June 14, 2008

Silk Road III Day 6: wandering in Bukhara

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Woke up early this morning and walked to the Registan Square by myself. The streets were pretty empty, with some people going to work early. The sun wasn't very high yet at this time, so it was pretty comfortable. I chit-chat a bit with the lone guard at the square, who was disappointed that I had already climbed up the minaret since this deprives him of the extra 4,000 Sum...

We are driving to Bukhara today. There is not much to see en route except the remains of one caravansari and sardoba, the supply stops of ancient caravans. Just before arriving in Bukhara, we make a quick stop and snap some pictures of the Vabkent Minaret. This is a very pretty minaret, one of a series built along the route of the caravans and used as lighthouses in ancient times.

Time for lunch again! We stop at Ismoil on the outer edges of town and sat out in the garden. Starting with the usual assortment of salads, we also had quail eggs for a change. When we saw the staff lift out a batch of roast lamb from the oven, we immediately decided to order up some. It was dry and crispy on the outside - very yummy and satiated our appetite for lamb. Afterwards we each had a little roast quail, and more quail eggs. For fruits we decided to go into the garden and pick apricots from the trees. They were not as ripe and sweet as the ones we bought from the market, but were still very delicious.

After checking into Hotel Zargaron right next to the Kalon Mosque, we went on a walking tour in the old town. Our hotel location was quite ideal, since it was smack in the middle of old town and within walking distance to basically everything. We walked through all three of the covered bazaars in the area - Taqi-Zargaron (jewellers), Taqi-Sarrafon (money changers) and Taqi-Telpak Furushon (cap makers). We even went inside a hammom to take a look, but decided that none of us could bear getting a massage inside a steam bath in this weather.

We took our time strolling through the narrow alleys of the old town, visiting the Jewish quarter with its synagogue, and examining the construction methods used by the locals. It's actually very interesting to be able to walk around in residential neighborhoods in an old city. We pass by Char Minar, with its four blue-domed minarets which symbolized the four daughters of the original builder.

We go back to the hotel for a quick shower and a break to drink some beer. We have finally lined up three cans in the Russian Baltika range - Nos. 3, 7 and 9. We do a taste test... No. 9 has the highest alcohol content at 8%, while No. 7 was probably the winner in terms of taste.

We stroll to Lyabi-Hauz and have dinner by the pool. Menu was pretty limited - in fact they didn't have any - so we ordered some beef and chicken. Apparently there are more Tajiks in Bukhara and they are not big on mutton! Unbelievable! The food was so-so but the shurpa was good, and came in individual ceramic pots. We call an early night and prepare for a full day tomorrow.

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