19
Feb 14

Past Meets Present in Uzbekistan

Travel to Uzbekistan and you will be hard pressed to experience a land and people with as deep a history so close to the surface. The people of Uzbekistan are friendly and beautiful. During our Silk Road trek, we crossed Uzbek desert and steppe overland because we wanted to see it all. From the viewpoint of a westerner, Central Asia is a lynchpin to understand the modern world. Uzbekistan was one to the five “stan’s” created by the Soviet government to divide and rule the Turkic population of Central Asia. The “stan’s” of Central Asia include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Prior to the Soviet collapse in 1991 all five counties were part of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Have a look at the Great Game to get a better understanding of the relationship of Uzbekistan and Central Asia to Europe prior to the modern era.

The ancient city of Shakhrisabz, formerly a stronghold of Amir Timur (Tamerlane) replaced it’s central statue of Lenin with one of Timur and the Soviet era hotel stood abandoned. Timur’s descendents gave rise to the Mughal Empire, who can be credited for building the magnificent Taj Mahal.

Silk Road Merchant. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Silk Road Merchant. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Timur and his palace. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Timur and his palace. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Cyrillic. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Cyrillic. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Sacred Tile. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Sacred Tile. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

 


23
Aug 12

Crossing Kyrgyzstan, Closer to China

We arrived in Kyrgyzstan yesterday and it was a remarkable change from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Gone is the sweltering heat of the black and red sand deserts. Gone too are the soaring domes and spires of lapis and turquoise. Mountains surround the city of Bishkek and the streets are full of cars and commerce. Statues of Lenin, Marx and Engles stand proudly near the teetering carcasses of Soviet apartment blocks and the faces of the people tell us that we are much closer to China. We stop at a small neighborhood shop and the woman behind the counter uses an abacus to calculate the correct ammount. Small bits of cloth tied to pine boughs flutter in the wind for good fortune.

I came to Central Asia to trace what I could of the Silk Road and to try to understand this part of the world better. At first it felt like an alien land but I think I understand it a little better now. Central Asia is a land at a crossroads with a history of invasion after invasion, conquest after conquest. Hellenes, Romans, Parthians, Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Ghengis Khan, Tamerlane and even the Chinese have all left their indelible marks and blood in the sand. Pagans, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Moslems have all called it home. This is a place where desert sands, winter snows and the wind have always shifted and will continue to do so.

Today we begin our three day overland journey across the Pamir Mountains to Kashgar. I don’t know when I’ll be able to post again, it may be several days. In the meantime please enjoy the narrative, photos and video. Until next time.


21
Aug 12

Roadside Turkmenistan

A short video of a few of my favorite scenes from Turkmenistan. The bread was absolutely wonderful and so were the people we met.


04
Aug 12

Round the world

This morning we are on our way to travel around the world by way of the Silk Road. Toady we fly to Instanbul where we’ll stay for a bit before continuing on to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. From a historical perspective, we will be traveling through the regions that saw the first contact between East and West, Han China and Rome, Byzantium and the splendid court of the Tang emperors. This route saw the first exchange of silk and perhaps most importantly, the introduction of paper to the western world.

We’ll be updating this blog as we’re able with photos and video, so stay tuned!