town, I also joined the Baku Hash House Harriers for a run. The trail setters led an adventurous course through abandoned oil wells in the outskirts of Baku. And we finished at Yanar Dag Fire Mountain, where we roasted marshmallows on the flames that literally emerge from the hillside. I could not have asked for a more Azeri Hash experience!
|Those flames were HOT!!|
But the principal reason for my trip was the wedding of my colleague and friend Aleksey. He and his bride Elnara had a fabulous wedding reception with all Azeri panache I was hoping for. We were greeted at the entrance by a larger-than-life photo of the bridal couple. There were several more of these photos hung in the reception hall. In the picture below, you can see Elnara and Aleksey towering in the background of our dinner table.
|Elnara and Aleksey were never far from us all night|
Of course, there was an amazing amount of food and drink, including some of my Azeri favorites: tendir bread, kebabs, shah plov, vodka, shekerbura pastries, and lots more! There was also plenty of music and dancing. We were treated to a wonderful traditional Azeri dance performance. The emcee serenaded the happy couple on multiple occasions. And the guests were thrilled by cameos of well-known Azeri pop stars, who happen to be friends of the bride.
|Traditional Azeri dance performance|
But the best part of the evening was being reunited in Baku with my fabulous colleagues. We had a great time eating, dancing, drinking, laughing...and doing the requisite Azeri wedding complaining that the music was too loud and and we all ate too much!
|Back together with the Embassy Baku Pol-Econ gang|