Expedition to Uzbekistan 2010
Expedition to Uzbekistan 2010
Natural beauty has always been the greatest asset of all the countries of Central Asia that I have explored. Of course contact with people, the great adventure and nice carpets were also interesting. However Uzbekistan is an exception because the country’s greatest assets are the ancient cities along the Silk Road, such as: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. It is even better that they are far away from each other, because travelling in Uzbekistan is always full of many adventures. In Uzbekistan, you can also learn about the ecological tragedy of the Aral Sea and admire the local art, but because of the ancient cities I believe that Uzbekistan should become the ‘rising star of tourism’.
My trip around Uzbekistan: Samarkand – Bukhara – Urgench – Khiva – Nukus – Kungrad – Moynaq – Tashkent – Chimgan.
In addition, this report includes many “road relations” and some interesting practical information, descriptions of nature, my amusing adventures and many others.
Crossing the border went without stress. I had to fill out the exact form and have a conversation about how much money I earned in my country but it was no problem.
A few words about the Uzbek currency
The currency of Uzbekistan is money, so cheap that even toilet paper is probably more expensive. The highest denomination is a banknote of 1000 sums worth about 70 pence. This means that I exchanged for example $ 50 or $ 100 I had almost a whole pack of money. In Uzbekistan it is not so difficult to become a millionaire. Local currency is advised to buy only on the black market because the state course is almost twice weaker. (At this point my memories of Burma speak.
Of all the countries of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is very high in terms of bureaucracy. The depressive process of obtaining a visa was described in the practical information so here I will describe only the nonsense of the registration of tourists. It is based on the fact that every tourist must sleep in a hotel where he will be issued a registration certificate for every night spent in Uzbekistan. This document is given to the immigration police information called OVIR. If someone wanted to spend two or three nights in the desert, it would be hard to explain at the exit, so you have to collect the registration documents. It was easy for me to leave the country, but if the bureaucrat is bored I can count OVIR.
By the way, the bureaucracy in Uzbekistan is still nothing compared to that in Turkmenistan.
Transportation from the border to Samarkand (48km)
After leaving the border crossing, several taxi drivers and several small buses were waiting. We raced a bit but eventually we managed to pay a normal price. Besides, the taxi drivers were a little disappointed that I’m a Pole because the Poles are not paying well. Coming through the honest fields and small buildings after about an hour we reached Samarkand. The driver blew us out of Registan himself.
Samarkand (Pearl of the Silk Road)
(History, good and cheap hotel, beauty of Registan and description of the rest of the wonderful sights of Samarkand)
Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in the world, which has flourished for centuries due to its strategic location. It was on a trade route between China and Europe called the Silk Road . This makes Samarkand one of the most beautiful cities in Central Asia . Unfortunately, no objects from the Mongol invasions survived, but in the fourteenth century a ruler named Timur established in Samarkand the capital of his empire. It was during this period and after Timur that the most spectacular objects were created, which we can admire today, and the world-famous Registan was the center of ancient Samarkand. Today the city is mainly inhabited by the Tajik and the Uzbek people are a minority here.
In 2001, Unesco ranked Samarkand as a World Heritage Site.
Upon arrival I immediately found a hostel overlooking Registan . Uzbekistan, in comparison with the rest of Asia, is famous for its good hotels offering B & Bs. I had a private room for only $ 9. On the terrace there were trees and cats, big wooden beds with lids and cushions. I spent the evening talking to other travelers, occasionally killing mosquitoes. Every morning I was brought to breakfast and then went to visit the beautiful Samarkand.
Of course, I started with Registan , which is the showcase of the city and one of the most spectacular shows of architecture. Large, majestic buildings, tiled mosaics on medes, domes and minarets and very well-balanced spaces combined into one magnificent whole. Registan (” sandy place” in Tajikistan ) is the most prominent monument complex in Central Asia. See you there, and I think it will be best to give away my rich gallery from this country and in the report I will describe only some of the most interesting, major monuments. Unfortunately, from the Mongolian period, nothing has survived, and for centuries these areas were haunted by several earthquakes and Soviet occupation, which on the one hand protected the monuments and on the other hand acted to the detriment. Although many of these facilities were built in the 15th and 17th centuries, they still all stand and are very well. It seems that Uzbekistan attaches great importance to all these objects because the restaurant work is infinite.
When I left the hotel, I saw a magnificent panorama of Registan . The richness of the shape, the mosaic and the precision of execution captured me with delight. The area around the course is carefully cherished and I repeatedly walked this way to enjoy the views. When I got to the main part, I had a square in front of me and three great medals ( the Arabic medres are Muslim theological schools ): Ulugbek Medressa , Sher Dor Medressa and Tilla-Kari Medressa .
The beauty of this place obviously enchanted me. I paid the price of a tourist that is several thousand somers which means only a few dollars and went to visit.
Ulugbek Medressa is the first to be born here and completed in 1420, when Ulugbeek was born, who reportedly taught mathematics, astronomy, theology and philosophy here. During his time there lived about a hundred students. The construction of this medress including the arrangement of the beautiful mosaic and all the chambers and the main square took only three years. Sher Dor Medressa also known as the medress lion stands opposite Ulugbek’s medressa and was completed in 1636. It is very characteristic because the horns at the top are arranged large mosaics depicting two lions that look more like tigers. This is quite contrary to the laws of Islam, which is against the image of live animals. This madressa also consists of a few internal chambers and a main square although when I was here it was not as well restored as the other two.
The last object on the main square of Registan is the Tilla-Kari Medressa , which is covered with gold. From the inside it does not look more attractive than the other two but from the inside I have to admit that it is the most beautiful. It was completed in 1660 and has a very pleasant market and the biggest attraction here is the richly decorated mosque in some places covered with gold. This is to symbolize the wealth of Samarkand at a time when this medressa was being built. Impressed by the ceiling of the mosque, which is flat but from the inside looks like a dome. This is because of the very elaborate painting that gives such an illusion.
