Day 84: Finally on the train again

Bukhara Travel Blog

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Maghoki-Attar, the oldest surviving mosque in Central Asia

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Kevin (USA)

So I had changed my plans a little. Rather than take the obvious route from Bukhara to Samarkand, I had decided to go to Tashkent instead and then sort of backtrack to Samarkand afterwards. In my mind it all made perfect sense.
First off, this would enable me to take an overnight train to Tashkent. Something I'd much rather did than another one of those taxi rides from hell.
Secondly, I had met a couple of Belgians in Ashgabat who were travelling from Belgium to Mongolia by car.

View over the bazaar
We had stayed in touch and we had agreed to meet up in Samarkand, from where I might be able to hitch a ride with them to Tajikistan. While it would mean I would have to miss out on the north-west of Tajikistan, it would also give me more time to cross the rest of the country, time which I might need to backtrack in case the Kyrgyzstan issue would not be resolved before I reach that border.
And even if this wouldn't help me with the Kyrgyzstan situation, at least it would be a nice experience to hitch a ride with two overlanders.

So this was a bit of unexpected efficient travel. While I had no intention of zipping through Uzbekistan the way I had done in Ukraine, it was nice to skip a hotel night and do some overnight travelling.

This gave me another full day to spend in Bukhara. I did another walk around the old centre and visited the carpet museum.
Kevin and I at Minzifa restaurant
The museum wasn't that interesting, but the building it occupied was! The building, the Maghokki Attar, has been a holy temple for at least 1500 years, starting out as a Zoroastrian temple in the 5th century, before being remodeled as a mosque in the 9th. The mosque saw further cosmetic changes in the 12th and 16th century and for some reason the street level rose significantly through the years, so the new structures were built on top of the old ones every time. Not unlike some of the churches built atop pagan temples in Rome.
The story behind the place was nicer than the place itself. The museum displaying carpets and prayer mats was a bit dull and rather resembled a souvenir shop.

I bumped into Kevin again and we went for a bite to eat at the Minzifa café, where I'd had lunch yesterday as well. This is a lovely place with an extensive menu which consists of a fusion of Uzbek, Russian and European dishes.
Small photo exhibition where they have a strange interpretation of the word "open"
We had a bit of a laugh when I ordered a local speciality: Jiz!

As it was too hot to do anything else, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the lobby of one of the more luxury hotels in town, breaking in to their wi-fi and updating my blog.

In the early evening I took a taxi to the train station, which is 10 kilometres away in the town of Kagan. I was happy to be on the train again. It was like the Trans-Siberian Railway all over again, with babushka's selling home made snacks on the platform. Uzbekistan still uses the antique Russian carriages which were left on their tracks when the Soviet Union fell. I was in for a shock though. These old carriages don't have air-conditioning! And the train had been standing on the shunting yard all day, so the carriages were steaming hot. And the fact that the train was completely full only added to the temperature. I'd not thought of this. All the trains I had taken so far had been in spring, when it wasn't too hot, and the two trains in Iran had had air-con.

As the train started rolling there was some mechanical air circulation, but each time we stopped the carriage immediately became unbearably hot again.
My fellow travellers were three very nice Uzbek men who didn't speak a word of English. However, they did understand the word “Golandia” very well. Holland was playing the quarter final in the football world cup tonight they all seemed to be rooting for my country.

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Maghoki-Attar, the oldest survivin…
Maghoki-Attar, the oldest survivi…
View over the bazaar
View over the bazaar
Kevin and I at Minzifa restaurant
Kevin and I at Minzifa restaurant
Small photo exhibition where they …
Small photo exhibition where they…
photo by: Vlindeke