Mirror in the Bathroom
Samarkand Travel Blog› entry 66 of 80 › view all entries
We travel first class on the "Sharq" train from Tashkent to Samarkand. The first class carriage has comforatable compartments that seat 4 but also a TV - under the control of the conductor - that plays loud Russian action movies. Nevertheless it is a pleasant way to travel.
I had not realised that Kathmandu backpacks were quite as sturdy as they obviously are. When preparing to alight I manage to catch my pack on the large mirror in the compartment snapping off a corner of the mirror. As soon as the conductor spots the damage I realise that I will have to buy my way out of trouble.
I pay the conductor but insist on some form of report or receipt. This soon escalates to involve the station police; the train and the conductor depart but I decide to hold my ground refusing to move on until someone provides me with a receipt for the money I have paid. At one point I have seven police plus the guy responsible for station maintenance, who speaks some English, all gathered in the station concourse, three of them frantically making calls on their mobile phones. This must be the most exciting thing that has happened at Samarkand station for a while. Eventually we go with two of the police to the office of what appears to be a manager of Uzbekistan railways who refunds me my money on the condition I will make no complaint about Uzebekistan railways, Samarkand station or the police.
Samarkand is one of the old silk road cities. The sights here are really are staggeringly beautiful particularly in the soft evening light. In the 16th century the city was the capital of Timur's central asian empire and he started a building program and a style that has continued to this day. The highlight in Samarkand (there are several so it really is a matter of personal preference) is for me the Registan; three Medrassas (or Islamic schools) that were build between the 16th and 17th centuries. Their blue tiles and leaning minarets provide the perfect postcard picture.
Timur's grandson Ulugbek also ruled but is better known as a pioneering scientist. His observatory was discovered in 1908 and remains one of the great archeological finds of the 20th century. But there are so many great things to see here: Timur's Grand mosque, the street of royal tombs and Timur's own mausoleum. The old city was destroyed by Ghinggis Khan but there has been some archeological work and the results are very well displayed in the Afrosiab museum - a joint Uzbek French setup.
I think I'm really beginning to like Uzbekistan even though it can be a little crazy at times.