Stepping out onto the streets of Azerbaijan’s capital city is a quick way to gain insight on the local economic situation. The streets of Baku, much like other large cities, are plagued with traffic and drivers who use their horns more than they obey any sort of traffic laws. The mixture of vehicles that fill the roads is telling of the wealth disparity. Public transport is accomplished by aging mini-buses called marshrutkas plying the streets in all directions. Larger city buses are mostly absent so these marshrutkas provide the most comprehensive city transport in Baku. Although bus stops do exist, they are rarely used so one can wave down a passing bus at any time. Boxy, Russian made Ladas are most prevalent passenger car because they are cheap, easy to fix, and will last for hundreds of thousands of miles. However, with their 13” wheels and a manual choke lever, Ladas have less style than your back yard lawnmower. The final component of Baku’s streets is luxury cars. In stark contrast to the rest of the 4-wheeled street machines, BMWs, Mercedes, Land Rovers, Hummers and other high value vehicles by anyone’s standards are surprisingly common, clearly the spoils of the rich Azerbaijan oil deposits. Although watching these mismatched cars interact can be amusing (until you need to cross the street) one of the most enjoyable things to do in Baku is walk through the walls of the old city. The cobblestone streets, thankfully too narrow for cars, quickly dampen the noise of the busy modern city leaving you to enjoy the ancient architectural beauty in peace. The winding maze of alleys helps to prolong the peaceful experience before you inevitably exit the gates and face the modern world again – wishing that car horns wore out as frequently as brake lights.  

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