It is a day of long flights from Madrid to Tashkent via Frankfurt but perfect to contextualize what awaits us in the coming days
Turkestan, the spirit of the Silk Road
Almost unconsciously and a little dazed (you just have to see our faces) for these flight schedules that make you get up in Madrid at 3:30 in the morning to be able to link destinations (water 1.80 EUR), we realize that we are flying to an area of the planet that will allow us to continue an adventure started (almost unintentionally) many years ago. We do via Frankfurt with Lufhtansa, after a small breakfast (EUR 13.90), where we will change from Terminal T1 to T2 with the modern monorail to do the relevant paperwork (although the bags go straight, we have had to go through the Uzbekistan Airways counter to collect the card shipment)
How many times will we have read about the wonderful Silk Road? From China and Mongolia to Costantinople or Alexandria, one of the great commercial corridors that has left the history of Humanity where infinite routes opened from the first centuries between East and West. And of the so-called "TAN"? "stan" in Persian means "land" and is precisely the vastterritory between the Caspian Sea and the Tian Mountains which encompasses a historical region of Central Asia, Turkestan
Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (beyond Afghanistan that also had a corridor and the Chinese autonomous region of Sinkiang, the one considered East Turkestan), make up the true heart of this network of passage and crossroads of civilizations along the ages. He The common point of all of them is that of being peoples of Turkic ethnicity, the same that arrived in Europe with the Huns, the Bulgarians and the Ottomans
This region of Central Asia, when it still did not have geographical boundaries, was also part of the Russian Empire since the beginning of the 18th century and, in the most modern history, of the former USSR when since 1922 it expanded into a federal union of 15 republics Soviets under Communism until their fall in 1991, where borders were maintained and with them the usual tensions.
Today, the last living spirit of that Silk Road (name that did not exist until more modern times) is in Central Asia, becoming one of the great challenges of every passionate traveler. Bazaars or markets, nomadic towns or cities of great empires, dozens of cups of tea and abandoned caravans ... all of them under the influence of centuries of cultures that Paula and I are determined to continue deciphering although we will make many references in the newspapers,Many thanks to Alexa and Emma for so much and such good help!
From Istanbul to Mashhad, at the gates of Central Asia
There are people who have dedicated a life to reveal the ins and outs of this land of crossroads.Paula and Isaac are just two curious travelers who still believe that any part of the world can surprise them, with the illusion of the first day every time we carry the backpack of that "open mind" that requires any destination andwith the belief that anyone can achieve their own adventure, the same that leaves from Frankfurt airport to Tashkent (Uzbekistan) after 12'00 in the morning although with a delay of more than 1 hour of the Boeing 767 little boy from Uzbekistan Airways (touch screen, usb, snack, food and mid-afternoon sandwich -and we continue with the rancid Iberia-)
But what journey continues? The Silk road map, so often present in our talks, stories or planning of future trips, is now presented again far from those backpacking adventures of 2 or 3 months or bike tours now so fashionable that we would love to be able to to realize but that you already know that because of our way of life we cannot currently fit.The journey that continues is the one that began in that caravazar Valide Han from Istanbul, built by Sultan Kosem in 1651 and barely endured the passing of the years over the Grand Bazaar
It is not known today how many of those merchant shelters were built between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries but after its decline with the appearance of the engine, there are relics that we have always looked for in our itineraries and thatHe entered us from Petra to Alexandria or Tartus to Costantinople (Istanbul), years ago, for the ill-fated Syria coming fromthe magical Damascus
From there, the desert makes its way through Palmira, that oasis of intense clear rock, until lands of Mesopotamia where a great imaginative effort moved us inLasts Europos in times of merchants on the banks of the imposing Euphrates
That route, from whichIran It is an important part (and of which we owe you the newspapers), where we saw dozens of caranvasar to Mashhad, it is the same that Marco Polo would make famous even if he had his 17 centuries of history behind him, he carried gold, silver, animals, wine or food to the East and brought silk, porcelain, gems or spices (until the route of the maritime species was opened centuries later) to the East,It has beyond the border Mashhad of Iran in the middle of the route historic cities such as Merv, Bukhara or Samarkand (or Jiva of the corridors coming from the north) ...
... It seemed logical that our route continued through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, right? And that we really want Tajikistan especially for everything read or to East Turkestan but ... there will be time!
Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the journey continues ...
