Venturing into a train station to buy tickets where no one speaks English can be a bit tricky. Lucky for us a kind gentleman offered to assist in translating. The Uzbek people have to be the kindest that we’ve encountered on this trip.
Men put their right hand across their heart and bow ever so slightly to greet or thank one another. This is especially true toward women since men do not shake a woman’s hand. It feels so kind.
The same kindness is granted on the road. In either direction no matter how many lanes one car pulls over slightly so another may pass. The same is true with oncoming traffic – cars move slightly aside to allow passage. It gets a little tenuous when 4 cars share 2 lanes but somehow it works. No road rage!
Back to the train station. Our new friend walked us to the counter and asked for two tickets to Samarkand. The ticket lady told him there were only upper seats available and perhaps we could ask for a lower one once we got on the train. Ok – that seems simple.
After helping us John (his English name) gave us his name, phone number and email address offering to help us in any way while we’re in his country. Wow.
It’s a four plus hour train ride to Samarkand. Founded in the 7th century BC. Hugely popular on the Silk Road trail making it the most crowded tourist spot so far. The Registan (UNESCO), Gur-e-Amir, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and Shah-i-Zinda were so full of people that it took away from its peacefulness but not its majestic beauty.
*click on photos to enlarge
Samarkand, the navel of the vast empire held by Timur aka Tamerlane (1300’s) one of history’s greatest and cruelest conquers. It was built by architects, artists and craftsmen abducted by Tamerlane and his his descendants from away conquered territories for 2,000 year it was one of the most important stops on the Silk Road, it’s bazaars thronged with merchants and shoppers.
Controversial and frowned upon by some it is believed that the government has “over-restored” these once falling down sites making them appear more like “Disneyland”. However to stand the test of time one must restore – right?
Back to the train – I had pictured a double decker train since our seats were upstairs. HA! Talk about lost in translation. Upstairs is a small bunk. Bill and I discovered we both had these and also were in separate parts of the compartment. Our carry-on luggage now seemed huge as there was virtually no place to store them. The lack of air circulation had me in melting. I must have looked a wreck.
Two sweet women noted the confusion on our faces and the sweat on my brow while we tried to figure out our seats, luggage, etc. Moments later one of the women came up to me and motioned for me to follow. She pointed to the top bunk and the seat below. Don’t know how she arranged that but it worked out perfect. Bill would have never fit in the bunk. The seat offered no room for his legs since his suitcase filled that space but he was extremely grateful for the seat. Bill sat like a yogi pretzel and I was able to recline and nap. Fortunately there was a tiny window above the bunk that allowed fresh air during the journey. It worked out perfect.
Across the way a beautiful young woman snapped a photo of me in the bunk and then motioned for me to hand her my phone where she opened my Instagram account, shared the photo and the followed my account. From her account I learned she’s a doctor finishing her medical degree and gymnast coach. She was traveling with three young gymnasts for a competition.
The history and the architecture in each location are stunning but it’s these little life events with others with whom we can not conversant but still manage to communicate that make exploring new cultures so worthwhile.
We saw this stunning white building with its door ajar. An invitation to sneak in – right? We stumbled upon this ornate room that was set up for a wedding. Wowza. The worker was sitting on the floor in the corner on his phone. He had no idea we were there.
An open door in another alleyway showcased a collection of old treasures for sale. While I snapped some photos Bill visited with the owner.
My camera has been giving me grief. The shutter button at times stops working. I can reset it by removing the battery and reinserting it only to have it happen after a few shots. UGH! Thank goodness I’m not photographing a wedding.