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Published: April 28th 2016
Day 93 Wednesday 20th April 2016 – Samarkand to Bukhara
Training it today, and our Ticket out of Samarkand wasn’t till midday so there was no need to be out of bed at the crack of dawn. When we did get up we discovered that it was raining heavily so it looked like it was going to be a damp exit. Had breakfast packed our bags and checked out for our 10.30 taxi to the train station. The hotel thankfully gave us a free taxi to the station, where we got drowned running to the terminal. Waited nearly an hour on the platform where we managed to keep moderately dry although the roof leaked everywhere. The roof however was small and the train was long and our carriage was at the furthest point from the small roof so we were drenched once again by the time we got to our cabin.
Today we travelled with 2 Irishmen, and Irish woman and a Russian woman in our cabin and the trip took nearly 4 hours so we all got to know each other over the course of the journey. Thankfully the rain had stopped
by the time we reached the city of Bukhara and we were greeted by glorious sunshine and annoying taxi drivers. Had to run the usual gauntlet of everyone wanting to take us for a ride before we settled on a guy who was out in the carpark and seemed less enthusiastic for our money. As we negotiated with him another driver and a tourist walked past and told us we shouldn’t pay more than 12,000 som for the 9km journey into town, but in the end we paid him 15,000 ($3 Aus), which we thought was more than fair. When we got dropped off at the hotel we discovered that the guy who had advised us was staying where we were and we ended up having a cup of tea and a long chat with him. We are staying at the Khurjin Hotel, which is a restored 14th
century caravansary right in the heart of town. The room is small but clean and tidy and the front door opens up to a central courtyard with an original old well.
Once we had settled we wandered down the road for a feed and a few beers at a
Town centre pond at dusk
restaurant around a small pond in the very centre of town. The setting was excellent, the beer was cold but the food wasn’t exactly fabulous so vowed to try and find something better tomorrow. After this we went for a stroll through the surrounding markets before stumbling on a bar. Inside the owner had parked his pride and joy which was a Ural motorcycle which he had converted into a chopper, something quite extraordinary. For people who do not know of the Ural motorcycle, they are a Russian motorcycle designed more for towing tractors out of the mud than cruising down a highway. Could have sat there all night drinking except we were both looking forward to getting some sleep so after a couple of beers we headed home. Day 94 Thursday 21stApril 2016 – Bukhara
A new town so we were both keen to get up and check it out so at 8.00 we were up and searching the hotel for our breakfast. Generally Central Asian breakfast is something you are not going to cry about if you miss it but today’s was pretty good and came with freshly
Bukhara - Char Minar
Weird old gate house
cooked eggs. After brekkie we hit the streets to see what Bukhara had to offer.
Bukhara was a very religious city in its day and so the place is filled to the brim with Mosques and Madrassas (religious schools). Most have now been “restored” and given over to the tourist industry and are filled with souvenir shops. We visited one the Maghoki Attar that is Central Asia’s oldest surviving mosque and archaeologists have actually found bits from a 5th
century Zoroastrian temple beneath it. The mosque is so old that the ground level is about 3m higher around it and in fact it was dug up in the 1930’s when only the roof was showing. Today it contains a dusty collection of rugs and carpets and you have to pay to enter to see the dismal collection, but the building is a great piece of history.
We spent the day wandering through the laneways and bazaars and soon Michele was in love with the place and was declaring it the best city on the trip so far. The place has by far the largest number of tourists we have seen in Central Asia, both
local tourists and international coach tour tourists. In fact we could easily say that there is a lot more tourist here than in Samarkand, but the place absorbs it well and maintains a nice easy going vibe. The town is spotless and well presented but doesn’t feel too over done like Samarkand although it is obvious that the restorations on the buildings are extensive.