Today’s architectural gem, undoubtedly Registan is, serves only tourist attractions. Where 600 years ago they slept and learned the students today have souvenir shops. Fake traditional Uzbek weddings and kurasare held on the squares, showing Uzbek stocks. Registan is also beautiful after dark as there are light shows and sounds that can be watched for free from benches outside the main square. The police also offer entrance to minarets from where you can watch the whole from high. They usually want 7000 sums but I managed to settle at 4000. (I recommend my brief description of the Uzbek currency above). Registanwas beautiful and worth every minute of it. It should be at the top of the priorities when traveling through this country.
That evening I also went for a delicious and deliciously cheap kebabs that is a local restaurant. At the time of payment I took out the harmony of banknotes after 1000 sums which in the conversion was only about $ 3. There is also a internet called Batman, but I do not advise going there. The place itself is decent but the combination is the slowest in the world. It took me 20 minutes to get to the website. Evening at the hotel on the terrace I spent talking with other travelers. Samarkand liked me more and more.
The next day I went to the opposite side of Registan to see other interesting objects. Passing through the alley of expensive souvenir shops I reached the huge mosque of Bibi-Khana . It was completed shortly before Timur’s death and had to be the jewel of his empire. At that time, it was a huge architectural challenge as the gate itself was 35m high. Of course the main gate is also made with a characteristic arch and is covered in mosaic. Unfortunately, after the earthquake of 1897, it collapsed. Today you can admire the beautifully decorated main gate, several blue domes and the main square. The great marble koran is located in the middle of the square. Here, of course, souvenirs were also sold. The dim point of the mosque was the huge, empty, bare walls of huge chambers that were desperate for a complete renovation. Against the Bibi-Khana Mosque stands the 14th century Bibi-Khana mausoleum , which is small and built of beige brick. It was another interesting experience. Then I went to the local bazaar which is located right next to the Bibi-Khana mosque. There were plenty of fruit, big round breads and cakes, and ready-made salads. I also made good contact with people as they were easy because Uzbekistan and Tajik are always very friendly.
Another very interesting site I visited was the small Hazrat-Hyzr mosque of the 8th century, which is located on the other side of the road from the bazaar on the hill. It was unfortunately razed to the ground by Genghis Khan in the 13th century and rebuilt only in 1854. In the 90s of the twentieth century it has been beautifully restored and still retains its splendor. The entire property is nicely painted, has a short minaret and carved pillars, part of the characteristics of this mosque. I advise you to pay attention to the ceiling and to a picture from the nineteenth century, showing the whole object in those days. I also liked his very convenient location. From the terrace is a very good view of the Bibi-Khan mosque and on the other side you can see Shah-i-Zinda and Afrosiab after entering the minaret. Next to the mosque is a cemetery. All in all, it’s really worth it !!!
Going further towards the ancient Afro-Arabia, I reached one of the most beautiful objects of Samarkand,or Shah-i-Zinda, dating from the 14th century. Shah-i-Zinda is the translation of “The Tomb of the Living King,” which is the resting place of the Prophet Mohammed’s cousin, who brought Islam to these lands in the seventh century. Then there were other tombs, most often of the Timur and Ulugbeek families.Describing Shah-i-Zinda more clearly is an alley of mosaic-decorated mausoleums. “The Tomb of the Living King” and many others, is a real work of architecture and mosaic art (mostly blue) is of the highest quality. Shah-i-Zinda was another great experience, but as with any other facility, the people here were not recommending my very rich photo gallery. Only then will they be able to understand and appreciate this art.
The last point of the day was the ancient Afrosiab , which consists of many objects and a couple of museums. I will only describe some of them, the most interesting ones. I think the most interesting object here is the 30m Ulugbek Observatory , which Ulugbek built in 1420 to observe the location of the stars. By the way, Ulugbek was more famous as astronomer than as a ruler. For the uninitiated in astronomy I will say that this ancient observatory looks like a corridor leading down the arc. Next to it is a small museum, which reminds who Ulugbek was and has several excavations from the ancient city of Afrosiab. Mostly it is the ceramics and other remnants of the ruins of this city.
Then I went back the same way to the hotel, once again entering the bazaar and carefully looking at the previously visited premises. By the way, once again I went for fine skewers and ice cream. It was beautiful and very cheap.
On my last day I went to another Samarkand site to see more interesting objects. Once again I had the pleasure of going through the magnificent Registan and then going down the main road I saw the Rukhobod Mausoleum which is the oldest in the city. It dates from 1380, is light beige and has a distinctive top dome. Today it serves as a souvenir shop and for the years it holds up very well. Behind the mausoleum was a square and a fence finished with arches and behind it a market with many shops where souvenirs were sold. Shortly after, another great monument, Guri Amir Mausoleum, appeared. The guard told me that today the object is called the Mausoleum of Amir Timur , which is understandable given the history of that place and the then ruler of the empire, that is Amira Timur.
Of course, this mausoleum is related to a story, and also to the legend of Amira Timur, Ulugbeek and their families because their graves are inside. Amir Timur has a separate mausoleum at his birthplace in Szakrisabz. The whole property is obviously very interesting and beautiful. The central point is the high, arched gate and above it is an azure, tiled dome. It is also covered with minaret tiles at the height of the dome, creating a nice mosaic. The front of the hotel looks very attractive, but at the back you need long restaurant work because there are only bare walls. Inside there are tombs of rulers and their teachers. For the mausoleum of Amir Timur there is a smaller object called the Ak-Saray Mausoleum . This one is also interesting though it is off the beaten track.It has beige color and dome as usual. When I was here I was fenced in by the gate, but for a few thousand sums the guard let me in. This object is also recommended and even to admire the intricate mosaic tile.
These were actually all the buildings that I saw in Samarkand, and of course Registan and of course Shah-i-Zinda Mausoleum made my impression.
In Samarkand there are many other old mosques and museums, mostly devoted to Islam, I also felt that what I saw was enough for me. You can still find “memorabilia” related to the Soviets, but there are fewer and fewer. As historical sites, Registan and its immediate surroundings have great tourist and educational value for me, but on the other hand, I am certainly not a fan of Islam and I certainly would not like it in Europe. I emphasize again; Registan as a team of historical objects was wonderful !!!
