Trip Start Apr 09, 2009
28Trip End Aug 01, 2009
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Where I stayed
Well I have finally made it to Uzbekistan, (or O'sbekistan as it is known here). I made it out of Turkmenistan without being arrested for making jokes about the rediculouse white marble buildings in my emails (into which the secret servise take a sneaky peek), or taking pictures of the massive golden statues of Turkmenbashi Nyrzamof, the ex president (only ex as he is deceased). After four consecutive nights pn trains, I'm finally in Tahkent.
I am typing this on Darek's laptop in our hotel, which is actually in the station, which is a real pleasure, I don't feel like I'm wating my time and money in an internet cafe. In case you were wondering, Darek is my new friend and travelling companion. we met in Yazd in Iran, and as we were both going to be heading to Turkmenistan at the same time decided to meet in Ashgabat and travel to Uzbekistan together. It is very nice to have someone to travel with someone and also Darek speaks Russian too which is very handy as everyone here speaks it, good old soviets.
Now I know I haven't been blogging for a while but I can't be bothered to do a full update so I will do a very fast runthrough, maybe highlights. I arrived in Iran on the 30th May and headed straight to Tehran. There I applied for my Uzbek visa and did a little sight seeing, but the best was finding the tea shop around the corner which I would come to frequent at variouse times across the next month. It is a little tiled room with a glass front filled with men of all ages attached to quaylan (water pipes) and drinking tea. There is a tiny kitchen space in the corner and a big fridge along one wall with a fire box at the other end for the charcoal for the pipes. I played a lot of backgammon, inproved my skills. They did a good and cheap omlet, but the highlight was Dizi. I have been trying to find really good local food on this trip and Dizi was my first major success. It is on the face of it a lamb and chickpea stew but oh, it is so much more than a mere stew! It comes bubbling hot in a small ceramic pot (or dizi) and is accompanied by a bowl and massive morter, or is it pestle, well the crusher thing anyway. There is also flat bread and raw onion. First you remove the large pieces off fat from the stew, and some of the tomato and grind them together in the bowl to a paste. Then you poor off most of the juices from the pot into the bowl and mix them up. Add to this lots of torn up bread and eat merrily! It is very tasty! Then you put evering thing left in the dizi into the bowl, grind it up and eat it on bits of bread with pieces of raw onion, the part is the most deliciouse! Well that is Dizi, and let me tell you if the fat sounds bad it's not, it's amazing. and you get all of that for less then 1pound50! The guys who worked in the tea shop were really cool, I came to know them all and it was tres fun. I was very sad to leave Iran thinking that I may never go back.
I went fron Tehran to Isfahan (on overninght bus that cost the same as the Dizi) where I had the incident with the gay men and the two political rallies and was ill in bed for 3 days. A friend I made in the dorm who I had been hanging out with for the previouse 2 days, Dick, was very good to me getting me crisps, biscutis etc and even offered to stay in Isfahan for a few extra days with me until i was fully better again! I was there the week running up to the election, so the rally for Musavi where Khatami spoke was very exciting. It was on the 10th, 2 days before (on the day before it is illegal to have any publicity all posters must be taken down etc) so the last bit of fun. It was like a giant carnival, all green and white, and i came away with a green wristband, headscarf and vest and lots of leaflets. When I left the country I was worried that they would open up my bag and find these but luckily I didn't get searched. There were litterally thousands of people in the Imamm Square all singing and dancing together, it was really wonderful. Except that many people made getting out at the end a bit mental, it was like being at the very front of a concert, all squashed together like sardines, not really being able to controle where you were gonig. When I came out the other side however, after such a great day, my camera was no longer in my pocket!! That kind of ruined it for me a bit, loosing firstly and reallyy nice camera and a christmas present, and secondly nearly all of my pictures. I have a few backed up on a memory stick but not many (and not the best). So in the end Isfahan was not so great, illness and camera loss put quite a large downer on it!
I went back to Tehran to pick up my Uzbek visa and apply for Turkmenistan, where I met the french guys who I was with in Dogubayezit, John Michel and Clement. They were also applying for Turkmen visa so we did that togther and hung out for a few days which was really nice. They also have a blog at www.chimclem.blogspot.com which is in french, but they do have some very good photos, especially of the demos in Tehran after the election (I left Tehran before it all kicked off but they got to see it for real). I will try and put it on the blog front page but the sight has just changed so I can't find the place to do it.
I then left Tehran and went to Shiraz, saw Persepolis which was a real treat, and some very nice mosques and medrassas. I also made contcact with my family who had been freaking out thnkng I was dead in a riot (which i didn't even know were going on) so they were pleased about that i think. There were riots and violence all over the county, people were killed in Shiraz and Yazd i was told, whilst i was in the cities, but these alway happened around the universities which were out of the centre, so unless you were ininvolved you could have know idea anything was wrong. From Shiraz I went to Yazd, which was very pretty, all mud bricks and blue tiles, and there I went to a Zoroastrian Fire Temple and Towers of Silence. The latter are huge squat towers rising out of the desert where the Zoroastrians used to leave their dead to be eaten by vultures. They stopped using them in the 60s only because they ran out of vultures!
After Yazd I spent a day in Kashan, which I very much enjoyed despite arriving at 3.30am on the motorway, and the next morning having my room broken into and day bag rummaged in by the hotel staff whilst i was in the shower. Nothing taken as I had valuables in the shower with me, you had to get them to unlock the shower in order to use it and i smelt a rat. After a long argument with boy then manager then owner, i got the police and $5 back from my bill. But Kashan had a lovely bazaar with another teahouse with old men and fried eggs and a beautiful mosque, my favourit in Iran I think.
I went back to Isfahan, in an attempt to extend my visa (after paying $20 i was told "no extension, leave the country") where i met John Michel and Clement and 4 other guys from Tehran, which was really nice, and after 1 night me and Christopher (a Canadian form Quebek, all conversation had been french, 4 french one swiss one quebek) went back to Tehran (we may meet up again in Kyrgyzstan). The next day I headed to Alamut see previouse entry) and then to Mashhad and Turkmenistan!
I'm sure there are many events people I've missed, but there has been so much I could never put it all down on paper (or ether or whatever this is).
Wow that took longser than I planned! Ok Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will have to wait until morning (or another day). Despite the loss of camera I have Darek's to empty onto my memory stick so hopefully there will be pictures too at some point in the near future!