Days 21 & 22: last train to TashkentSeptember 10, 2019 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C
It's my last day in Tashkent and I'm staying in a different part of the city, in Chorsu to the north-west. The guest house has a book exchange where I leave my completed Elizabeth George novel. There a wonderful quote in the book: "Why lay yourself on the torturer's rack of the past and future? The mind that tries to shape tomorrow beyond its capacities will find no rest." This was written by Rumi, a medieval Persian poet who may well have travelled in these parts. It's a good lesson which I strive, not always successfully, to emulate.
The guest house has a friendly atmosphere with a courtyard for socialising, where I meet a retired German couple who usually do their travelling by bicycle but are tackling Uzbekistan by car. They are sad that as they put it, "you are planning to leave us". I can't help agreeing with them and regretting the acrimony into which my country has descended. "Britain is becoming a banana republic," I say, with the footnote that if global warming continues, we'll soon be growing bananas in the Barbican.
Chorsu lies on the edge of a more traditional part of Tashkent and the largest market in the country. An attempt for creating order had been made by housing it in a collection of blue-domed rotundas, and it works. Anyone looking for a feel of how life on the Silk Road would have been, need look no further. Every product has its appointed post: fruit, nuts, vegetables, meat, honey---and that's just the food. One day isn't nearly enough to get a taste of it. On a seat outside I get a sneezing fit and a man next to me speaks into his Google Translate, which spits out "Be healthy". It's a nice approximation to "Bless you" but reminds me of a conversation with Kemol in Bukhara when his machine mistook my former occupation of accountant as "economist". How nice it would be to solve my country's economic doubts!
After an evening blast of horns from a wedding party, my final morning begins with the sound of a distant prayer call. I had planned to leave before dawn but Ravshan, the guest house owner, insists that only 2 hours are needed to check in at the airport, so he has very kindly arranged breakfast for 5.30. He is right: check-in is painless and there is even time to change by excess som back into US dollars.
So what do I bring back from Uzbekistan? A few unused som notes which are very decorative, the usual T-shirt and the usual fridge magnet. Plus hundreds of photos which will always endear me to this country. It is bravely opening itself up to tourism and the economy seems to be thriving (but what do I know?---I'm not an economist). I wish the people all the best, and also anyone who cares to visit them.Read more