After leaving the Mausoleum Amir Timur I went through the garden and got to the intersection where Ammir Timur’s large monument stood. Then I crossed the nicely lit green area, turned right and reached Navoi Park . It was a quiet, pleasant place that is a popular meeting place for families with children. I spent the evening on the skewers and then in my nice hostel where I sat late and talked with other travelers.
If you are traveling only in Tajikistan, it is a good idea to turn your head around to get a Uzbek visa and come to Samarkand for two days. This will be an unforgettable experience.
Information about leaving Samarkand
This small portion of practical information will surely help future travelers. When leaving Samarkand most often, the next destination is Bukhara or Khiva , and to which Tashkent is in a hurry. The Samarkand-Bukhara bus is very convenient, but the Samarkand-Bukhara train does not exist. However, I recommend Samarkand-Khiva, which must be booked in advance. On this distant bus would be a torture. The distance to Samarkand-Tashkent is recommended by train although the bus is not bad either.
Driving to Bukhara
The next day from the vicinity of the Ulugbek Observatory I took a bus to Bukhara for only 6000 sums which is about £ 2.5. Unfortunately, along the way, about an hour drive behind the town of Navoi the bus broke down and the further way all the passengers were squeezed like sardines in a small bus. We drove through cotton fields for about 45 minutes until we finally got to Bukhara .
Bukhara (“the holiest city of Central Asia”)
(Description of the city’s monuments, art and atmosphere here)
Bukhara is another historically and architecturally rich city on the former Silk Road . The old city is now filled with sacred and secular buildings, which are even a thousand years old and have not changed much in about 200 years. The government of Uzbekistan has invested a lot of money in restoring Bukhara, which gives the feeling of “a charming weight of beautiful history” and (my own formulation in the margin) . The town has a very rich history, starting from the 9th and 10th centuries when Bukhara was the capital of the Samanid dynasty. Contributing to the flourishing of the city was obviously the commercial location on the Silk Road, but also the famous Persian poets, scientists and philosophers. Then came Genghis Khan and the Bolsheviks. Today Bukhara is an architectural spectacle and one of the most interesting tourist and cultural attractions. Thanks to that, the tourism here is very well developed as can be seen in cheap but very good B & Bs. I for my nice room with shower, Uzbek and Turkmen TV and good breakfast I only paid $ 10. Of course in the center.
The first and at the same time very peaceful and beautiful place I saw was Lyabi-Hauz, or place over a water body surrounded by historic buildings. It is one of the most popular places in Bukhara, surrounded by outdoor restaurants and shops located in the historic medress, though on the other hand the entire old town of Bukhara is a great shop. I have been here several times for a delicious dinner. Once they were shabby sheep and another plov but advise travelers here that the closer to the pool the more expensive.On the eastern side there is a statue of “wise fool” Huja Nasruddin associated with local legends. Behind him is Medressa Nadir Divanbegi , which was originally built as a school but in 1622 became a medress. I call this object a peacock, because in the central point there is a beautiful mosaic of two peacocks flying towards the sun. On the opposite side of the pool (west) is the Nadir Divanbeg Khanaka from the 17th century. From the outside of the medressa this is also beautiful but not as stunning as the previous one.Here is also a great tiled mosaic, but there are no animals I like very much. Exquisite ceilings and, of course, a gallery of art in the center are worth mentioning. On the north side is Medressa Kukeldash , built in the days of Abdullah II. At that time, it was the largest Islamic school in Central Asia . Here is also a typical mosaic gateway of this type of architecture and in the middle of the great ceilings and souvenir shops.Another very nice thing about this property was the nice garden located in the courtyard. I would like to draw attention to the ceilings every time.
Then I went to the richly stocked Taqi-Sarrafon bazaar and Taqi-Telpak Furushon . These are not just any bazaars because they are under construction built even in the 9th century. They have the shape of small mosques and are filled with Uzbek art shops, small caskets, silk carpets, decorated with tableware and many other eye-catching items. In this place was an old spice bazaar, although archaeologists also found elements of the temple from the 5th century. These two relatively small objects and the area between them took me several hours. It is also part of which is willing to return because so great is the luxury of goods.
A little further away was the Taqi-Zargaron area . I would like to say that the above mentioned bazaars are not the only ones in old Bukhara because the bazaars here are going on continuously. In this part of the note definitely deserves Medugal Ulugbeek built in 1417, which is one of the three built by him and the oldest in Central Asia. This property is not restored so that although blue tiles are visible on it, they are often missing. There is a small museum and the “headquarters” of pigeons. On the opposite side is Medes Abdul Aziz Khan from the 16th century, which houses souvenir shops. It was probably built mainly to exceed the size and richness of Ulugbeek’s medallion. There is a prayer room where you can explore the museum of sculpture . This medery is also unrecoverable, which seems not to be as attractive as the Lyabi-Hauz, but is also very interesting.
That day I just went to this place. Then I went to see the Uzbek paintings and some of them I bought and I was on samsach, which is ramen dumplings, very popular in Central Asia. I also sat on the pond in Lyabi-Hauz, which after dark was nicely lit, and then returned to my nice little room.
The next day I went to the vicinity of Minaret Kalon from 1127. When it was built it was the tallest building in Central Asia. To this day, it is an impressive building because it is 47 meters high and 10 meters in diameter at the base including technology against earthquakes. You can admire the minaret from the outside and get to the top of 105 inner stairs. This minaret is also one of the very few buildings that survived the Mongol invasions, because the Ching was ordered not to destroy it. Next to the 16th century Kalon Mosque , which can accommodate 10 thousand people. The entrance was typical for that period (arch, tiled) and in the middle was a large square and covered area with interesting ceilings and arches.There was one of the most beautiful buildings in Bukhara, Mir-i-Arab-Medressa Mosque . There are huge gates in the traditional style (arch, tiled roof) and at the top there are huge blue domes. There is also a bazaar with jewelry and a bakery where only 1000 sows can be bought. It is worth adding that about 100m from here there is also a toilet or crouch hole in the ground with a fence.