At this time we fly over 11,000 m high and 900 km / h one of the most important natural disasters in the modern world, the Aral Sea, which together with the Caspian possibly make a perfect geographical border to delimit that territory of Central Asia to which we We direct. After a decade of traveling, we still find it surprising how many people in our environment are not able to locate Uzbekistan yet on a map with everything it contains.
If the “TAN” already keeps that legacy exURSS that we mentioned before, what can we find in a territory where Islam reigned in the area but Catholicism came from the West and Buddhism from the East leaving caravansar, nomadic yurts, doors with Beautiful decorations, imposing mosques and even Buddhist stupas in the Tajikistan area? And beyond that, an area of the planet where the great Persian Empire not only expanded through present-day Iran, but also through Iraq, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and in peak times with the Achaemenids to Egypt and Greece, which makes that even the Tajik people now claim Samarkand and Bukhara as their own, for their Persian roots.
To fully immerse yourself in it, it is best to have a Virtual Reality glasses but with the mobile you can stand up and turn around and see everything too
Traveling to Uzbekistan today is immerse yourself in a country already prepared for tourism, with a visa much easier to obtain through the Madrid embassy (UPDATE 2019: since February 2019, Spanish citizens do not need to apply for a VISA for stays of less than 30 days in the country) and where beyond the cities of the "Thousand and One Nights", Tashkent, the Fergana Valley, the curious Aral Sea and many public transport facilities allow you to explore it (and we will do so) for free. A lot has already been said about traveling to Uzbekistan but we wanted towrite an updated diary at the times, where tourism is already part of the people and every day there are more Spaniards who, by agency or free, travel to the country. We will do it this second way
Traveling to Turmekistan represents the opposite, a tourism-tight country, where getting a 5 or 7 day transit visa is insufficient in time and increasingly complicated by the rejections of the consulates, and where to cross it more time passes through hire a local agency in the purest North Korea or Buthan style.
You already know me ... I don't like flying days at all! Although I have learned to take them. I do not take effect or the pills that say that you sleep 5 hours in a row ... hehehehe, Isaac I do not know how he does but suffers a "flex" effect and falls round. However, today the joy has made the flight lighter because They have confirmed to us that they will approve us the invitation letter to obtain the visa on the border of Turkmenistan (by the hair!). Just in case we had already done a multiple-entry visa in Uzbekistan as the other option passed through Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan
We landed in Tashkent around 9:40 pm (there is +3 hours difference with Spain, where it's still 18:40), after 5 hours and 40 minutes of flight. Of the paperwork, get the visa at the Embassy of Madrid and other requirements (completed form on the plane giving account of the money we carry and other valuables and other there), we'll talk to you calmlybut basically in just 20 minutes we have passed a customs that was formerly heavy and slow. We've read a lot about "uncompromising" cops and they check everything. In 2016, at least with us, none of that is coming through the capital, with a small queue that runs fast through customs, suitcases that were already leaving and the delivery of two papers covered in the plane with the declaration of things of value (where we have put cameras and laptops, in addition to the USD we bring) that have sealed us. 20 minute clock! !perfect!
Where If we have had problems it is in the exchange of money (EYE! Since September 2017 there is no longer a black market, you have to change your money at the headquarters of a bank). There are two zones of change, before the control and after. The one outside was closed so we had to haggle with an unofficial taxi driver to allow us to pay him in USD. When it is normal that up to 6 km (our hotel is 4 km away), the maximum they can charge you is 20,000 UZS and even if you do not arrive as late as we do and you approach the airport exit roundabout, prices will be They can negotiate much better and go down considerably, we have had to accept a surcharge of 10 USD. It is what has bargaining at night already closed and very tired. In just 10 minutes we receive the Sunrise Caravan Stay Boutique, Cheap and charming, we have chosen for this first day and the last of the trip when we will know the city. Also here They have left us the train tickets of tomorrow that we have processed in advance with the Samarkand hotel so as not to run out of seats. It leaves tomorrow at 8'00
Uzbekistan is our entry into this particular Silk Road that we started more than a decade ago. Central Asia or Turquestán opens before us as that adventure that we had been looking for ... But it will be from tomorrow. We are dead! ZzzZzZZ
Isaac and Paula, from Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
EXPENSES OF THE DAY: 15.70 EUR and 10 USD (approx. 9.43 EUR)