Tag Archives: Train

Uzbekistan- Tashkent to Samarkand

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.

Now having been to several cities in Uzbekistan we’ve learned that kiddie parks are part of the landscape.

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.



Dublin to Waterford and on…

Pembroke DockTrains, busses and a ferry from Dublin through Wexford to Waterford and on to Pembroke Dock.

Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland – a quaint harbor town lined with pastel buildings and known for Waterford Crystal.  Invaded by the Vikings in 914 A.D. – a quick overnight for us on our way to Wales.  We stayed the night in the birth place of Thomas Francis Meagher born in 1823 who led an Irish Brigade to help Lincoln in the Civil War and later became the first governor of Montana.

Photo of the Day 291

View from the train. Somewhere between Pembroke, Wales and Swansea.

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October 17, 2016

Glasgow to Belfast, Northern Ireland

Sing to me River LaganGlasgow to Ayr by train – bus to Cairnryan, Scotland and…

ferry to Belfast.

Today trendy, touristy and hip but filled with a tumultuous past.  Often referred to as “the troubles” the Catholics and Protestants fought hard from 1969 to 1998 (with sporadic turmoil until 2015).

In 1998 there were only 4 hotels – the Europa was and is the most bombed building in Europe – today a mighty 45 hotels stand proud and Belfast is touted as the 2nd safest city in the world next to Tokyo.

Still today 48 peace walls separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods – 25′ high up – some up to 3 miles long stretching a total of 21 miles.

Although peace is in the air the embers still are smoldering…

Zigging North

Bill blogging...

Bill blogging…

We are on a train bound for Moscow, but will get off and turn left at about midnight, in central Ukraine . That should be fun, because for sure we will have to roust some foreigners out of our seats, and they won’t be happy at Paige!

This train has what it advertises, including live plants in the passageway…… undoubtedly because it is headed to Moscow or Moscow “owns” it.

I’m telling you the farming families work hard… and live in a fairy tale land. My version of Jack and the Beanstalk had pictures of this bucolic, pastoral valley which gave me a good feeling oh so long ago and the memories still do. Well, this is that!

At dark one doesn’t see lights in the farmhouses and villages, but cooking fires… imagine. There are a few, very few, onion domed church spires, dirt roads, flocks of ducks and geese bedding down and as the gloaming fades, ever-darkening shades of green.

It gives every appearance of an agrarian peasant society, perhaps just above subsistence level, with the rotting hulks of failed industrial efforts lurking in the fore and background. Maybe it is all still fall-out from the end of the central government and the planned economy. I wonder which one these farming families would choose?

Further afield the hills grow to mountains which get a lot of snow, which feeds the rivers. I must say again it is beautiful.

Paige is going crazy because this train has a/c, so the windows don’t go down, so she can take no photos. She’ll get plenty of chance tomorrow though……in L’Viv Ukraine.