In the afternoon we walked to the Char Minar, a gatehouse the only thing left of a Medressa which has not survived time, it is a cute little building about 5 minute walk from our hotel. We wandered back through the town and found an elevated café with views over the large Kalon Mosque and Minaret and had a few beers while we watched the changing colours as the sunset. Truly spectacular and I now think I have fallen in love with the town. Just as it started to go dark we went to order food and was told that the kitchen was closed but we could stay and keep drinking and as much as that was tempting, we needed to eat otherwise we would be crawling home. This is when we discovered
the problem with Bukhara and that is that there isn’t a lot of restaurants and the ones that are here are overpriced and serve rubbish. Took us a long time to find anywhere that looked half decent and ended up choosing a restaurant that was only interested in up selling rather than serving you. We have sort of figured that it is probably best to have a large lunch and then something small for dinner, as most places seem open for lunch only. Day 95 Friday 22nd April 2016 – Bukhara
Woke Scott up at 6.00am to get out on the street to look around before the souvenir sellers and tourists took over. It is beautiful walking around in the quiet of the morning seeing people slowly emerging and getting some photos of the area. We started heading back to the hotel about 8.00am and saw the souvenir sellers slowly setting up their tables and displaying their wares and not one asked us to look. Got breakfast and took it easy for a while before heading back out, this time right to the other end of the town
Waiting for a bus
to Samani Park where we found an amusement park. It is a permanent attraction which includes a Ferris wheel so we jumped on to get a view over the town, we could see some of the remaining town mud brick walls and off in the distance the Kalon tower. It was one of those fun and random things you come across and only cost $1 for both of us.
Next to the Ferris wheel is the Ismail Samani Mausoleum which was completed in 905AD, Ismail Somani was the founder of the Samanid dynasty, although small it has great patterned brick work. From here we walked over to Job’s well, we had seen his resting place in Iran so thought it only fitting to see where Job struck his staff on the ground and a spring came forth. The well is housed in the Chashma Ayub Masoleum which is now a water museum, I guess you can call it that, there were a few photos and of course the usual souvenirs. I was game and drank the water from the well and I am still here to talk about it, Scott on the other hand chickened out, guess
Bukhara - Maghoki-Attar
Central Asia's oldest surviving mosque
he was not up to Russian roulette with his stomach today.
We then headed onto “the Ark” (royal residence and army barracks) and spotted a nice restaurant with outside tables under huge shady trees and decided to stop for what was a nice meal. Across the road was the open aired Bolo-Hauz Mosque and Friday prayers were just finishing as we sat down, soon the restaurant was full. Once our bellies were full we walked across to the Ark. This was heavily bombed by the Russians in 1920 destroying about 80% meaning that it is disappointing inside. The rooms that remain (rebuilt) contain tacky museums with stuffed animals in the Natural museum, let me say there was nothing natural about those poor moth eaten birds and foxes. Some of the other small museums were a bit better and contained Scott’s favourite - broken pottery.
It was getting late in the day so on the way back stopped at the café overlooking the Kalon tower and got talking to a fellow Aussie who lives in Petersham a suburb that we used to live in, what a small world. Later we meet a German/Polish couple and
Bukhara - Nadir Divanbegi Medressa
Façade showing Peacocks holding lambs
got some good tips if we decide to go to Turkmenistan. It was good night and finally made it back to the hotel about 11.00pm and fell into bed. Day 96 Saturday 23rd April 2016 – Bukhara
Slow start which is not a problem as we only have a few things left to see and do today. The first is walking back to the Ark area to see the Jail where Stoddart and Conolly were put. Colonel Stoddart was an officer in the British Army who came to see Emir Nas-rullah Khan in 1839 to reassure the emir about the British interests in the area. The Emir took deep offence to him and had him thrown into the “Bug pit” which is a 6.5m hole in the ground that was filled with all manner of bugs and vermin. Captain Conolly was to join him in the bug pit when he came to rescue him two years later, obviously he was not much good at doing rescuing. On 24th
June 1842 the two bedraggled officers were marched out the front of the ark and in front of a huge
Centre pond and fake camel
crowd, made to dig their own graves and then beheaded. The British Army was having a hard time in Afghanistan at this point and so the British Government hardly did a thing to save these two poor guys or even protest at their execution. The “Bug pit” still exists and is part of the museum in the jail, and it is sort of weird peering down into it knowing just how bad it must have been for the two men to live in it. Of course now the bottom has a dummy in it and the floor is littered with money and not bugs; not sure why people feel they need to throw money into a hole?
Brought some old black and white photos of Bukhara from the late 1800’s, I picked up a bread stamp so I will have to bake bread when I get home so I can try out the patterns. Scott also picked up some items which is unusual for a man who hates shopping. Did a bit more sightseeing and checked out a few more of the Medressa’s and then spent the evening by the central pond watching the ducks mating- never
Bukhara - Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Mausoleum as seen from the Ferris Wheel
realised how aggressive the whole thing is. We both really love Bukhara and if we could get a decent feed we could just about live here. After Samarkand we actually hadn’t expected this city to be that good so it came as a nice surprise. Tomorrow we move onto Khiva a town that is developing a huge tourist hype about it, we are worried.
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