Lazarus-like, I’m back from the world of couch-whimpering, Mhz streaming, ice-cream eating and eight-sleeps for every 24 hours. I’ve been quite ill for awhile…more importantly however I. Have. Traveled. Long. Silk. Road. Miles. No competition for Marco Polo I’m afraid, nevertheless insightful, challenging, fun and funny.
You know the first part of the story. The early September California wedding, then Scott, Lace and me off to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a train to Bukhara for a couple of days, then to Samarkand. A plethora of picturesque pictures to follow. After that came a few perfect days in Tajikistan (a whole blog post coming up about that).
The second half of the trip opened with those memorable days with me curled up in a fetal position on the floor of a guesthouse bathroom in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Admittedly I wrote the posts about the event a day or two later but mentally I stayed on that floor for awhile. Finally, I shared my borscht recovery in Almaty, Kazakhstan in the last post. So all that’s left to do to wrap the second half of the Stans journey is a photo album from Istanbul.
ABOUT THE STANS
The initial goal of this trip was to visit the ‘neighborhood’ of Central Asia, one of the few regions of the world I had yet to experience even in a small way. I’ve been fascinated by the Silk Road for a long time. Now with China’s ‘New Silk Road’ known as the Belt and Road Initiative the concept is even more intriguing.
The Silk Road conjures images of desert caravans crossing the Great Steppe and adventurers like Marco Polo navigating ancient trading routes connecting China with Europe and Africa. China’s modern-day adaptation, known as the Belt and Road Initiative aims to revive and extend those routes via networks of upgraded or new railways, ports, pipelines, power grids and highways. David Tweed (https://www.bloomberg.com/quicktake/china-s-silk-road)
I should also add that I’m always intrigued by anything to do with Russia and the former USSR and most of the Stan countries count among the ‘breakaway republics.’
Uzbekistan was a major Silk Road route and its cities, especially Bukhara and Samarkand reflect that. I’m going to quote another writer for a few more words about Bukhara, although the writer quoted in the first post about this awe-inspiring city covered its history rather well.
Here’s Hamid Ismailov. In Bukhara you can easily imagine yourself living in any century of the past. Enter the Perfumers’ Pit or the Magoki Attori mosque, and there, at once, you can imagine the flickering of Zoroastrian flames, because the earliest bricks of the mosque are from pre-Islamic times. Looking closely at its ornate interior decoration you can sense that at one time Bukharian Jews were praying here alongside Muslims before they were allowed to build their synagogues. Then walk to the nearby passage—Toki Sarrofon (the Exchange Dome)—and you find yourself in the middle of a medieval bazaar, where Indians sell spices and Uighurs offer Chinese silks; where wise men of Shiraz promote the latest manuscripts and shrewd mediators of Bukhara exchange rupees for dinars. Walk further—two quarters away—and find St. Michael’s Orthodox Church, a trace of the Russian colonization of Central Asia. As with many other historic buildings of Bukhara, which have outlived people and their ever-changing interests, at one time this building was a train station, then a storehouse, and now a fully functioning Russian church.
The same goes for the people of Bukhara, when you study their faces. The green-eyed gentleman with a Greek profile sitting at the teahouse next to the famous Labi Hauz pond, who seems to have been left behind by Alexander the Great’s army to oversee the rebellious cavalry of the descendants of the local Queen Tomyris. Among his companions are Ibn Qutaybah, who brought Islam here on the back of a hardy Arabian steed; and noble Chagatai, one of the sons of Genghis Khan, smiling through his thin mustache and wiping his narrow eyes with a piece of goat skin. The hairdresser around the corner is the disguised cook from Tamburlaine’s court, and the one-legged Russian veteran selling tickets to the local museum is a famous spy sent here during the Great Game.
Michelangelo Antonioni once said, “It’s in Bukhara that I’d film 1001 Nights.”