We’re in Samarkand, Uzbekistan now – a major Silk Road city that recently celebrated its 2,650th anniversary. But first, some housekeeping. We’ve been flummoxed by slow internet connections lately so we haven’t added any photos in a while either to the posts or the galleries. It’s unfortunate, as we’ve found a surprising number of animal sculptures for CeCe to pose with. As soon as we are back in the good graces of the patron saint of the internet, I’ll be sure to alert you. Until then, prose only I’m sorry to say.
Samarkand is really the first city we’ve visited where tourists are a bit of a novelty. Around each corner we seem to be serenaded by a children’s chorus of “hello, hello”, “goodbye”, “where are you from?”, etc. It’s got me humming the titular Beatles song. The greeting is quite endearing, although I’m sure many of you who’ve travelled extensively and have encountered this reception repeatedly are saying to yourself that we’ll tire of it in no time. For now, it’s fun.
We arrived yesterday after a 4-hour minibus journey from Tashkent. We’re now in the company of two highly entertaining Brits, Nye and Jake, who we met a couple of days ego. Lucky for us, our hotel had one room, a quad, remaining when we arrived, so we’ll be staying with them for at least a couple of days. (It appears as if our room functions as the hotelier’s living room in the slow season.) It’s nice to have some new friends to spend time and share expenses with and CeCe is certainly relieved that she doesn’t have to talk soccer with me for the time being.
Today was a good one with just the right mix of experiences. I find myself hoping that it becomes typical for this leg of our adventure. Certainly, a good day always starts with a proper breakfast. Our hotel had a splendid one despite the ubiquitous flies and a few wasps for variety: crepes, five jams, plums, grapes, tea, a yoghurty drink, yum! (We’re paying $15 each per night with breakfast and it’s far from the cheapest place in town. Elsewhere, lunch cost us less than $2, dinner less than $5. Both were good.)
Appropriately fortified, we headed around the corner to Samarkand’s crowning jewel, Registan, a compact pavilion boasting three glorious madrassas. (A madrassa is an Islamic school. ) Surprisingly each was restored to its original glory during the Soviet era. For $6 we enlisted the services of a freelance tour guide who gave us valuable information on what we were seeing. It was also worth it just to talk with a local.
Lunch was at a small cafe. We struggled to find something without meat for CeCe, but were making do when two men suddenly sat down with us and commenced the pouring of vodka. After our trials from a few days prior, we’re justly a bit nervous. But our concerns were unwarranted as all that followed was a pleasant hour spent in the company of two former Soviet army men (one had served in Afghanistan) and two adolescents whose family ran the cafe. And when we had finished our food, we passed out a few baseball cards, and off we went.
The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting the ruins of a grand mosque and dinner included plov, a local delicacy that is a simple concoction of much rice, a little meat and vegetables, all swimming in a broth of mutton fat. Mmmmmmmmm.
I should mention that dinner was the same as last night except we didn’t get invited to an arranged wedding, we never danced, and there was no stunned-looking bride and groom for CeCe to bless. A story for another day perhaps!