Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Samarkand Express

Forgive the absence, but internet is very difficult to find in samarkand. I have been here 3 days so far and today was the first day i found an internet cafe - and it took me over an hour to get here.  Anyway, on to updates.

I left Tashkent on the Sharq Express train which left early in the morning. I was running a bit late, so i decided to take a taxi to the train stn. They have a really good system for taxis here; there are the proper, marked taxis that you can call or hail and will cost a small fortune (they wanted the equivalent of $5US to take me to the stn). Then there are the regular guys in regular cars (almost always Ladas). You just stand on the side of the road and they stop and you offer them money to take you where you want to go. It's actually very sensible and they took me to the train stn for about $1.

The train ride was supposed to take 3.5 hours, but due to work being done on the tracks, it took over 6hrs. I was in first class, which is very comfortable and had little tvs at every seat. Unfortunately the little tvs only played on type of movie: Gangster movies in russian where russians with cold blue eyes and black leather car coats shot each other with silenced pistols....Then again, maybe it was the news. A few guys had their tvs cranked way up. The ride would have been fine, except that the slow speed of the train meant that they didn't have enough power to run the AC, so it was very very hot. Despite that, and the odd cockroach, i found the ride very relaxing.

I arrived at the train station in Samarkand and and immediately i could tell that it would be very different from Tashkent.  Gone were the women in western dress; here all the women are wearing long, patterned, shapeless dresses with headscarves. The men wore the traditional square beanie hats. (I don't know what they are called.)

I hired a taxi and headed to my hotel/B&B. Just driving through the city and catching glimpses of the monuments i had traveled so far to see made me giddy with elation, until i finally blurted out, "This is so fucking cool!"

Tea upon Arrival at Hotel Furkat
Hotel Furkat is in one of the Old Town enclaves and from the outside is nothing more than a door in a wall on a dusty, unpaved road. But behind the door there is a beautiful courtyard and an enormous tree around which the 3 story hotel wraps itself. The tree pokes its branches on to each of the balconies, making the whole thing feel like a tree house. When i arrived, i tried to explain that i had a reservation, but the owner, Furkat, said "tea first" and ushered me towards one of the delightful chaikhanas that line the perimeter of the courtyard.

After some tea and apricots, i checked in to my room, which is sort of a tacky collection of odd furniture, shiny wallpaper and jeweled curtains. I then went out to wander.
Impressions of Samarkand to follow.
me in Samarkand

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