The Ark was the largest and oldest building in Bukhara, dating back to the 5th century. In essence, it is an ancient, royal city in the city that was inhabited from the 5th century until 1920 when it was unfortunately bombed by the Red Army. In the middle of about 80% it is ruins although there are several museums and many souvenir stands. From the top of the Arka you can admire the beautiful view of Bukhara, including the Kalon Minaret. However, it always happens in Uzbekistan, you have to “give the paw” to the policeman to let you into the observation deck. Outside the Ark there is a large square called Registan , which has long served as a favorite place of execution. There was also a very interesting and unusual Bolo-Hauz Mosque built in 1718. The characteristic features are the carved pillars, the water area and the water towerlooking for another minaret. It was built by Russians in 1927, has 33m and can be entered on the condition that we again “give in to the paw”. The whole property is very nice and the water near it relaxes.
Then I went to Samani Park , which is a nice place for walks though it is not very pleasant in itself. The mausoleum Ismail Samani, completed in 905, deserves to be mentioned here. This means that this building, with two-meter thick walls, is the oldest Islamic building. The mausoleum looks very massive, it is beige in color, has a dome on the roof and interesting patterns on the walls stacked with bricks. There is a Chashma Ayub Mausoleum built between the 12th and 16th centuries. In the middle you can drink from the source.Unfortunately, this object does not look old since the glass walls were inserted. Behind the park are the Shaybanidu city walls . Near the park there are still many mosques and other objects but after two days of looking at it I had a little bit of it. So I went to the hairdresser whose shop was located in one of the madras.These were huge buildings, with great tiled gates, beautiful ceilings, arches and courtyards. One of them was a hairdresser and the second was a souvenir shop. These were the medals of Abdulla Khan and Modari Khan . Then I went to plov and samsa and spent many hours admiring local art and carpets. I also exchanged $ 100 dollars for the local currency (sums) and got a stack of banknotes.
After sightseeing I was walking slowly towards the hotel which took me the next half of the day because I could not get away from the local art.
Just before leaving Bukhara I went to an object that was probably my favorite. Away from the hustle and bustle of tourists, between Puszkina and Hoja Nurabad, Charminar was built in 1807. I was walking there through narrow streets full of houses covered with straw and clay. Charminar is a small and very photogenic facility which, after Tajik, means “four minarets”, although they are only four ornamental towers with blue domes. In the middle of Charminara there was a souvenir shop and you could go upstairs for an extra fee. A great attraction was the people baking themselves in their oven for only 1000 sums.
Bukhara was beautiful and I would definitely recommend it. It is one of the most beautiful cities on the Silk Road, and I have been to many.
Road from Bukhara to Khiva (485 km)
(Description of the drive by Kyzyl-Kum, desert skewers, Urgench, very free trolleybus to Khiva)
In Bukhara I had many expensive transportation deals from taxi drivers but fortunately ridden a medium sized bus where there was plenty of space, few people and a low price (25000 sum). This route was different from what I have seen so far. We drove across the Kyzyl-Kum desert and so on both sides of the road I watched the flat horizon. Several times we had to slow down because after the sandstorm our road was partially covered. On the way we had traditionally controlled the police and once we also stopped at a restaurant in the desert. I think anyone who goes from Bukhara to Khiva will stop at this popular place.They serve very good skewers and the grapes dessert. Then we drove for some time near the border with Turkmenistan and along the Amu Daria River. The road was very long and tiring because the route was in a bad condition. After about 11h we reached the very busy, post-Soviet city of Urgench , which is the base of interchange on the way to Khiva and also the capital of Khorezm province. I got here the slowest trolley in the world and the distance of 35km was beaten in 1.5h. Finally at dusk, tired and bored this day I got to Khiva.
Khiva (ancient architecture in the heart of the desert)
(The beauty of the architecture of one of the Silk Road pearls, meeting with local artist and description of local art)
It is not known exactly where Khiva came into existence, but this one of the larger slave trade sites existed in the 8th century. Today it is a great tourist attraction on the Silk Road, filled with madrasas, mosques and minarets from many centuries back. Khiva is also a great place to admire local art and to buy fabulous hats, rugs and goat socks.
As soon as I arrived I immediately picked up the stranger and offered a seat at the hostel for $ 10.Fortunately there was no place so I slept in the living room on the floor for $ 5. That evening I went to dinner and spent time with locals with tea. I also had a very good view of the nicely lit old town of Khiva.
The whole antique city is located behind a clay wall, and to go through its 2.5km parts and to enter the area of the ancient city do not need to buy any ticket. The ticket is only needed to enter many museums scattered around the city. If the militia encountered will want to attract tourists, then do not believe it.
The ancient city of Khiva was beautiful and worth every moment of exploring and a long way through the desert. I will not, however, mention all the monuments in the report, but I will roughly describe the main objects that will still be quite large. The main entrance is the Ichon-Qala gate, which is also the most impressive of all. Right after the left is Arka Khuna , built from the 12th to the 17th century. Here, there was a harem, an arsenal, a mosque, a prison and a barrack of Khan. The interior is very interestingly decorated because as before, there is a well-executed tiled robot and carved pillars. For example, the old Zindonprison is a show of chains, weapons, and images depicting people being mined . Nearby is also the Summer Mosque , full of wonderful paintings and decorated with blue and white mosaic tiles. The Hall of the Throne is also worth mentioning, where the henchmen were judging, though rarely righteous. This place is especially beautiful because of the mosaic of tiles and cleverly carved pillars. Noteworthy is the beautiful ceiling. Next to it is the Oq Shihbobo Bastion, which is a series of clay stairs after which they enter the mountain for an extra fee. Especially this place I highly recommend because the views from above are wonderful. Here you can see the beauty of Khiva and I think that this architectural panorama must be seen.
Immediately after entering the main gate of Ichon-Qala, there is one of the best known buildings, Minaret Kalta Minor . This thick and perfectly decorated minaret was started in 1851 and was never finished because Chan, who had made him build, died four years later. Anyway, there is a great “piece” of art. Next to the Mausoleum of Sayid Alauddin dating back to 1310. It is a small, unadorned object but worth the attention, even if it is over 700 years old. Next to the Museum of Music and Medres Qoszi-Kalon . It is set on a side street, beige building with small beige domes and two blue, tiled domes on top. Soon after entering the main gate there is a bazaar that goes wherever I went. There are many beautiful goods such as paintings and funny caricatures, sheepskin caps, Uzbek socks, tiles, jewelery and much more. I think the monuments need one day and the second shopping.
