Friday, September 19, 2014


Splendidly, sensationally, superbly sublime Samarkand.

We caught an overnight train from Khiva to Samarkand a couple of days ago.  

We booked a VIP cabin (just two beds instead of the more regular four) as in those confined spaces a stranger who snores or has questionable hygiene can make for a night of hell. (My night trains in Ukraine are testament to that fact!)   The compartment was tight and not very luxurious. No room for luggage except on the floor by the door. But we were supplied with sheets and pillow cases.  

The train left at 15.20 and was due into Samarkand at 05.40 the following morning. I set my alarm for 20 minutes earlier.  

Soon after leaving Khiva the scenery turned to desert. And not a glorious sand duney type of desert redolent of Arabian Nights with camels and Bedouin tents, rather a scrubby grubby affair poor on the eyes. So we turned in early.  

I was woken with a start by Paul's slightly panicky shouts of 'we're here...we're here'   I leapt out of my bed and the two of us, in the best Jaques Tati fashion, frantically proceeded to try and gather all of our belongings; food, bags, toiletries, drinks, dignity, whilst trying to stay out of each others way. I shucked off my shorts and decided underwear would add to the delay and attempted to put my trousers on without any for the time being.

Bending over with trousers around my feet, the compartment door flew open and the conductor copped a face full when he came to check on us.   We scrambled out onto the platform with bags half zipped, clothes half dressed and collapsed onto the first platform seat in sight. I then had a chance to discover it was a little after 5am and the train had arrived 40 minutes early.  

While I continued to reorganise my belongings Paul wandered off to find the exit. Five minutes later I set off to join him when all of a sudden a shrill and loud 'cock-a-doodle-do' began to emanate regularly from my day pack. We had decided the night before that it would be fun to change the alarm to a cock crow - and it had just gone off.   Our hotel was fortunately awake at 6am and let us into our room to unpack and change. Then we were straight out to explore Samarkand.

Arriving at the Registan we were thrilled to discover there were no people anywhere. For half an hour we had the place to ourselves.   The buildings that make up the Registan are beautiful. Fantastic tile work and every part of it is ever so slightly out of alignment. We are in Wonkistan said Paul!  

Apart from the Registan we also visited several other sites in town including the Gur e Amir complex and Oq Saray both of which had incredible ceilings and breathtaking tile work.   The second day we hired a taxi and went about 90kms over some nearby mountains to a place called Shakrisabz the birthplace of Timur (or Tamerlane) a 15th century ruler. There are some really nice ruins here and good ice cream!

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