Sunday 14 September 2014
On the train.
That I only just made it to the train (by 15 minutes), despite having all day to make it from one side of the city centre to the other, and despite not really having done much today of note, says more about me and my style of travelling than anything else I suspect. I could blame my erstwhile fellow travellers Jim and Paul for distracting me with walking around Chorsu Bazaar failing to find anything other than shashlik to eat this evening, but let’s face it, I bring it on myself most of the time. Especially since I decided to jog there rather than the more practical option of taking the direct metro, a bus, or even a taxi. Tashkent is evidently one of those cities that looks smaller on a map than it really is. The other downside with this plan is that I never got a chance to get more water; I’m going to be incredibly dehydrated tomorrow.
They (being an American and a Brit living in Germany) arrived in the hostel today, as I was pondering what else to do with my time – my train was at7.30pm so I was just idly pottering by. I’d made the decision not to do that much today, given it was still very hot and that I’d obviously have to come back to the hostel anyway to pick up my bag in good time.
Ended up spending most of the afternoon with them, grabbing some food, then wandering around the local area, into a medressa and a mosque, and just generally chatting.
I’ve noticed this more on this section of the journey than anywhere else, except maybe East Timor/Indonesia. Apart from a couple of specific chatty backpackers, many of the hostels I’ve been to on this whole world tour have been either full of party people, or full of people who either keep themselves to themselves, or who just stay in their own little groups/cliques. Whereas here in Central Asia, most of the time I’ve ended up being ‘distracted’ by other travellers.
Maybe it’s a particular type of person who visits these places; a different kind of traveller/backpacker to the one who visits European culture or Australian cities.
I did go out in my own before they arrived, to the architectural extravaganza that is Khast Imom – a series of Islamic buildings (including a mosque, medressa, mausoleum, and library) near the hostel on the North edge of the city. It’s basically the centre of Islam in Uzbekistan – similar to Canterbury cathedral would be in England.
While the area is undoubtedly spectacular in terms of visual appearance – it’s all sparkly-clean, in a pretty square, the sun reflecting off the blue mosaics that cover the whole buildings – one can’t help but feel it’s ‘too new’, too ‘sanitised’, if that makes sense.
Had a reasonable sleep last night; I don’t expect to tonight though. I’m in the upper bunk, and I can’t sit down on it because I bang my head on the luggage rack bunk above –you get far more space in the lower bunks. It does feel like it’s a reasonably comfortable train though. It’s also pretty long (and is even named – it’s the ‘Amu Darya’) – I’m in coach 14 which was a fair way along the platform; it’s by no means the last coach – I think there might be about 18 in total.
As I was passing coach 8, the guard there said ‘coach 14 is a but rubbish, if you pay a bit extra you can go in this one, it’s much better’. No thanks.
There was some security at the station – I had to show my ticket and passport before I could even enter the building, and then again at the airport-style x-ray machine/metal detectors. I’ll say though that this level of security is nowhere near what exists in Israel.