The past week or so has been a voyage through old and new in Uzbekistan. I've reached a point in my trip where I'm seeing "old" friends whom I met earlier in my trip, while simultaneously meeting new ones. In parallel, I've found that the rich historical landscape of Uzbekistan has a similar mixture of the old and new...
Old friends and New friends
|Flashback: Vojta and Mario are the two in the back, seen here at our plov-fest at Rashid's in Bishkek|
|Blurry photo of Gordon (Canadian, left) and Lola (Uzbek, right) in Tashkent|
On the other side of things were my Couchsurfing hosts: four Uzbek college students from Bukhara living in a 2-room flat in the old town. Three of the four spoke excellent English and we had many long conversations about Uzbekistan and the US (see the "questions" post for the majority of their questions about America). Through them, I met their friend Justin, another Bukharan who had been teaching English recently in Tashkent and had developed a british accent from rooming with a Londoner while studying in Japan. Justin, it turns out, was on his way to Samarkand and Bukhara that weekend, as well, and offered that we go together. Sounded good to me.
|The boys at home. Same as American college students, just plov-ier and with shorter tables.|
|Rakhmed's English class. I was again the guest of honor|
|Rakhmed, Alisher and I (pre-shave)|
Plus sides of traveling with a local:
1) language: I was able to sit back while Justin did most of the navigating, ordering and haggling. A nice respite when traveling alone.
2) discounts: Justin's connections got us close to 80% off at the hotels
3) local knowledge: Having grown up in Bukhara and spent his childhood giving amateur tours to foreigners, Justin knew the places to go and a lot of the history. How else would I have found myself playing backgammon in a smoky shisha bar with a bunch of Uzbeks?
|Registan in Samarkand. Justin was really excited about this pose, he wouldn't take the photo without it|
Down sides of traveling with a local:
1) they like to travel in style. Hitchhiking was the furthest from Justin's mind, as were cheap eats. Luckily, he picked up the bill more often than not (pushing me away when I tried to pay
2) discounts: 80% off of a ridiculously priced hotel is still a costly room. At least it came with a sauna.
3) local knowledge: in his overconfidence, he often told us things of questionable validity. This ranged from simply contradicting our guidebook (which could easily be mistaken, as well) to calling horse riding stirrups "handcuffs." and busts of any white man "Lenin"
4) time stress: Justin only had the weekend off from Tashkent, so we had a whirlwind 24-hour tour of Samarkand before jetting off to Bukhara, which he left after another 24 hours.
|Feeling a bit shy about my new haircut, I decided to try some new styles with Rob|
|This is what happens when you try to drive a car without registration in Uzbekistan: The police personally drive it to the impound lot for you. Then, you call your friend the police chief and he lets you have it back.|
|Mother of all Shashlik in Bukhara. I'm pretty sure there was a whole chicken on this spit.|
Old stuff and New Stuff
|Mickey Mouse with a scimitar on a camel would have definitely taken over the world|
|Rob ready for departure. Turkemenistan and Iran await!|
|Back to hitching. This is the road from Bukhara to Nukus|
|New best friends at a birthday party in Tok'tul|
|old town Khiva at sunset. The big minaret on the left is younger than the US Capitol building by several decades.|
|Old and older: another rickety soviet ferris wheel (out of commission) beyond the Khivan walls|
Khiva is also known as a "museum city". There is a new part of town, but the old town is where they send all of the tourists. Although there are still about 3000 people who live within the walls, the entire place is clearly geared towards tourism and little else. Every building is a hotel or museum, with a few cafes scattered here and there and plenty of souvenier stands lining the main roads. Surprisingly, the majority of the tourists seemed to be Uzbek, and about half of those were wedding parties. I must have seen at least 12 brides yesterday.
|Old wall, new art. Just outside the old town|
|Uzbek kids doing SCIENCE! c. 1914|
One of the benefits of being in tourist central was nightly Uzbek movies shown on the wall of the Ark. During my first day, at least 5 people told me about the movie and that I should come back that night. I showed up right on time and there was a huge padlock on the door and nobody to be found. A few minutes later, some other tourists came by, but ultimately we all went home disappointed. The next day I came by 5 minutes early to find the padlock still firmly in place. While peering through the door, however, a young local guy came running, unlocked the door and set up the equipment. Clearly there isn't a lot of demand.
The movie was interesting from a cultural perspective, but unfortunately it was Uzbek dubbed in Russian with English subtitles. This in itself wouldn't have been so bad, but the Russian dubbing was about 3 seconds late and the English subtitles started out about 5 seconds early. I was able to follow along for a bit, matching the remembered subtitles to the delayed images and trying to piece together some of the Russian, but by the end of the movie the subtitles were a full minute or two early and comprehension became impossible. Oh well, nice try, Khiva.
|free Uzbek movie night in the citadel! Attendance: 4|
Next stepI'm off west to try to see what's left of the Aral Sea before crossing my last Central Asian border into Kazakhstan! It will be nice to not have to worry about daily registration anymore, but it's only getting more expensive until I get to Africa...
And just for you food lovers out there, here are a couple photos of Khivan cuisine:
|I do not highly recommend this dish. The meat and potatoes aren't bad, but that stuff around the edges is cold noodles with what tastes like a mix of mayo and sour cream. Clearly, a Khivan delicacy.|
|This, on the other hand, is a delicious, delicious Khivan meat pie. Also, it's half the price of the noodle mess.|