TWC'S Odyssey
Tan Wee Cheng's Travels in the Central Asian Republics of Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

24 - 26 Jul   Tashkent
24 Jul 98: Kokand - Tashkent

Two rounds of breakfast before going to the airport for the short flight (US$49) to Tashkent.  Touching farewell.

Tashkent - the green capital of Uzbekistan.  This is also Central Asia's most important political (and until it was upstaged by Almaty in recent years, commercial as well) city and transportation hub.  Most of what one sees in Tashkent today dates from the 1960's, when the city was rebuilt with the assistance of other Soviet peoples after the devastating earthquake of 1966 (7.5 on the Ritcher scale).  Today, locals can still point out to you neighbourhoods which were built by Moscovites, Ukrainians, Belarussians, etc.  Given the city's modernity, most visitors are not aware of its ancient past.

Tashkent was probably founded in the 5th century BC, and by the 7th century AD it had emerged as an important trading city of the Silk Road.  In 751, Tang Chinese forces executed the ruler of Tashkent, which provoked the recently-arriving Arabs to declare war on them, and eventually crush them at the historic Battle of Talas, which meant the expulsion of the Chinese from what is today former Soviet Central Asia.  By 1865, it was under the rule of the Kokand khanate and Russian Major General Mikhail Chernaiev took the city in a daring surprise dawn attack with only 1,900 men (compared with 30,000 Kokandi soldiers).  And with this, Tashkent became preeminant as Russian Turkestan's number one city.  In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution broke out and Tashkent soon became the capital of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.  The Civil War years were years of great trial for the people of Tashkent, with much cruelity and mayham imposed by the tyrannical Tashkent Soviet.  But these were the years of great adventurers and intrigue too - read about all these in "Setting the East Ablaze" by Peter Hopkirk.  In 1930, Tashkent deprived Samarkand of the honour of being the capital of the Uzbek SSR.

I spent the rest of the day walking around downtown Tashkent.  Visited the National History Museum (Interesting exhibits on Uzbek history.  Some English captions.) & the fountains nearby, Romanov Palace (built for Tsar Nicholas II but the unfortunate Tsar never got to stay there) and the Alay Bazaar (The largest I have seen in Central Asia so far.  Saw a row of ethnic Korean kimchi & desert sellers.)

My Uzbek visa. Flag of the former Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, founded in 1924, when Joseph Stalin, Commissar of Nationalities, carved up the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (together with the Khorzem and Bukhara People's Republics) into 4 ethnic republics.  Independence of Uzbekistan declared in 1991 upon collapse of the Moscow putsch. Stamp depicting the new flag of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Stamp depicting the coat of arms of Uzbekistan. Uzbek miniature sheet commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII.  Uzbekistan, as a member of the former USSR, made great sacrifices during the WWII. USSR stamps were overprinted in the early days of independence.
25 Jul 98: Tashkent

Met Nargiza, an Uzbek lady I knew over the internet.  Visited various in-town attractions, such as the Chorsu Bazaar (a huge crowded traditional bazaar), Kukeldash Medressa (after countless medressas in the other Uzbek cities, I no longer want to spend too much time here), Parliament House and the nearby lakes (lots of people having fun here under the summer sun), Palace of the Friendship of Peoples (look out for the monument commemorating the Uzbek couple that adopted 15 war orphans), Navoi Monument (wedding couples taking photos in front of the statue of Uzbekistan's national poet, Alisher Navoi), Abdul Khasim Medressa, the Fine Arts Museum and the natural springs nearby.  Had horsemeat soup for lunch.  Too tough for my liking.

Stamp depicting Timur, the revived national hero of the Uzbeks Uzbek 1 som banknote depicting the Tashkent Drama Theatre The Drama Theatre
Statue of Timur in the city central of Tashkent. Daewoo's bank: Daewoo has conquered UK ? Navoi underground station
26 Jul 98: Tashkent & Chirchik area

Early morning: Tried taking photos at the palatial underground stations of Tashkent.  Caught by policemen who told me that photo-taking was forbidden and they would confiscated my film if I were caught again.  After that warning, however, they let me off.  Almost thought I had to pay some bribes.  Thank goodness, that wasn't necessary.  It's a pity that they forbid phototaking in this beautiful metro system - so many carvings and statues in here.

Spent the rest of the day in the countryside with my hosts.  We were at the Chirchik area where lush green vegetable plots and wheat fields were flanked by snowcapped mountains.  Again, more hospitality.  Tried an exotic Tatar dumpling dish.  Took the 4 am flight the following day to Istanbul and London, and thereby ended my journey through Central Asia.

National History Museum: Map of Central Asia under the Russian Empire National History Museum: Map of Central Asia from the Bolshevik Revolution to before the formation of the Uzbek SSR
The statue of Sham Akhmudov and his wife, together with the 15 war ophans they adopted during the WWII.  Located in front of the appropriately-named Palace of the Friendship of Peoples.  With the disintegration of the USSR and the adoption of ethnic preference policies by many of the new governments, the previously close bonds between ethnic groups are fast disappearing. The brand-new Parliament (Ali Majlis) at Navoi Park.  Beautiful fountains, lakes and much greenery grace the park. 
Heart of the Silk Road 
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