Nearly all other facilities I have described are Medrab Mohammed Rakhim Khan from the XIXth century, an empty square that was once a favorite place of execution. This is another nicely decorated object named after Khan, who surrendered to Russia in 1873, making Khiva independent and longer than Bukhara. There is always a camel on the outside where you can go or take pictures. Another object is the Tosh-Hovli Palace, which is another “stone house”. This property has some of the best decorated ornaments such as carved stones and tree and mosaic tiles. It has over 150 rooms and a large courtyard. Medres Islom-Hoja and the minaret are also important. These are the newest objects in Khiva and the minaret itself is the tallest in Uzbekistan as it is 57m high. This is a gated, turquoise building that can be accessed for an extra fee. Usually it is 5000 sums. In addition to the medallion, there is also the best museum in Khiva dedicated to the local products of Khorezm. There are jewelery, Uzbek and Turkmen carpets and many more. The Mausoleum of Pahlavon Mahmud was built in 1326 and rebuilt in the 19th century. This is a nice, secluded place with a blue dome at the top. This mausoleum was built in honor of the poet, philosopher and wrestler who became the patron saint of Khiva. There are, of course, many stands with local products.Besides the walls of the ancient city is Isfandiyar Palace , which is also an interesting experience (if someone has the strength to continue to visit). Outside the city walls there are many shops, workshops where hand-made carpets are made, residential houses with clay fences and silence away from tourists. It is also worth seeing.
On the same day in the evening I had a very interesting meeting with the artist from Samarkand, who came to Khiva with a bag full of his drawings. He explained to me what his art is, why he painted the profile and what the price depends on. He told me to always pay attention to the details, for example, if the picture depicts a man playing a flute, it is important how many ornaments are on his robe and how many apples are painted on an apple tree, though details can be painted a lot. We went to dinner together and talked about living in Uzbekistan with green tea. The next morning I got breakfast at the hostel and then left the beautiful, wonderful Khiva.
Road from Khiva to Nukus (196km)
This transport would be very difficult if I wanted to take a bus, first to Urgench and then to Nukus. It would probably be all day but I was very lucky. I arranged a shared taxi with the Japanese and after about two hours I was already in Nukus. This ride ran through the rest of the Kyzyl-Kum desert near the border with Turkmenistan. Humor has just corrupted the police control.
(A museum of Savitsky, a tragic fairground, another tragedy, a closed fountain, poor children and blocks of plates, cheerful bazaar)
For many, the capital of Karakalpakstan is not easy to get. Just when we arrived we entered the hotel where I slept in yurt for only $ 8 a night.
Nukus is a quiet, overflowing post-Soviet architecture and trees city. It is best to come here because of the best museum in Central Asia. This is the Savitsky Museum where most of the exhibits were brought by artist and ethnographer Igor Savitsky. The museum was opened in 2002 and houses some of the largest art exhibits of the former Soviet Union. There are also many paintings that did not meet the norms of socialist realism and therefore can not be officially displayed. Fortunately, from “far from everything” they found a shelter here and can be seen here today. The museum has a huge ethnographic exhibition showing Karakalpakstan’s materials, carpets, pitchers and jewels, and on the second floor there are many Soviet motifs and very interesting sculptures, also erotic. In the museum, the exhibits are often changed so that you can come here many times and see a different exhibition every time. Photographing here is forbidden.
Then came the city. Right behind the museum was a merry-go-round, which was tragic in its expression.Old, shabby carousel set on a concrete square caused the children to rather cry. Then, walking through almost empty streets, I reached an even more tragic place. It was a huge concrete pavilion, in the middle of which was a closed fountain with marble lumps. For this I felt under the flap broken glass as the youth sharply here. I was here for the children of a sensation because it is not often get a guest on such a repetition. We made some pictures with long blocks of concrete plates and it was very nice but unfortunately tragic.
However, I liked the local bazaar. He was very well stocked and I made many contacts with people. They were willing to take pictures and were curious about where I was and why I came here. Another advantage of this dirty and comical place was the extremely competitive prices. Then I came back a few more times.
In Nukus I spent a few days, especially since it was a base for the Aral Sea. At the local hotel I spent many evenings talking to other Europeans, mainly discussing politics. Then after green tea and grapes I went to sleep to the yurt. Tourists who have managed to reach Nukus also advise you to try the specialties from the bazaar and the obligatory shish kebabs.
By the way, as I mentioned I spent a couple of days here but also because of the lack of train tickets in any direction.
Route from Nukus to Moynaq (210km)
(The ride packed by the bus through the desert, the joyful hole named Kungrad, the wild camels on the road)
From the Nukus market I managed to catch a local bus to the train station. From there I took another bus for only 6000 sums to Kungrad. Kungrad is only an uninteresting base but I liked it very much. There was a good vegetable-and-bread bazaar though there was virtually everything here. There were also donkeys who helped with the job. I also baked myself baking ovens, which were served for only 1000 sums. They were both meat and pumpkin. The people were also nice and very willing to talk. I sat down with them on the ground and the other way passed my day. After leaving the bazaar I lay down on a couch ( wooden platform with cushions) in front of the pub and I was given to my traveling companions from Japan with green tea and a few eggs. The headache was only a drunken one, but by patience and understanding I managed. After spending a good time in the village of Kungrad, I negotiated the price for a shared taxi and drove through the desert to the village of Moynaq. On the way we stopped wild camels, which was also a nice part of my trip.
(Aral Sea disaster and ships in the desert)
Before I go into describing this very special place, I would like to recommend here my report about Aralsk (Kazakhstan) where I was a few months earlier. Both Moynaq and Arlask share the same tragedy. It is the Aral sea ecological disaster.
