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UZBEKISTAN | Wednesday, 18 March 2015 | Views [1247]

Spring is in the air, Tashkent

Spring is in the air, Tashkent

THE SOVIETS ARE GONE BUT THEIR MENTALITY lives on in Uzbekistan.  The visa process was just the tip of the iceberg.  Before landing in Tashkent we had to declare everything of value — cameras, lenses, ipod, Kindle, computer — and all our money — dollars, euros, lira and som — in duplicate and we must keep a copy for examination upon departure.  We will also need vouchers from every hotel and receipts for anything we purchase, all stamped with official seals.  Thankfully, our “handler” from Advantour guided us through the arrival bureaucracy and introduced us to Ali, our driver.


Then there is the money issue.  The “official” exchange rate for Uzbek “som” is 2500 per $US but everyone exchanges on the black market for 3500 and up.  The largest denomination, 5000 som is worth about $1.30 so the $100 our driver exchanged for us won’t even fit in my billfold!  The good news; lunch for the two of us and our guide cost 22,000, about six bucks.


mm     n

  Old Tashkent                                         Tilla Sheikh Mosque 

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    Pedestrian mall                                 WW 2 Memorial 

Tashkent is wonderful, a breath of fresh springtime air after the cold and snow of Bishkek.  The grass is green, blossoms are a-popping on the apricot and almond trees, everything is spic-and-span.  The capital reminds us a bit of Canberra with parks and monuments and even a serpentine river.  The Soviet-era apartment blocks have been refurbished and young couples can buy a flat for about $20K.  Spring cleaning was in full swing in preparation for Navruz, the spring equinox festival that is celebrated throughout Central Asia.  Gardeners were busy planting flowers in the parks while workers on scaffolds polished the monumental statues.  Along the pedestrian street local artists displayed many more paintings than they could ever hope to sell.

Old tashkent, by contrast, is a sleepy warren of narrow dirt paths that run between crumbling adobe walls and dry canals.  Inside the walls Uzbek peasants live life much as they have for centuries, refusing the government’s attempt to move them into more modern digs.  Some who have prospered under capitalism have built tidy modern villas amid the adobe, preferring the quiet traditional life to the bustle of modern Tashkent.






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