Translated by: Bence Szrogh
We have already known of Uzbekistan that the country has famous and beautiful historical cities; we have read about its madrasahs, we have heard that we’ll roam around with a bag of money, and that we definitely have to try plov. However, we weren’t sure about the guest nights’ registration, since we found different information on each forum. It is reported by many that you have to sleep in a paid accommodation every night, so that the hotels announce you to the authorities. At the same time, many people wrote that registration was only necessary every 72 hours. We ourselves were curious about how we will improvise. We knew that our daily budget doesn’t allow us to spend every night in a lodging. What will be, will be – we thought.
After the nightmarish 81 hours spent in Turkmenistan, we could finally take a deep breath while entering Uzbekistan. The border was just open, so fortunately the immigration officers checked us very quickly. We had to fill a form called “Declaration” here too, in which we had to include what technological gadgets we carried and how much cash we had on us. They looked into our medical bag, and after we explained (with gestures) what Bolus Adstringens and Algoflex-M are for, we rolled through the border without a problem. From among the trucks on the Uzbek side, money-exchangers working on a black market rate appeared and swooped down on us instantly. After some mental calculation, the deal was done and we received a bag of money for our 100 dollars. In Uzbekistan, the greatest denomination that’s in circulation today is 1000 sum. For this amount of money, you can buy a nice, circle-shaped bread, or two ice creams in a cheaper place. Therefore, with our big bag of money we could hang out for 8-10 days.
We were exhausted and hungry, so accommodation registration or not, we were brave and we did sleep in our tent along the road. The beekeeper on the plot, an older man, invited us very joyfully into his tin cottage. We tasted plov, this rice with greasy meat and carrot. We didn’t like it much, it was heavy food.
The following day we reached Bukhara in an easy pace. Armed with drained phones and with no maps, we bumbled around a bit, but in the end some local guys helped us find a cheap place to stay at. We arrived in front of the central Malekjon B&B forming a small Critical Mass. It was not a luxurious suite, but we got a room with three beds, AC, and an own bathroom for 25 dollars/day. And it came with a registration, of course. Three days of rest that is legal in every sense!
The city is ordered and well-kept, the historical buildings are very well maintained. It just felt good to walk on the streets and in the bazaars.
We would’ve loved to enter a madrasah that’s still active, but unfortunately, we only got to the hall. In these “schools” students interpret and analyse the Quran, and besides they study law, mathematics, physics, philosophy and literature.
June is not “tourist season” in Uzbekistan, because the heat is almost unbearable. We withdrew to our air-conditioned room or the roofed terrace when it was really hot. Regarding the prices, if you don’t have lunch or dinner in a restaurant every day, you can relatively easily make ends meet. After we’ve discussed it with the boy at the reception desk, we often cooked in our small kitchen.
We parted ways with Marco in Bukhara, who had already “allied” with Miquel. The boys set off together towards Dushanbe, and we aimed for Samarkand.
We posed with the rasta Marco and the curly Miquel on the terrace of our hotel
We spent two nights on the road to Samarkand, the first in a dairy farm, the second in an abandoned restaurant.
Under pressure: we need the milk for our morning porridge!
It was our general experience that people are more withdrawn here than what we were used to. In most cases, if we asked something, they were attentive and helpful. However, we could feel that they tried to keep the distance while we were on the road. What could be the reason of this? We have discussed this deeply amongst ourselves. Maybe the country’s history has greatly affected people’s habits? Possible. It was a long road to Samarkand, and although we were slowly becoming adapted to the heat, we often had to stop for 2-3 hours because of the inhuman swelter. During these siestas we cooked lunch and played on our homemade osh-table.
This is our camping osh-table. We’d like to have a real one once.
There were plenty of vendors along the road, in the villages and outside the villages, who sold drinks and snacks in small stalls or under a tent’s fly. We stopped multiple times to refill our supplies. Unfortunately it often happened that the vendor sold the water or the dry cookies (“sun-dried” cookies…) at “tourist prices”, so twice the original. It is disappointing, because he wanted to fool us for ca. 200 forint-worth of sum; he won’t get rich with that, and we left with a bitter aftertaste. It was heart-wrenching to see that many of these vendors live on the road. We saw some of their beds that they placed next to or behind the stalls. It’s not worth to go home, there’s always traffic, there are many trucks, and many people stop for a refresher or a little water…
The city of Samarkand is beautiful. We could feel that the city thrives on tourism, there wasn’t a building where we didn’t have to pay an entrance fee. A part of historical buildings was under reconstruction, and the other part wasn’t trimmed at all. We saw some handyman solutions, for example the lazily built guard stall next to the beautiful madrasah… we felt a little bit as if the tourists were handled on a conveyor belt. We visited the magical Bibi-Khanym mosque in the event. Needless to say, the guards collect money into their own pockets at this time of the day. We got a few hundred forints worth of discount, in exchange for which we didn’t receive a ticket, but we could take our bikes into the yard.
The entrance of the Bibi-Khanym mosque
In the nice pedestrian precinct of the city, one can purchase every kinds of souvenirs from tea-sets to Uzbek clothes and books. Surely a huge amount of tourists flows through here in the main season. If one comes to Uzbekistan, the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand mustn’t be left out. The architecture is enchanting. Leaving the old Silk Road behind, we set off for the Fergana valley. We were waiting for the “green”, the nature, the mountains. We wanted to be out in the wilderness, to be a little nomadic again.
We didn’t expect back then that our breath will be taken away on the road to Kokand…