Bukhara, Uzbekistan: Silk Road Heaven

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Feb 06, 2014


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Flag of Uzbekistan  , Bukhara Province,
Sunday, October 27, 2013

We woke with a start to someone knocking on our door "Hellooooo it 6:45, you want breakfast?" Urrrrgh "NO!". Woman needs to synchronise her watch as it was only 06:37. 8 minutes is precious at that hour. One thing I will say was our room was freezing. I slept in long PJ bottoms, top, socks, sleeping bag, sheet and blanket so getting out of bed didn't fill me with much joy. By the time we were up and ready we didn't have time for breakfast so the dear old lady made us a little travel pack before bidding us adieu and wishing us luck on our travels.

Had the forecast guaranteed sunshine we probably would have stayed another day as it would have been nice to have more time to explore the city and catch up with some contacts we had been given by friends in Zug (thank you Asya and Jens). Unfortunately though we had to make the call the night before when it was still raining heavily so we made the decision to move on. Shame, as of course we woke to clearing blue skies. A classic damn if you do, damned if you don't.

Arriving at the train station we cleared security with not much fuss, once they had figured out what my tangle-teezer was. The train was comfortable with airline seat 2 by 2 configuration so you didn't have to worry about knocking knees with the person in front. The 7 hr journey passed by in a flash and we were soon lugging our stuff onto the platform and going in search of a taxi.

Bukhara, apparently Central Asia's holiest city, is a quaint little place of mud brick buildings, mosques and minarets. The heart of town is Lyabi-Hauz, a square built around a pond overshadowed by mulberry trees planted in 1477. A restaurant runs along one side with tables and day beds laid out in the sun in high season and on the other is camel train made up of bronze statues. In the middle of the pond is a miniature replica of a mosque with minarets.

Running by the pond is the main thoroughfare which connects the picturesque central city all together. Off shooting alleys take you down to hotels, B&Bs and restaurants whilst the main drag is dotted with shops, a supermarket and two internet cafes. A little further on it snakes it's way through arched mini bazaars and into the Po-i-Kalyan complex which is dominated by a beautiful minaret reaching 50m into the sky.

Local craftsmen hammer away at stalk shaped scissors, metal plates, knives and wooden chess boards whilst others weave their magic on looms to create a rainbow of cascading scarves and shawls. For those who know me you'll understand when I say temptation was great. I could have added a hundred new additions to my scarf tree but as it was I had to call it quits after a mere seven. Very controlled I thought when stepping into Aladdin's cave.

So whilst that was the highlight for me, Sam's was probably a tour of the backstreets (a path less trodden and all that) and the architecture. Being the son of a talented builder he appreciates these things. It was especially nice to walk into a mosque where the courtyard wasn't full of scaffolding and debris. One of our walks took us to the Ark where two Englishmen were beheaded in 1842. The first was killed for riding up to the Ark instead of walking and for not bringing gifts or a letter from the Queen. Bad Queenie. The second blundered his rescue mission and was thrown in a dungeon and beheaded for his efforts. Epic fail on all counts really.

In another of Bridger's backstreet missions we found a lovely place called the Char Minar, a building with four pretty towers nestled amongst fruit trees. Being sidetracked by brightly coloured materials and a cute puppy I opted to stay patting the flee ridden dog as Sam climbed the stairs and ventured up onto the roof to pose for some 'hail ye King Bridger' snaps.

When enjoying some sundowners on a roof terrace overlooking the Po-i-Kalyan complex we met two Canadians, Nick and Dariece, who have been travelling for a number of months from China to Iran. Lovely people and it didn't take long before it felt like we were catching up with old friends. As they were next going to Iran and we to Tajikistan we spent the evening exchanging tips and thoughts on places visited over chilled beers and some rather dubious looking but tasty hotdogs. As a testament to their love of travel they have thrown in their jobs and opted instead for life on the road as travel writers. Check out their blog at www.GoatsOnTheRoad.com.

"Keep your life on your back and get more back from your life"
GoatsOnTheRoad.com

INFO:

Taxi: Gulnara Guesthouse to train station UZS 12,000 (US$4.50)
Train: Tashkent to Bukhara dep 08:30 arr 15:30. Price UZS 82,000 (US$30) for two tickets in standard class.
B&B: Sarrafon US$20 per night, twin room, private bathroom, no breakfast. US$25 with breakfast but since we're never awake early enough we've started to bargain for without which usually knocks US$5 off per night.
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