Thursday, August 13, 2009
Baku, Azerbaijan, August 13, 2009
You know, I thought this trip was going to be about Communists, Buddhists, Muslims, and a few Christians. I had forgotten completely about Zoroastrians until I ran into a few museum displays. And today, reading Lonely Planet, I found a whole Zoroastrian temple about ten kilometers north of town. It seems they were big deals around here because Azerbaijan is sitting on a petrochemical basin, just as is Iran and Saudi Arabia. There is so much natural gas and oil around here that it bubbles to the surface. Seems that all you have to do is light one of these seeps, and you have an "eternal" flame. Get a few worshippers together, and you can build a religion around it. That is what Zoroaster did. This fellow in the picture is from the temple museum. He is not really worshipping the fire, but an incandescent light bulb (see the cord at the bottom) made up to look like an eternal flame! Fact is, at this particular place, they have tapped out enough of the natural gas, that it no longer has the pressure to flow to the surface. So, they have to pump some of the city supply of gas into the temple to keep the sacred flame going. And they turn it off when the museum closes.
I had a great time getting here this morning. I blew some of the main rules for travelling. I forgot to look recruit a local on the bus to tell me where to get off. So, I went past the place by about thirty kilometers (I did not know it was only about ten kilometers out of town--could not tell on a map). So, I had to head back. Then the first local who thought he knew what he was doing told me to get off a Madshrootna at a model of the temple they had built along the freeway, rather than the temple itself, which was several kilometers away, so I had to go back where I started on a couple of marshrootnas and start that part of the trip over again. It was fun. Frustrating, but fun when I finally got to where I was going.