Melons and nectarines are in season at the moment. They are everywhere. In the corner stores, the mini-marts and from ladies in colourful dresses who come in from the surrounding countryside to sell from a basket at the side of the road. If you are prepared to pay for them, you can get some tart apples and squishy pears but where are the oranges, lemons, limes? Where are the kiwi fruit, the mangos, and pineapples? We found a shop selling a few potatoes a couple of days ago in a shop with a few dried up carrots. There seem to be no root vegetables, no cabbage, cauliflowers, lettuce, cucumbers available in Baku…
I spent nearly two hours walking around the city looking for vegetables and ended up buying a chopping board and some three-pin adapters instead. The adapters I got from MUM, a Soviet style department store on the pattern of GUM on Red Square but rather more down market and the chopping board from a very expensive cook store on Azerbaijan Prospect, the main drag. There are plenty of designer clothes shops, Internet cafes and restaurants but there seemed to be nowhere you can buy plates, or paint or a washing up bowl.
Baku’s best supermarket we discovered is he size of a small Tescos. It is good for tea but poor for breakfast cereals. The selections of pickled and preserved vegetables is impressive but not so the kitchenware and I still haven’t seen a wooden spoon for sale. If you are looking for fancy glassware however, you are in heaven! Cut glass tea sets with lots of painted flowers, filigree work and gaudy gold trim are clearly in high demand.
Do you remember a time in the UK before there were many supermarkets and you had to go from shop to shop on the high street to find what you needed? Well, Baku is like that today. The thing is that even on the high streets, you don’t find rows of shops. There is the shop selling white goods, then three or four nameless office blocks and an apartment block later the fancy goods shop. Around the corner is the office where you can register for the Internet then two doors up a pharmacy. You have to know where are individual shops are rather than head for the high street and work you way down.
There are a few small malls but they are given over to more designer clothes… Oh well, I suppose I will just have to give up eating cornflakes and start wearing Armani.