It is already dark as we arrive in Tashkent, the former soviet center of the Turkestan states. Immigration and customs is less bureaucratic and speedier than expected and so we are soon greeted by Marleen and Sera standing outside the airport and waving their arms. We embrace each other, reunited after 9 months.
The Hotel is reached quickly and we have an evening to talk. The next morning we start our journey with a guided tour through Tashkent. Uzbekistan with its silk road cities, offers the most of all central Asian states. Our local guide speaks fluent German although he never has been to Germany. After having tried the local dish, Plov, for the first time, we stroll over the huge food bazaar in center of town and visit the famous Russian style subway. Sadly, no photographs are allowed.
The next day the bicycles and equipment are stored in the hotel and the express train brings us to Samarkand, nonstop in 2 hours for 300 km.
Together, we start exploring the city. Soon are we fascinated by the oriental setting, the friendly people all the mosques and the unique Registan square with its 3 Madrasah’s.
Our Guide explains to us the long history of Samarkand, the rule of Timur the conquerer, and shows us the remains of the observatory of Ulugh Beg, the great astronomer. A whole day of culture with ancient tombs, mosques and madrasahs. Fortunately, autumn temperatures are moderate and invite to walk around.
By car, our journey continues to the next pearl of the Silk Road: Bukhara.
We pass through large fields where cotton is handpicked and travel through steppe landscapes.
By coincidence, the City of Bukhara celebrates a town festival with dance groups, food competitions and many other activities. We enjoy the open mind and friendliness of the townsfolk and have afternoon coffee in a German owned coffee shop.
Again, we continue our travels by car to the desert city of Khiva. Starting in Bukhara we are somewhat worried that 400 km of bad road lie ahead of us, but much to our surprise, we find a brand new highway.
Old Khiva is like a museum of history with brick city walls and dozens of monuments. Tourists from Europe and local Uzbek tourists fill the streets. Outside the wall, modern cities and villages appear. The Amu Daria river provides water for agriculture and once fed Lake Aral.
Our local guide is a teacher for German and English. Apart from showing us around, she presents us with much insight into the rural Uzbek society.
In need of repair, Sera and Marleen get their shoes fixed at the local market.
After nine days of spectacular cities and pleasant evenings with Sera and Marleen, the final leg is the flight back to Tashkent. By nightfall we arrive there and depart for Frankfurt still in darkness. The bicycles and equipment are untouched and Sera and Marleen leave Tashkent heading west.
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