When we arrived in Moynaq, it was clear that there are not many attractions here. It is a sparsely populated village with a few streets in the desert of Kyzyl-Kum, in far away Karakalpakistan. The wind lifted the dust, and the man with cigarette smoke swirled pointed me to the cemetery of rusty cutters. In summary I liked it because it was exactly the kind of place I was looking for in my expeditions. After a short convincing, the driver agreed to take us to the place where the monument was and explained the history of the Arctic tragedy, and in the desert next to it was a view of settled fishing boats. The environmental disaster of Lake Arals was so huge that once Moynaq was one of the main fishing ports and today the village is 150 kilometers from the shore. In the 1980s, attempts were made to alleviate the damage by opening the canals to the former shore but failed. Today, at the entrance to Moynaq, there are small lakes as evidence of these trials.
Also, at the entrance to the village is a board with the inscription Moynaq and fish, which is also tragic because the sea is long gone. Returning to the place where the driver took us, there were painted maps of the Aral Sea from the 1960s and a few years ago. The difference is obviously huge, and the blame for this tragedy is the nuclear tests on the steppes of Central Asia by the Soviet Union during the times of Nikita Khrushchev. There are also plaques describing exactly the whole tragedy, and below there is a landfall down or the place of the former shore. From here you can see the rusty cutters I went with my Japanese travel companion. They were obviously good photos, but unfortunately it was a tragic sight. In the desert at the cutters, at the bottom of the former Aral Sea I spent about three hours watching the wrecks and looking at the horizon. There was nothing here but for me this desert and the history associated with it was a very special place.
Especially for Moynaq I took my tent because I thought I would sleep in the desert but about 10 minutes walk from there was a very cheap hotel. For a bed in a dingy room, no electricity and a water supply I paid $ 4. Next to it was a shop that served as a popular meeting place because one bulb was lit there. This evening I spent staring at the stars and the moon, listening to Metallica from my phone.
Moynaq was a wonderful experience and sad evidence of ecological tragedy. To every traveler I advise you to try to get here because it will be Uzbekistan other than the ancient city of the Silk Road.
The next day I was lucky because it was transport to Kungrad. There after a small outdoor event they packed us in a local bus and so we got to Nukus.
Transport from Nukus to Tashkent (1255km)
(Interesting meeting with Russians born in the Uzbek part of the Soviet Union, desert, cotton fields)
For only 22000 sums I was able to buy a ticket for a late train to the capital of Uzbekistan. I bought a flashy(hard lying) because it was the cheapest but on the other hand gave a good insight into the observation of the Uzbek people traversing their country. It was of course cheerful because people talked to me and treated each other. There was an old married couple from Russia who was riding a Russian train from Tashkent to 63h one way. They said they had a daughter here who settled in Tashkent and to which they go once in a while. Once upon a time it was one big Soviet Union and now they even need a visa here, even considering they were born here. Once upon a time it was clear to me that people from different Central Asian republics longed for the Soviet Union and said that many things were much better than after the breakup.
The scenery also changed because we first drove through the desert and then through the cotton fields.There were houses along the track, people on donkeys and high mountains of harvested cotton, which is cultivated in this country very popular. After a nice day and a quiet night, after 20 hours and 40 minutes of driving I reached Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.
Tashkent and surroundings
Good hotel, first impressions, sightseeing, mosques, medes, museums, parks, shabby skirts, nice people, museums, metro stations, militia)
After arriving in the great capital of Uzbekistan I had to arrange the hotel first and chose the cheapest course. After the Tashkent metro ride and a few funny encounters with the trainers, I reached the Chorsu station. Going through the bazaar and the historic mosque, I reached the circus and then turned right. On the other side of the street, in the posh house of the plates was the cheapest possible hotel Hadra. The guide described it as “the darkest hole in Central Asia and a low-class brothel”. As I thought the service was rude and she made a fuss that she was talking to me but it was very cheap. I paid only $ 8. On the first day I skied a little at a nearby bazaar and tried to enter the mosques but they did not let me in because I was in shorts. So I spent a nice day talking to locals and milk cocktails. The fun also made me exchange the currency on the black market where you can get everything. After dark I returned to my macabre hotel, which turned out to be even more macabre when I saw the bathroom. However, I had a color television in the room where there was only one program. It was a program from Turkmenistan about the cotton harvest, which was so interesting that I fell asleep there.
The next day I wanted to start the tour seriously and started from the nearest area. At first I went to a nearby pub for breakfast where I ordered cooked eggs and so served them fried. I traveled to the vicinity of the Chios Bazaar, where the Old Town of Tashkent begins. There are some interesting madras from several centuries back. I saw Madresa Kulkedash from the 15th century, which consists of a main gate made in the style of an ancient city on the Silk Road and in the middle was a nice green courtyard with a few impressive plants. On the side of the courtyard this object was also impressive because small chambers were erected on several floors with architectural entrances. I will add that the medes were once the place of execution of unfaithful wives . Next to it, on the hill was Juma or Friday mosque. This object did not arouse in me a special delight because it was too new and therefore did not have the burden of time and the atmosphere accompanying the monuments. It was a pure white building with a few white domes, a large prayer room and pretty greenery. Then I went down a bit to the Bazaar of Chors . This place was definitely my favorite because here was a real life. We were selling clothes, milk cocktails, kebabs, traded currencies where I can and generally recommend it. I came here many times to buy souvenirs and a t-shirt for me. The bazaar is divided into many parts, including two characteristic domes. It takes a long time for exploring and trying the dishes.
