I’m already getting fat. Between taking buses and taxis to Tashkent then loafing around the city for four days I’m getting soft. My poor bike must feel neglected.
But happily my package of spare parts arrived so I am now loaded up with spare tubes, a new headset, and new cycling shorts. I am ready to get out of Dodge. Unfortunately I must wait for the slow bureaucracy of Azerbaijan to process my visa application so I am stuck in Tashkent for a few more days.
Meanwhile here are some impressions of Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is distinctly more Muslim than Kyrgyzstan. More women cover themselves, there are more mosques, and there is less beer.
There also seems to be a LOT of police and military. We encountered several police checkpoints from Kokand to Tashkent, though they only checked my passport once, and no shakedowns.
Uzbekistan is also much less Russian. They have removed 90% of the Cyrillic signs and now use roman characters to spell their language. It doesn’t make it much easier for me, but at least I can pronounce the words. I have met some people who don’t even speak Russian–only Uzbek. Whereas in Kyrgyzstan you are likely to be greeted in Russian, here it is usually in Uzbek.
There are also a lot of Tajiks. The way Stalin drew up the borders of the area divided many of the ethnic groups. So you have a majority of Uzbeks in Osh, Krygyzstan for example, and many Tajiks in Uzbekistan. It really is a mess. Before the Bolsheviks took over, the whole area, known as Turkestan, was more homogeneous. There were various dialects and ethnic groups, of course, but they were not divided up politically. Leave it to the Soviets to create that mess.
A couple wierd experiences have come from taxi drivers. My taxi to Tashkent from Kokand broke down so I had to wait a couple hours while the driver fetched a replacement part (Is that a double failure?)
Another taxi driver forbid me to fasten my seatbelt. There seems to be a cultural bias against them. Apparently if you wear a seatbelt the police might think you are a rebel from Tajikistan!
Then, a couple days ago, I got propositioned by a gay taxi driver in Tashkent. I politely declined. Nevertheless, he gave me his phone number saying, “you want to sex, call me.” Right.
On to the photos.
Here we are in Kokand. This park was swarming with people of various ethnicities. I love the long flowing colorful dresses the Muslim women wear.
A balloon saleswoman.
Some faces in the crowd.
Washing tea pots. This is where our taxi broke down. I spent a couple hours in this cafe chatting, drinking tea, and taking photos.
In Tashkent I saw these two girls and asked to photograph them. The one on the left seems to be thinking, “get lost creep.”
Some photos of the bazaar in Tashkent. This guy was selling nuts and dried fruit.
I bought these pasta things covered in tomato sauce and onions. Tasty but I got sick the next day. I need to quit buying this stuff from street vendors. Hygiene here seems pretty poor.
A couple old women strolling in Tashkent.
A couple of school girls. One obviously is a strict Muslim while the other not. I found the contrast interesting.
A Muslim family on the street.
Some school kids goofing off.
Uzbekistan has some great Muslim architecture, especially in Samarkand and Bukhara. But there a couple nice medresses (Muslim schools) , mosques and mausuleums in Tashkent.
I am just hanging out in Tashkent, waiting for my Azerbaijan visa. The whole visa thing is so stressful. You really need to plan 2-3 countries ahead to figure out where you can get the next one, the dates, etc. What a pain. It will be good to ride again.
Next stop, Samarkand.