Samarkand & Shakhrisabz

To see pictures click here.

We are presently on the train from Samarkand to Bukhara. We arrived in Samarkand Wednesday at 12noon – almost exactly since the trains run on time. The first thing to say, is WOW … we’ve had four incredible nights in Samarkand.

We had planned to take the high speed train from Tashkent, but couldn’t get tickets since there is some sort of international conference taking place and they booked all of the tickets for the fast train. No problem – 3½ hours in transit instead of 2½.

On arrival we took a taxi from the train station, which Archie effectively negotiated. Four people, one car, 10 SUM or about $3.50. Things here in Uzbekistan are very inexpensive.

We arrive at the Antica Bed & Breakfast and are greeted by Aziza, the proprietor, who speaks excellent English and provides us first with “welcoming tea” with a bit of bread and homemade fruit jams. We select our rooms and head of to one of the star attractions – the Registan, a group of three 14th- and 16th-century madrassas. Some of the guide books state it is the most dramatic ensemble of architecture in Central Asia. At first we thought it was closed for the conference, and the older and more fully restored Ulug Beg Madrassas was in fact closed. We spent the rest of the afternoon admiring these extraordinary sights. Then back to the hotel for a wonderful home cooked dinner in a lovely courtyard. The first courses of small salads where really excellent.

On our first full day in Samarkand we start off with what the guide books call the best breakfast in Uzbekistan, which is served in the wonderful gardens of the Antika Hotel. And, it was certainly our best breakfast so far.

With the conference on and rumors that some key sites would be closed, we decided to book a taxi out of town to Shakhrisabz, the hometown of Timur and the place Tamerlane the Great built his summer palace. Koshbat, our driver, didn’t speak much English but was jolly and happy to point out the different fruit and nut trees we saw as we climbed up and over the Takhtakaracha Pass, a key Silk Road pathway. I would say that the drive was probably not much easier for us than for those that took it centuries ago. At times we needed to slow down to 10kph to avoid a huge number of deep potholes. So we got banged around a bit, but Koshbat stopped at key vistas along the route, including a hilltop market selling dried fruit and nuts.

Sights in Shakhrisabz:
At the market in Shakhrisabz I tried to shoot a little video. I set up my tripod and suddenly it was like the circus had come to town with curious shoppers and shopkeepers gathering around to watch. The people everywhere continue to amaze us with their willingness to engage, their smiles – and asking us where we’re from. They all seem thrilled to know that we’re Americans.

After a dusty and hot walk through Shakhrisabz seeing the sights, we drove back over the bumpy trail and mountain pass to our hotel, a dinner at an okay restaurant a few blocks from our hotel and to sleep.

Leave a Reply