It's not without reason that, together with Belorus and Russia, Azerbaijan is the last country in Europe to have strict visa requirements. The sociopolitical situation is just a tad more volatile than in most. This was recently exemplified by scores of citizens being kicked out of their homes to make way for the. creation of the Crystal Hall, the soon to be venue for the 2012 Eurovision Songcontest.
Benno and I are continuing our two year streak of vacationing in eastern Europe, this time checking out the abandoned social housing in Baku, cheering for Holland and Hungary in the semi finals of the Eurovision.
We had wanted to attend the finals. I expected the ticket prices to be reasonable enough, this is, after all, eastern Europe, so far east it's regularly confused with Asia. But not so. The cheapest tickers for the finals were a steep 160 euros.
Our semi final tickets are 'only' 90 euros each. Painful.
And then we needed to find accommodation.
As soon as the tickets had gone on sale, I started to look for accommodation in and around Baku. The 100 or so hotels that are bookable online, ranging from about 15 euros to 250 euros per night, were already booked by the time I started looking. Even expanding my search to up to 100 km away from Baku made no difference.
I was ready to give up.
Venting my frustration on twitter, an old friend who, as I thought, was living in south America, assumed I was actually in Azerbaijan already, and invited me over.
We were saved.
Under more normal circumstances, you'd need an invitation to get into Azerbaijan. Not so now, proof of purchase of a ticket for Eurovision being enough. When flying into the country, but only when flying, you can get a visa upon arrival.
With the same ticket, you can also get a visa at any of the Azeri embassies, but with the nearest being in south Africa and Cairo, that was not really an option for me. And the expected wait in istanbul, from where i had planned to travel overland to Azerbaijan, turned out to be up to ten days.
I postponed my departure for turkey by a week, and tagged on a one way flight to Baku.
Hello turkey, it's nice to see you after 6 years.