Tashkent was walking on foot, which I think is a good idea because the places of interest are relatively close to each other and in this way you can see more. I met, for example, in the vicinity of the Halqlar Dustligi metro station where there was an ocean of concrete and a large concrete block, which clearly told me that I was in a very post-Soviet part of town. There was, for example, the Palace of Friendship of the People , which the guide described as a landing station on the moon from the films of the 50’s. It was a great solid with 4200 seats in the middle and not really attractive. This object, however, is nothing compared to the Wedding Palace, ie a huge, square concrete block, which in my opinion would be great as a shelter if it was underground. Behind him (as I could have expected) were a few breath-taking fountains.In summary, this part of the city shows how much the Soviet Union and the Soviet architects have harmed this country. Then it became much nicer. The right was Oliy Majlis, a great white house with a dome and a gold spike at the top. This heavily policed building, as I could suppose, was the home of the parliament. In front of it was in my opinion the most beautiful building in this area, ie small Medes Abulkasim . Today it is a converted place in the studio of artists and one of the best to buy souvenirs. Very popular are hand-painted caskets, paintings, magnets and hand-decorated ceramics. I would recommend !!! Then I went to Navoi Park, a popular meeting place for families, young ladies and young couples. There is an artificial lake where you can rent a boat, amusement park and plenty of bars. I think that the central point and symbol of the park is the monument of Alishera Navoi – a well-chosen, cultural hero of Uzbekistan, located on the hill and under the dome. I will add that it is a post-Soviet monument and after the collapse of the USSR and the creation of independent Uzbekistan, that country had to have its national bard and Alisher Navoi was fit for this best. I returned to the park every time I was in Tashkent. It was one of the nicer places where I could relax over the water.
Then slowly came back to my poor hotel but I invited in the evening for great lamb skewers and green tea and then writing down my travel memories I sat down with a few milk cocktails.
The next day I went to Khast Imam Square , the official religious center of Uzbekistan. There are many richly decorated mosques and medres and Islamic institutes. Many have light blue domes, mosaic-patterned walls and intricately carved doors. There was a very high minaret here as well. One of the memorable sites is the Moyie Mubarek Museum and Library , which houses the seventh-century Koran, supposedly the oldest in the world. There is also Medrab Barbuda from the sixteenth century and the Mausoleum of Abu Bakr Kaffi Shoshi , also from the 16th century. One of the medes was transformed into an artist’s studio where you could buy a lot of interesting, beautiful souvenirs. On the farewell, the Muslims held a great prayer in the square which was another interesting experience of this place.
By the way, returning to my political and moral views, I believe that there is a suitable place for everything. In Muslim countries mosques and Islam are part of their culture that I fully accept as a traveller. However, bringing Islam to Europe is harmful and inappropriate.
The next day I went to a slightly different part of town to see some museums and reputed squares and monuments. I got off at Mustaqillik Maydoni Square (Independence Square). I saw fountains that were even in good condition, although it is still not quite the size of Rome or Barcelona. Behind the fountains there is a fence with pelicans and just behind it well-tended lawn and conifer trees, which the police guarded. Then I had in front of me a famous monument of mother holding a child over which the globe was engraved with the contours of Uzbekistan. There was no way to notice the big white building in which the senate was located. There are rumors that it was built so big that the United States Senate looked smaller and poorer. Then I went north to see the Mother’s Crying Monument and the eternal flame before her. It was built in 1999 to the memory of 40000 Uzbek soldiers killed during the Second World War.Nearby there are tables with their names, nicely interwoven between carved pillars and ubiquitous greenery. At last I left the park, crossed the street and saw a nasty, massive, postmodern solid with a small fountain and a statue of a peacock in front.
After a short walk I reached the Earthquake Monument which hit Tashkent on April 26, 1966. It was a huge tragedy that destroyed the city because the tremors were recorded at 7.5 on the Richter scale. The monument in itself was obviously tragic but also beautiful and give much to think. He presents a man covering his body with a woman and a child against the spreading earth. In front of them is a marble clock showing the time of 5.22 am and about the motifs of the Soviet workers rebuilding the city.
Then I reached the park cut across the river where people were bathed. On the one hand I had a little popular Olympic Museum where there were photographs and trophies of Uzbek athletes and on the other side of the river was a German consulate. Shortly afterwards, I saw a huge 375m television tower on three legs, but I did not go upstairs. Then I sat for a while on the river and the same way back to the park with pelicans. I crossed the river and reached the newly opened Uzbekistan Gallery . It is located in a big building and contains the best modern art, which I personally am not a fan of. In my opinion this was a typical overgrowth of form that could be overlooked. The only thing worth noticing here is the beautifully decorated ceiling, which is elaborately executed, blue patterns giving the impression that the roof is a dome. It was indeed beautiful. Next was the Romanov Palace, dating from the tsarist times, but unfortunately it is inaccessible to the visitors.
Then I turned right and went to one of the better places in the city; the Museum of the History of the People of Uzbekistan . I think it is a must-have for all visitors, giving a great insight into the history of Uzbekistan, from the ancients to the ten. On four floors there is, among other things, the history of Buddhism from these areas, the model of one of Madras, Timur and the history of the acquisition of local emirs and Khanates by the Russian Empire. Obviously, the eternal President Karimov, who was devoted to the whole floor, could not miss it. You can see the propaganda of his self-reflection on the background of the achievements of the Uzbek people and cotton fields, and also read some of his ironic quotes. To sum it up, it’s really worth it. Then I got to the street where there was a gallery of paintings in the open air . There were many interesting works depicting mainly Samarkand and the ancient culture of Uzbekistan, but my paintings also attracted my attention. Many young girls dressed up here as “pretty cats” and posed sexually for photos, doing the same as copulating. It seems that the version of Islam in Uzbekistan is very relaxed.
Then I went to one of the best known monuments in Uzbekistan because his photo was on a banknote of 500 sums. It was a statue of Timur on a horse standing at the roundabout near Amir Timur Maydoni . It is a pleasant, quiet place where you can sit on the bench and stare at your will in this very patriotic symbol of the country. Behind the monument there are also some interesting objects. One of them is a post-Soviet, vulgar body in which the Uzbekistan hotel is located, and the right is a very attractive, white, new government building, with ancient Uzbekistan artifacts and a pair of pelican roofs. To the right is an impressive building with a clock tower and a souvenir shop in the middle. Going down this street I got to the Uzbekistan Art Museum , and it was one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life. This museum depicts 1500 years of Uzbekistan art, from Buddhist monuments from the 7th century to the Soviet Turkestan and Soviet realism. There were many great paintings and sculptures from most of Asia, but also from Europe.
