A reader recently asked if we have an itinerary. She must have telepathic powers, because it is just at this point that we are pondering our future course. Thursday we spent a lot of time on line researching our possible destinations after Uzbekistan. Arvid's idea has been to go up through Russia, but Irina is favoring going straight on to the Middle East. Friday we went over to Rawalpindi to check on the train to Peshawar, and to do some shopping at the bazzars -- Irina says, "Finally!" Yesterday we went to the post office and mailed 12 kilos of souvenirs home for 8180RP.
Today we went to the archeological sites at Taxila just north of Rawalpindi about 20 miles. Taxila is another World Heritage Site. This was the center of the fabled culture and kingdom of Gandhara, a Buddhist culture with Greek influences
. There are ruins of three cities - Bhir Mound, Sirkap and Sirsukh, and several Buddhist monasteries as well, all within a 25 Km sq. area known as Taxila. There is evidence of human habitation here going back to the stone age. The Takkas from Iran invaded the region around 1200 BC bringing Achaemenian culture to Taxila. The Takkas were snake worshippers. They founded a city at Bhir Mound in the 6th century BC. Darius the king of Persia annexed Taxila in 522 BC. In 326 BC Alexander the Great came here and part of his army camped here for two years. Later Ashoka, the Mauryan ruler, built a Buddhist university at the site called Julian. This appears to be when Buddhism caught on here. Then in the second century BC the Bactrian Greeks built Sirkap which became the new Taxila. Later came the Scythians, the Parthians and the Kushans. Gandhara under the Kushans was about the size of the Roman Empire and contemporary with it. The Kushans moved here when the Han Chinese (the people that made the Terracotta Warriors back in Xian) pushed them southward out of China. The texts always refer to the Kushans as Great, but in the White Huns did not find them so great because in the 5th century they came through and destroyed everything that represented civilization. History represents the Huns as mean and ugly and their only pleasure was hurting others. But they really were a jolly bunch, once you got to know them. The White Huns were a different bunch then Attila's Huns who went west to Europe, although the both branches came from the same Asiatic nomads
. This branch of about 50,000 families headed to south Asia where they swept through Taxila burning and destroying everything in their way. The White Huns settled out without much culture except their separate villages; and that is how we get the Pakistani hill tribes of today. Taxila never recovered from the Huns and the sands and grass covered it all up until Sir John Marshall started excavating in 1913. The existence of Taxila was well known though through the records of Greek and Chinese travelers and historians. With the exception of Alexander and Darius we'd never heard of any of these people before; well maybe they were mentioned in our World History classes but we knew they wouldn't be on the final exam. It was very interesting and we are really glad we saw it. It is a very important piece of the big puzzle.
If all goes right and our visas are ready we'll take the train to Peshawar tomorrow.