Land of the Lepyoska, Madrassas and Cotton fields

Trip Start Feb 05, 2009
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Trip End Dec 16, 2010


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Flag of Uzbekistan  ,
Saturday, October 3, 2009

Summary:

By now 2 weeks in Uzbekistan…what a great country, offering the old Silk Road cities with their madrassas and other beautiful building and village life with street sellers, donkey and cart drivers and lots of people working the cotton fields as it is harvesting time! They love meat here, as it seems to be in every dish and the Lepyoshka (Uzbec bread) is sold on every street corner! The bread is made in special clay ovens, where they stick to the ceiling! It is delicious. We soak up daily life by relaxing in one of the many chaighanas (tea houses) and try all the local food like PLOV (a rice dish) or SOMCA (meat filled bread roll). After Bukhara and Samarqand we are now in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, where we have to arrange some visa. Also the place where we meet up with some people again!

Only been 2 weeks in Uzbekistan, but it simply embraces you!
Entering the country through hundreds of kilometers of the vast steppe plains, when all of a sudden the stage changes décor and we find ourselves in a valley full of cotton fields, with numerous donkey and carts on the streets, colorfully dressed women selling fruit and men with wearing the traditional black & white hats! My favorite thing: The special tea drinking 'beds', which can be found at every Chaighana (teahouse) and in private backyards! You sit cross legged on this bed with a low table in the middle, drinking tea or eating one of the local dishes. For example: Plov (rice-meat dish) with lepyoshka (Uzbec bread). Something we have done regularly. The Lada is also well represented here!

The people are curious and eager to talk. The fact that I do not have a husband is replied with Pachimu? Why? Good question! ;-)

After Khiva (Xiba), we leave the first valley behind and with Stef Bos over the speakers we cross another 450km of desert to get to Bukhara: our next Silk Road city! This city has many madrassas, mosques and trading houses, all clustered in the center. Nowadays not as many as before, when the city was dominated by 200 madrassas and a mosque for every day of the year! What a sight that must have been! Road signs are rare here, so how to get to the old center? The taxi driver cannot explain me, but luckily TJ is there to help us out. He speaks very good English and even offers to come along to take us there. No clue where to park and ‘camp’, so I ask if we can put the van in front of his house. Bit bold I know, but most of you know me ;-) That evening we spend at his place where he lives together with his wife and mother-in-law. Not only can we park the car, but that evening we share a meal, can have a shower, may use the washing machine and sleep in the house! Basic things not so easy for us when traveling, so much appreciated! TJ and Lena show us their wedding video: Special because it is them and because we have seen a lot of newly weds and now understand a bit better what the wedding day is like. An Uzbec Islam wedding has many small ceremonies and traditions: just to mention two: Eggs dropping from her lap, the broken eggs stand for the number of children they will get; A wedding present consisting of a huge pile of mattresses, to be used when confined to the house for (traditionally) 40 days!

We spend our day time sightseeing Bukhara, soaking up Uzbec life at one of the Chaighanas (teahouses). A simple thing like getting more money turns out to be a challenge. No ATMs in the city, so VISA card. It takes me an hour to find the NBU bank and when waiting in line at cabinet nr.11 on the first floor, the woman tells me the machine as been put at a big hotel in the center! Ahhh, so all the way back again. To girls show me their best smile. What is the exchange rate? 1 dollar = 1512 sum. What!!!! We got 1860 sum on the black market before, so this feels like a ripp-off! Smiling back I start to negotiate, final result: 1700 sum for 1 USD. Still crap, but at least it’s a bit more. Only later I realize this is rarely done, so pretty proud I got it done ;-))

After a second night at their home, sharing tea, homemade wine and good company it is time to say goodbye. They have to go to work and we want to visit some more sites and have to hit the road again…Ochin Spasiba for everything!

Following the old Silk Road and now tourist trail our next destination is Samarqand, a city full of culture and history, as well as many fountains, green parks and space. It feels completely different walking around here. We have seen many Madrassas until now, but the Registan Emsemble is the most beautiful of all! The tile work is amazingly detailed. Ironically all this work is not that old: Many of the restoration have been done in 1994, so only 15 years ago! I included one photo showing the before and after effect, big difference!

In between the cities we stop at small villages. It is nice to get a view and feel of both city and village life! At one village we realize we have a flat tire. No problem, within minutes some guys come and help out, changing the tire and receiving more melons and some fresh made bread. Sharing and caring is very much part of the culture. Feel we, in western society, are too much focused on ourselves, less and less caring for our neighbor, let alone strangers.

