Tashkent – last stop on the silk road
|Undeniably unique – Uzbekistan|
We pulled into the station back at the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent. Emerging from the overnight soviet train we were somewhat sleep deprived, having been baked at 28 degrees for eight hours. We decided to go into up into the Uzbek mountains which were supposed to be beautiful, as a contrast to our Silk Road city explorations. We couldn’t book any accommodation in advance for some mysterious reason. It was a local holiday destination, and not a tourist one, and there was little provision for the likes of us. Of the few hotels that there were, they didn’t have the licence to take foreigners!
Staying in Tashkent
The Uzbekistan government do insist on knowing where you are at all times. You have to have a special slip documenting when you book into somewhere and when you book out. You even have to keep your train ticket if you are on an overnight service. Each slip is duplicated for their records by the place you stay, and you must keep them all in your passport. The authorities may decide to check them – and they do like to check things. If you don’t have this proof you can risk a large fine upon leaving the country.
This extreme bureaucracy is another throw back to the days of the old Soviet Union, and it does seem rather over the top for today. When we traveled there was a hefty visa charge and just getting hold of one was rather complicated. Visas are things which create barriers for visitors. As of early 2019 you don’t need a visa now if you are travelling from the UK, which is excellent news.
I had read that Tashkent was an ugly city but it is very far from that. Wide European style boulevards edged with plane trees are dotted with some rather spectacular buildings. The museums, parks and concert halls, top international hotels and government buildings are all quite grand. This is not a crowded city, there is much space and light and everything is super clean.
Tashkent was largely destroyed by being at the epicentre of an earthquake in 1966. As a result a lot of the original buildings were destroyed. Many of the newer ones reflect the occupation of the USSR. Russian architecture has its own concrete character and is very uniform, utilitarian and monochrome. Some of what were grand soviet hotels, are now rather sad and shabby inside. They would have been state of the art thirty years ago. The Hotel Uzbekistan looks retro cool from the outside but its interior is ‘in need of some updating ‘ as they say.
Tashkent – the Shodlik Palace
We ended up staying at such a hotel – the Shodlik Palace. There were hardly any residents there so we practically had the huge hotel to ourselves. The staff were extremely helpful and made it feel much more homely and less impersonal that the somewhat dour exterior suggested. We did some more riding around on the super cool Metro, with its beautiful ornate stations.
|Metro Guards Saturday social|
Tashkent – a day trip to the mountains
Finally we decided to go to the mountains just for the day. We took one of the super cheap taxis that are everywhere. Uzbekistan taxis are about the cheapest in the world.
We traveled for about an hour and a half from Tashkent. Driving through a landscape which looked like Southern Europe, there were lush fields of melons and cotton and vines. We wound our way up the road to the Chimgan mountains. Our driver couldn’t speak English so when we rounded the corner and saw the amazing turquoise Charvak reservoir close to the border of Kyrgyzstan, it was a quite a surprise.
A large dam has created a huge body of water which the Uzbeks have turned into a gigantic lake. It is a kind of summer resort with a sort of a rather stony beach. There are rows of Topchans to hire for people to relax in the slightly cooler climate up here in the mountains.
We took a beautiful speedboat complete with white leather seats across the water out into the dazzling blue day. I loved it, whizzing along at speed with the wind in my hair, I felt elated. Uzbekistan is a destination of constant surprises.
|Top of the lake|
Our fabulous trip to this land locked country was coming to a close. We enjoyed the hospitality of the charming Uzbek people and the beauty of the majestic ancient monuments. The many historical buildings stand testament ancient and exotic periods of world history.
The shopping is great and your money goes a long way here. The food is pretty good if somewhat carbohydrate heavy, and Uzbek wine is perfectly drinkable (always quite an important fact.) Although the choice – red or white – is somewhat limited.
|View from our beach Topchan|
Tashkent – fantastic ceramics
Everyone who knows me knows I just love ceramics. The ceramics here is Uzbekistan are fantastic and so cheap! As I dragged my rucksack laden with teapots and plates through the fourth security check at the airport, I reflected happily on our fantastic stantastic trip.
Special mention goes to top snapper Julie Sloan for additional photos in all the Uzbek blogs – great shots – thank you!
|More hat shopping|