I hereby nominate Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, for Freakiest First Impression by a major metropolis. As my taxi snaked alongside the Caspian Sea, first it was the Heydar Aliyev Center (pictured), where architect Zaha Hadid seems to have translated tsunami waves into architecture. Then came the 10,000 LED lights that dance across three 600-foot-tall structures appropriately named Flame Towers. As we passed the elegant fin de siècle mansions that encircle the medieval city center, I felt as if I’d entered a locale spawned by Paris and Abu Dhabi. I didn’t know what would come next, but it seemed like anything was possible. —David Farley
This appeared in the August/September 2014 issue.
For events and exhibitions at the Heydar Aliyev Center visit: http://heydaraliyevcenter.az/#main