So in the tradition of the recent Turkey post, here are some of my top observations from our time in Uzbekistan. It should be said loudly and clearly that these observations should be taken with quite a few grains of salt. I don’t speak Uzbek or Russian, which no doubt would have altered the experience considerably. I also only spent two weeks in the country and I have only visited a handful of places.
That being said, we have enjoyed our time here in Uzbekistan immensely. We were nervous to say the least about the police presence and were expecting to be stopped regularly for passport checks and to be quizzed about our travels – though this only happened once and was a painless experience. We were also a bit wary of the cash situation with a dearth of ATMs and the subsequent need to carry wads of USD to exchange for bricks of Uzbek sum, but again this all seemed to be relatively painless. The ancient monuments and cities in Uzbekistan, as my previous post has highlighted, are spectacular and the people so friendly and accommodating. We even got an unexpected dose of Uzbek hospitality on our last night in the country in the city of Andijon where we were pulled off the street to join a massive wedding reception.
So without further ado let me observe:
- Police – as per the caption under the image at the top of this post, you can’t help but notice the police in Uzbekistan. It would be fascinating to know the ratio of police to civilians – they are everywhere.
- Money – you certainly need to be cashed up in Uzbekistan – more in the literal sense than the figurative. You see, the biggest Uzbek note is roughly worth 60 cents, carrying the relatively small amount of $100 US was a unique challenge.
- Food – carbs and fat aren’t hard to come by that’s for sure. Uzbeks are very proud of their national dish plov, an oily fired rice topped with poor cuts of meat, meat fat and tripe combined with strips of carrot and perhaps raisons – it tastes as good as it sounds. That being said we hardy starved and they must have some of the prettiest bread in the world.
- Outdoor relaxation – not unique to Uzbekistan of course, but they certainly do have lounging al fresco sorted what with the cushy tapchans (tea beds), hidden leafy green courtyards and seemingly never ending pots of choy (tea).
- Decoration – be it interior, exterior or personal decoration, Uzbekistan knows how to so it with colour, detail and splendour.
- Tashkent Metro – the Tashkent Metro stations are staggeringly beautiful. Each has its own look, from cathedral like arches, cosmonaut inspired space scenes or ballrooms with chandeliers – words cannot describe. Unfortunately for me, they were also designed to serve as nuclear bomb shelters, so taking photos is strictly forbidden.
- Korea – in addition to large ethnic Korean communities across the country, Uzbekistan has a strong trading relationship with Korea. Uzbekistan sells uranium to Korea, the two countries are both testing for oil and Korea has large Daewoo manufacturing plants based in the country (as evidenced by the extraordinary predominance of Damas, Nexias and little Matizes on the road)
- ‘AYGEN Styled in Italy’ plastic bag – this random bag is absolutely everywhere in Uzbekistan and when I say everywhere I mean every second shop and every single stall owner at the bazaars were handing them out. I assume it was meant to say agency, but somebody stuffed up along the way and they sold the mistakes onto a large plastic bag distributor in Uzbekistan. (PS – it seems these babies are also flourishing in Kyrgystan along with, randomly for our UK readers and Australian readers respectively Morrisons and Sportgirl bags)
- Hand on heart – accompanied by a gentle tilt of the head, this simple gesture of placing one’s right hand on on one’s heart is commonly used by Uzbeks to show thanks, acknowledge a compliment or in greeting. We even found ourselves doing it – using it to express our feelings where our language failed us.
- Grangos – when in South America we were on the Gringo Trail – gringo being the term used there to identify westerner tourists. But here, amongst hordes of empty nester travellers from Europe it felt at times like we were on the ‘Grango’ Trail.
This shot was taken in Samarkand, but really could have been anywhere that bags were being handed out
Next we travel east to Kyrgyzstan where we expect to be hiking hills and around lakes, riding horses and fulfilling a lifelong dream of Elizabeth’s to sleep in a yurt.
We are now inKyrgyzstan and uploading images where and when we can, though connections tend to be slow.