Thursday, October 7, 2010

Samarqand to Bukhara to Samarqand, Uzbekistan

Hello from Samarqand (again!)

I just can't seem to stay away from this place. It has a kind of gravity/magnetism/instinctive pull on me. Somewhere between the delicious honey and the cool people staying at the hostel, I find myself saying I'll head to Kazakhstan "maybe tomorrow" pretty much every day. As you can see from the title of this post I did actually intend to leave a little over a week ago, heading to Bukhara for a couple of nights, but I gave up on Khiva and Karakalpakstan and headed back to Samarqand.

In Bukhara I stayed at the same hostel as several people from Bahodir B&B, where I am still staying, in Samarqand, and we explored the city together a lot. It was quite hot and there were rather a lot of mosquitos, but unlike Samarqand many of the monuments, mosques, medressahs and old buildings are in their somewhat original state, so it was cool to see a bit of kind of unedited Uzbekistan. I subsisted nearly entirely off of potatos and bread there, though, sampling Uzbek samsa, a similar food to Indian samosas, among other things. We picked up an English traveler and lugged him back with us to Samarqand, where he properly embraced the culture of doing very little except sit on the platform seats, drink a lot of tea and eat a lot of watermelon, and occasionally sneak into Timur monuments through the back entrance.

Among other things, since I got back to Samarqand I have befriended Uzbek ladies from the Ferghana Valley on a park bench and learned a bit of Uzbek from them, learned how to say some fairly creative and bar-fight appropriate things in German from the Germans staying here to learn Uzbek, realized that the vegetable vendors in the market know my name from my frequent patronage of their stalls, followed a late night groom's party, complete with burning heart-shaped torch, down an alleyway, NOT gotten sick, which seems to be a common theme here, stretched the limits of my vegetarianism as nearly everything, including vegetable soups and rice dishes, is cooked in lard or meat broth, learned how to play backgammon, visited a weekend market where people kept giving me things instead of bargaining with me for them, read parts of four books (The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Wild Things by Dave Eggers, The Art of Nonconformity by Chris Guillebeau, Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke), and been declared the mascot of Bahodir's. I plan on going to Kazakhstan sometime in the next few days, then passing through fairly quickly (stopping only in Shymkent, Turkistan, Almaty, and maybe a couple of other places) to China. I also managed to get a decent haircut here. I went with two Germans, and despite the fact that between us we spoke about six languages, we realized that the haircutters were Korean-Uzbek and spoke Tajik, so communication was challenging.

It has been cool "studying" the types of people that pass through here. There are mainly French, German, and Japanese travelers, although there are significant numbers of Chinese, Korean, Russian, English, Canadian, and other European travelers as well. Still no Americans to speak of. Many people are coming overland, usually from Europe through to China or Southeast Asia. Several clusters of bikers have passed through, including a French/English/Canadian couple with a three year old daughter who is super cute. And then there are the Germans learning Uzbek who have been here longer than me. It's always a little confusing when I explain that I'm going as far as China and then heading to West Africa, but usually people think it's cool after they get over the unusualness of it. I tend to leave off the bit about the middle east after that... I think that one region before (Eastern Europe), one present region (Central Asia), and one region after (West Africa), is plenty by way of explanation.

Going to take a walk now. Samarqand is very much a desert city, and there are rarely more than a couple of clouds in the sky, but today it actually rained! Sometimes I run through the sprinklers in the park to cool off. It's a great temperature right now, so I'm going to take advantage of it.

Much love from Uzbekistan,


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