A few days ago we made it to Tashkent: the 4th largest city of Central Asia and capital of Uzbekistan with over 3 million citizens, although it does not feel like a busy place at all. The center is widespread with lots of green, huge buildings and large streets. For us mostly a functional stopover as we have to arrange at least 2, but preferably 3 visa: Kyrgyzstan, China and India. If we can arrange the last one here also, it means it is not a must to Bishkek (capital of Kyrgyzstan), leaving us the option to travel the smaller village roads instead. Also a place of reunion, as we meet up with Anvar again, one of the truck drivers whom we met on our first day in Uzbekistan! We are invited to his home and meet his lovely wife Tamara and sharing a lovely lunch. And we see Rustam for a drink, one of the guys from Khiva. By the end of the week, Marat should be in town as well! Great to meet up again! By change we have found the perfect free-city-camp-spot: next to a big hotel in the middle of the center, nearby the bazaar, a supermarket and internet café and walking distance from the embassies. Mira met 2 sisters in a park when sightseeing and they happen to live in the flat next to us, so we are temporary neighbors now. In between embassy visits our days are filled with souvenir shopping at the Chorsu bazaar, being on the phone with Holland, doing internet sessions, some sightseeing and socializing with people we meet here. On Thursday we were invited for Tamara’s birthday, which we shared with friends and family. Enjoying a great meal with VODKA, karaoke and dancing. Everyone, including us, had to give a little speech, with of course a vodka toast! It was a great night, meeting lovely people, who want us to stay in Tashkent, Why go to India?! Anvar is great, checking up on us every day, helping out wherever he can. Feels like my second dad! I am very grateful for all he’s doing. Hotel Dedeman parking is our temporary home now, where people start to get to know us and help us out with water, information and other things. One Pakistan guy even invites us for dinner and shows us the ONLY working bankomat in town! With US dollars in the pocket, Anvar takes us to the black market to change them (1900 sum in stead of the official rate 1521 sum at the bank!).

Some of you are wondering how I am doing whilst doing all the sightseeing and meeting these great people. Well, I’m fine really. Mira and I are like a married travel couple, dealing with some communication problems at the moment. In some ways we are opposites and that makes it difficult sometimes. But I have a feeling we can overcome this. The deadline traveling still puts some pressure on the trip, but I have come to terms with the fact that we cannot stop at place for a long time and have to travel by schedule. The days are flying by and yet not. Have not found the time or energy to play the djembe much, do yoga or creative things. This will have to wait till India I think. The days are filled with sightseeing, driving, doing daily chores and socializing…not that I am complaining, feel very happy that I do not have to work like most of you ;-))

Typing this last bit of the story, I am now also the proud owner of a one year multiple enty visa for India! Chinese visa will have to wait till Kirgizstan as due to bank holidays we are not the only ones waiting at the gate: 5 days waiting again....impossible if we wanna make it in time to the Pakistan border and see a bit of Kirgizstan as well. Tomorrow we have a mechanic helping out with checking the van, brakes oke? New radio installed, Fluids oke? etc. And another reunion as we meet up with Marat again, the guy we met at Khiva!! All in all Tashkent has proven to be a nice stopover! But enough cities for now, time to head for the mountains and yurts!

Next time I can tell and show you if we found any!
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Comments

mixolidius
mixolidius on

Great, great pics....and I would go for PLOV !!!
It is looking great, all those new colors, and big super exciting buildings. Together with your fine stories of hospitality. You are right, our western society has fallen down to an I, I and I level. Go for your own fortune, and f**k the rest...
It so great and warm to read the stories of sincere hospitality and to hear how the locals are directly helping out with flat tire. Wish I could feel some of that in our country, where a new virus of social autism is taking over and bank systems crumble (and fall!!!) due to super greed of very, very ignorant and stupid people. Where a simple smile at this moment is becoming something suspect....Enjoy the ride ladies, you're very fortunate to be able to have this incredible almost divine experience.
Lucky you!
hope to hear more soon; and a big hug from your dedicated follower Gerard - please do not give up posting!!!
Kisses & love.

Tj on

Great Mira we are with you keep going

Nicholas nickford ingosi Mugalo on

Surely Angelique,I just Love this.Am happy that I would like to hear just more from you.Are you still on volunteer as you were in Kenya.Tell me something about Anthony,Sara,Hellen Wendy Gibson and many others,An in full contact with Ania Sharwood Smith. from Holland.Please try to sign in your website,I am trying but its very difficulty.An now in Kitengela.I will write more.

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