The train to Samarkand was fine, and I gather that ‘Business Class’ meant that there were TVs in our compartment. There were six of us, three of which were children. One little girl offered me a cookie, which I accepted and enjoyed. The ride lasted over three hours, but then, there we were, in Samarkand. As the taxi drove me through the town to my hostel, I could see beautiful facades and towers of madrassas very near my hostel. And a surprise when I got to the hostel—-there were four parties that I had met at previous hostels. The Japanese dentist woman was there; also the American girl and the Swiss boy; the Italian and the Brit; and an older Taiwanese man I had met at breakfast that morning. This often happens.
When I was getting on the train, it seemed that the train pulling in just then was not the right one. I asked a porter who was handling six bags. He looked at my ticket and indicated that I should follow him. (No English) He proceeded to put all six bags up into the train; then motioned to me to come up; and then he went down the other side, hauling all six bags with him on to the platform on the other side—-so I did the same. Yes, OUR train was on platform two, and now we could board.
When I got off the train it was raining a bit, but it quit about the time I met these women, who were full of high spirits. I took a picture of them and so they all had to see that (on the back of my camera) and again, were very excited by my being American.
This brought me to three Madrassas that are very near my hostel. The one on the left was built in 1420; the other two in the 1600s. I was excited to see them in more detail the next day. And, of course, there are many more of them. Look at the size of them relative to the people that are standing near.
My second day in Samarkand I really covered a lot of ground. I saw a ton of mosques, madrassas and mausoleums. This mausoleum was built in the 15th Century for the main wet nurse at Timur’s (Tamerlane) Court. It has a double dome.
All of these have been restored, of course. There were pictures of how they looked before work was done.
Ulugbek, Timur’s grandson, was a ruler, but also a scientist. In the 1400s he built an observatory to follow the stars and planets. The curved arc of the astrolab of the observatory was uncovered by archeologists some time ago.
These little girls weren’t so lucky. They were barefoot, and seem to be foraging in the trash for salvageable items.
Setting out one morning to see some more, this is the view of the Registan from my B&B. I had looked at these three madrassas on my first day here, but this day I took the time to enter them and see what they were all about.
The third madrassa in the Registan had a carpet operation going inside of it. Two young women were tying knots a mile a minute, and three men were overseeing the operation and trying to sell the carpets.
Then I took a city bus going in the direction of the statue of Amir Timur. Timur, is who we call ‘Tamerlane.” He was a successful warrior and conquered much of Persia (now Iran), Turkey, Uzbekistan, and even India. Samarkand was his home base. Clearly he is respected in these parts. The statue of him is a focal point of the city. I got off when I saw the statue, and took a bit of time photographing and studying it. The bus leading to it was pretty full, but fun.
From the statue, I walked to Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum, where Timur is buried, along with two sons and two grandsons (including Ulugbek). There are also a couple of teachers buried there, too. These mausoleums are really gorgeous, and have been beautifully
restored. This one was built in 1404 by Timur for his grandson, and prospective heir, but the grandson died in 1403, initiating this building. The following year, Timur died unexpectedly in Kazakhstan when he was on his way to invade China, and so was also buried here.
The dark green (looks black) jade sarcophagus is Timur’s; the
others are the sons, grandsons, and teachers. Several people were saying prayers here, considering it a holy place.
At another of the madrassas, a restorer was diligently working his trade, with a tiny paintbrush. Can you imagine what time and resources go into keeping up all these monuments? But clearly the local
My last day in Samarkand, I hired a taxi to take me 90 km to the town of Shakhrisabz, Timur’s hometown. When I offered $20 American, lots of drivers wanted to take the job—-maybe that was a bit generous?
We started out; the first stop was the bread ladies. Six women swarmed around me opening the car doors; the driver bought two loaves. On to the next—-he had been making phone calls all along; we stopped right along the highway and a man jumped over the median divider—-my driver got out and the other man gave my man some money. On to
Shakhrisabz. On the way I caught this view of snow-covered mountains, which was a surprise because the area around Samarkand is very flat.
From there I got an electric little bus to see the Kok-Gumbaz Mosque and Dorut Tilyovat. There are some more notables buried under the two smaller domes; the bigger dome is the mosque. This was all built in 1437.
There were more tombs and a crypt—-this time I made it down and up under my own steam, unlike the other day when it looked too scary and I went and got the young man ticket seller to take my hand going down, and also to help haul me out! The Crypt was built for Timur, but he died unexpectedly and is buried in Samarkand.
When I was through ‘looking,’ I walked back to where I had been dropped off. There was a row of cars, and the first white car seemed like ‘mine,’ with the driver smiling at me and greeting me—-I assumed it was he. I got in and at that point the driver put out his hand to shake mine; I did, but then he leaned in for the cheek-left and right greeting and that didn’t seem like my driver! And the interior of the car didn’t look quite familiar either. So I got out and walked a bit further down the way and there was my driver with the green shirt and white car! Well, you don’t get a very good look at the driver when you’re sitting beside him.
On the way back to Samarkand we again saw my five hostel mates that were on bicycles, which we had seen on our way to Shakhrisabz, bicycling up those big hills. When they left the hostel during breakfast, I didn’t realize they were going my way. So they had been pedaling all the time we drove to Shakhrisabz and were still pedaling to get there when we were driving back. They were a Dutch middle-aged couple, a German, a Frenchman and an American girl from Indiana.
Yesterday morning I took the train back to Tashkent, did a bit of shopping at the Chorsu Bazaar, along with linner, went to bed early, got a 4:45 AM flight out of Tashkent, and now (Tuesday evening) I’m Home!!
Yes, it’s always fun to go, but it’s always fun to get back home!