You want mechanical bits? They have mechanical bits. Electronic bits too.
You want cookware? They have cookware. They even have big cookware.
How about other round things? There’s lots of round things.
Clothes? Strangely foldable Soviet memorabilia? A whole bunch of stuff? It’s all here. Along with (mostly) full warehouse spaces.
One thing you’ll see, particularly on the weekends, is people setting up their own stalls.
I’d like to think they’re just cleaning out the house or reselling something they bought at another flea market, but, in few cases, I got the feeling they were selling whatever they could to keep the lights on.
Every day, all day, bakeries are pumping out huge round loaves of bread. But this ain’t no Wonder Bread operation. All the loaves are made by hand, stamped with a pretty design in the center, and sprinkled with seeds.
Then it’s one guy’s job to stick his head into a hot brick oven to slap the flat loaves onto the walls. Over and over.
Fortunately, no one has to use his hands to get the hot loaves out.
Heck, with the paddle, it looks easy, and not like you’re baking your face and hands into shoe leather.
After three days in Samarkand, we were ready to take the train to our next stop on the Silk Road, Bukhara. As we were rushing to board, however, Abby slipped off the (single, very high) step leading into the compartment. Instead of falling to the platform, she fell backward directly onto the tracks and fractured her skull. She was insensible for perhaps the most frightening 10 minutes of my life, and about 20 minutes after that we were in an ambulance headed straight to Samarkand’s finest hospital.
We stayed there a few nights while Abby recovered. While there were no amenities apart from a private room with its own washroom, the medical personnel were very attentive, and they took good care of Abby (apart from the ENT doctor who missed seeing the wad of cotton jammed up in her ear canal for two days). They also wouldn’t take a penny from us for her treatment. When Abby felt ready, we discharged ourselves and went to rest in Tashkent before proceeding to London on medevac for follow-up consultations.
So, what’s to see in Tashkent? Markets, of course!
First we have Chorsu Bazaar. Basically, if you eat it, they sell it.
The real action is in the central building, which was built in 1980.
Yes, this next post was supposed to be about markets, but I haven’t exhausted my supply of Samarkand-based puns yet.
These are photos from the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis. According to Wikipedia,
The name Shah-i-Zinda (meaning “The living king”) is connected with the legend that Qutham ibn Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, is buried here. He came to Samarkand with the Arab invasion in the 7th century to preach Islam. Popular legends speak that he was beheaded for his faith but he didn’t die, took his head and went into the deep well (Garden of Paradise), where he’s still living.
We recently went to Samarkand, Uzbekistan to visit friends who were working in Tashkent. Samarkand was to be our first stop on a tour of the major Silk Road cities. Let’s see what Samarkand has to offer.
The festival of Gai Jatra is a day in which people mourn relatives who have died in the past year. It is similar to Halloween, in that it is a day for the dead and children dress up in costume. Specifically, they dress as cows, or paint on mustaches: “Gai Jatra” means “cow festival,” and it originated in the 17th century as the king’s attempt to console and amuse the queen after their son died. (In Hinduism, the cow is the symbol of motherhood.) The tradition caught on, and every year, children and their families parade through the streets carrying memorials of their loved ones while dressed in fun outfits.
In Kathmandu, Gai Jatra includes an additional Halloween-like tradition, in that the children receive gifts of food from festival attendees, presumably because a mourning family isn’t going to cook for itself. For some families, marching bands are also part of the cortege.
In Bhaktapur, it’s a whole different story. Instead of cows and kids, families build enormous towers bearing the portrait of the deceased, and young people parade through the city performing a dance, called ghintang ghisi, in which they arrange themselves in two long queues and hit sticks together. By the end of the day, the processions attract an enormous crowd.
Day 3 began at 4:45 AM when we woke up, pulled on our heaviest clothing, and began our hike up Poon Hill to catch the sunrise. Poon Hill rises to 10,531 feet above sea level. (Granted, we were starting at about 9,430 feet.) Abby remarked that, in Nepal, this is called a “hill,” while in the U.S. east of the Mississippi, people would call it a “mountain.” Maine’s Mount Katahdin is 5,269 feet high. Vermont’s Mount Snow is 3,586 feet. And Georgia’s Stone Mountain? A piddling 1,686 feet.
Come on, people.
Anyhow … as we neared the top, I turned around and saw this:
More photos, from the top:
Once we’d had our fill of the view, we went back down, ate, packed, and set off.
We arrived in Tadapani that evening. Tadapani is a tourist village built on the edge of the valley. There’s nothing to do there except eat and sleep, but it offers beautiful views of the sunrise if you get up early enough, which is what we did.
After that, we ate, descended the mountain, found our van, and went back to the airport to catch our flight home.
Back in November, we went hiking in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), a mountainous area about 100 miles northwest of Kathmandu that borders China. We spent four days hiking through the mountain region, completing about 40 km.
We flew into Pokhara and took a van to the entrance of the ACAP, and began our hike.
The village at the entrance, Nayapool, is filled with guest houses, tea houses, and restaurants, and there are many more such businesses throughout the park. Because of COVID, however, nearly all of them were empty while we were there. Sadly, the government had launched a “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign which incentivized a lot of proprietors to sink all of their assets into their businesses right before the country closed down …
After walking about 8 km or so—the guide went easy on us for the first day—we spent the night in a village called Tikhe Dhunga. It was very quiet, given that most of the buildings there are guest houses. On the other side of the river, our guide told us, there had been a late-night landslide in 2006, in which 28 people were killed. The next morning’s trek out of the village was very steep—up 4,000 stone stairs to the next village—and the first part was dotted with memorials where houses had been.
In the evening, after about 11 km of hiking, we arrived at our next stop, Ghorepani. We settled into a mostly empty hotel to spend the night in anticipation of waking at 5:00 AM the next morning to watch the sun rise—from Poon Hill, 1,150 feet up.
Next: Trudging 1,150 feet up Poon Hill to watch the sun rise, and what we saw after that.