Many of these works were so perfect and beautiful that they immediately moved to the soul because of their beautiful, wise message. I was impressed by these paintings, but even the admiration of the naked women made me wonder. The museum is great and if anyone has little time for Tashkent it is advised to come here. Then I went to the new Museum of Timur , located in a circular building. By the way, this facility is very well known throughout Uzbekistan because it was immortalized on a banknote of 1000 sums. Many people like this place do not like it because of the intrusive cult and kitsch for the overridden ruler Amir Timur. I also agree with this, but on the other hand, from aesthetic point of view it is really a place worth recommending. In the middle of it is a well-preserved white building, ceiling and chandelier setting in delight. It is reminiscent of the story when Timur built Samarkand and is shown how he praised his workers.There is also a model of one of the most beautiful of madras and some other souvenirs from that time.Everything is of course beautiful, but the one who has struggled to read history is aware that Timur’s brutal military regime has been deliberately omitted. On the other hand, these were times, so I neither praise nor excuse it. I just think that a museum named after him should show everything. In general, this is a very glamorous place without which one could do it.
This museum was my last in the very interesting capital of Uzbekistan. I went to the kebabs, I spent time with milkshakes planning my last two days and returned by metro to the bazaar of Chors. However, I did not go straight to the hotel as many metro stations are also historic. For example, the Alicher Navoi metro station has beautiful ceilings and bas-reliefs. At the Kosmonavr station there are reliefs with the likenesses of Gagarin, Ikara and Ulugbek. There are also many other art-decorated stations. Just take the Tashkent metro to see. As I could have been expected to be here by the militia, but only because they were curious and wanted to know what I think of their country.
After a hard day’s sightseeing I bought a bag of grapes, broke through the ever-more raw bazaar and once again saw a circus-shaped UFO, I reached my dirty hotel. I took a shower in the dark beige (once white) bathroom, saw a program broadcast by Turkmenistan and went to bed.
(How to get there, description of nature, sheep torn apart by wolves)
After a few days in the capital of Uzbekistan I wanted to get out of town because I missed nature. After problems with the hotel staff and in the pub where they again gave me fried eggs though I wanted to cook, I went to Chimgan. First gotuk to Buyuk Ipak Yoli station and then took the cheap busika (2000 sum – ok. $ 1) to Gazalkent. From there, through beautiful landscapes I reached Chimgan. Of course, earlier in Tashkent, taxis wanted to take me for $ 100 but I did not get “robbed”. I’m the best example that you can get there for around $ 3.
The Ugam-Chatkal National Park, commonly known as Chimgan, is a beautiful mountain region about an hour from Tashkent. It is a popular place for hiking in the mountains, rafting, fishing and horse riding. On the other hand, you can sit in the bosom of nature with a rambled shish kebab in your hand, drinking green tea.They are not the mountains of Tien-Shan on the border of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, but it is also very pleasant. The central peak with chairlift is 3309m above sea level, and about 16km outside the Chimgan village is the Chorvoq Reservoir, where you can go boating, fishing or simply spend time.
I stayed in a huge post-Soviet block called the Chimgan Hotel, which was almost deserted. There was only a woman here who watched this concrete, square, dotted “estate.” I was lucky because for a room without access to the water I paid only 10000 sums which is about $ 4.5. Having traveled to Central Asia for almost three months, my expectations for the conditions have drastically decreased, but it did not matter to me. I spent all that beautiful day in the bosom of nature. First I went to the top of the mountain on a chair lift, then drove hitchhiking to the lake and the day ended with a ramshackle. The next morning I lived only on apples, which I was able to break from the nearby trees. At breakfast I was not able to stand because I ended up with money. About six o’clock in the morning I went on a walk to the mountains, practiced and breathed in the clear air. I also saw a sheep torn by wolves, which means that it is not as safe as it seems.
Chimgan was very pleasant and it is a nice rest from the big city.
Tashkent – last day and transport to the airport
(Goodbye with the expedition, helpful people, blocking the road because of the passing of the president, tea with beautiful Ukraine)
On the last day I went to the city to say goodbye to Tashkent, Uzbekistan and the whole trip to Central Asia.I was at Chorsu Bazaar to buy a T-shirt with a map of Uzbekistan and some sweets for the family. I also went to Navoi Park again, but on the way there was a road blockade because President Karimov. Standing in the crowd I met a beautiful citizen of this country with Ukrainian roots. We talked a little and invited her to Navoi Park for tea. But it did not last long because she was very shy and after about an hour she fled home. She said that there is a great bureaucracy in Uzbekistan and that life is very heavy. She also said that it is important to consider here when choosing a husband because the divorce is very expensive.
In the evening for the remnants of the Uzbek sums I invited to the skewers but for tea I did not have enough so I was given as a gift. On the way to the airport I had only £ 5 so encountered the Uzbeks gave me 2000 sums, put me in a taxi and drove at their expense. On the spot also they gave me tea for free because the pounds nobody accepted. Many times in Uzbekistan I have met with the humor of the people and my last moments here have proven it best.
The border crossing went without a hitch, though I was afraid that they would count my bundles from the OVIR Immigration Police displayed by every hotel. They asked me only tourist questions of boredom and curiosity and then stuck a stamp.
It was the end of my trip to Uzbekistan and my beautiful trip to Central Asia.
Summary of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a wonderful experience and compared to other Central Asian countries, it is not difficult to travel. There are three magnificent shows of Timur architecture: Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. It is also a journey through the Kyzyl-Kum desert to Nukus and Moynaq where you can experience the tragedy of the Aral Sea and see the rusty fishing boats in the desert. The capital of Tashkent is also interesting, although it is more my style to reach small, “cut holes” that are not missing in Uzbekistan. Because of lack of time I missed the Uzbek part of Fergana Valley, although I am comforted that I was in Kyrgyz and Tajik. Also worth mentioning is the magnificent art, the ramshack skewers and the plovie or fat-floating glory of the Uzbek people. Inside the toilet, but after a milk cocktail, the effect is immediate. Besides, people are nice and the prices are more than competitive. The only bad thing is the huge bureaucracy but it is the typical charm of Central Asia.
The Republic of Uzbekistan I recommend to everyone very warmly.
A perfect travel journal!