Silk Road Day 6: The amazing Samarkand

Day 6: Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

This morning we said goodbye to our Bukhara hotel and hopped on the bus for a five hour drive to Samarkand. On our way we saw lots of people with donkeys on the side of the road, one of which was pulling a cartload of six men at a walking pace. At that point, why not just walk?

We stopped for a quick bathroom break and disregarded the toilet signs that indicated we were entering the men’s restroom. Patricia, as always, vetted the toilets first. Her reaction after peeking in each stall, was as follows:

1st: “oh my god, this is so disgusting!”
2nd: “oh ew gross”
3rd: “ugh. Well this one isn’t as bad as those, I’ll use this one… but I’m not touching the door to shut it, so don’t let anyone in.”

Eilidh followed in shortly after and I just decided to wait until the next stop. When the guys in the group left their restroom, we realized that they went in the women’s and we accidentally went in the men’s. The women’s room was apparently slightly cleaner, but still pretty bad.

Once we arrived in Samarkand, we stopped for lunch. This time it was more broth soup with meat, potato and carrot as a starter, followed by three large buckets of roasted chicken on the bone for the entire table.

We checked into the hotel, and I had another night with a room to myself, as Yvonne left yesterday and my new roommate, Anne, won’t arrive until tomorrow. The room had an absurd amount of lighting options. There was a small chandelier, lighting under the ceiling molding, and spotlights on the walls, along with lamps beside the beds. Switching on the lights to the room was like operating the Apollo spacecraft. The hotel required us to return the keys every time we exited the hotel, which was something I haven’t experienced before. Most likely they’ve had dumb tourists leave with their keys on so many occasions that they just don’t trust them with us anymore.

Off we went to the Registan, which is a plaza of a few madrassas with shops and a museum. On one building, there is a mosaic of two ligers, or lion/tiger hybrids. Bek explained that religious buildings can’t depict real animals, so they instead have odd animals or animal hybrids that don’t exist. However, now I’m pretty sure ligers exist, but they didn’t bother to update the fine tile work from 1636.

In one of the buildings, it was covered in gold leaf all along the inside. In another, there is a false second floor to give the impression of more classrooms than were built. In one of the buildings, the classrooms have been converted into small shops. The doors are super small, so we joked that you’d have to limbo into them…which we did… and entertained the vendors with our weird behavior. Some of the shops sold absolute junk, like Pepsi keychains or other items that had nothing to do with the region or the site. Some shops, however, had beautiful tablecloths that are traditional to Samarkand. In one of those shops, a little girl who was about eleven years old spoke to us in amazing English and told us all about the hand-embroidered tablecloths, which took a fourteen year old girl about five months to stitch.

When we rejoined the group in the plaza of the Registan, Calvin was busy taking pictures of the remainder of the group in panorama mode. For those of you who haven’t taken a panorama before, you do it on a smart phone and hold down the camera button as you move the camera in a panorama. When you do this, not everything is in the shot all at once, so once the camera passes a person, you can have that person move to the part that hasn’t yet been captured, resulting in the person appearing multiple times. Calvin posted his pictures up on the blog, and we took about twenty of them,
switching our accessories and poses to make them extra goofy. The locals flocked around us after a while, drawn to our chaotic photo shoot that required us to run around in circles while making quick clothing changes. It was probably the most fun group time we’ve had so far.

We then toured the Amir Temur mausoleum before heading back to the hotel.

Our dinner was just down the street from the hotel at one of the nicest places we’ve been so far. We had an entire room to ourselves with two large tables beside a fireplace. We had a potato soup, but unlike our previous potato soup, this one was blended into a purée and similar to those from back home. There were large trays of Russian potato salad on the table along with pickled carrots and beets. Our main dish was a lamb stew with chickpeas and rice, and dessert was a blueberry pastry. We finished it off with some mint and blueberry hookah.

We stopped at a convenience store on the way back to the hotel to grab some drinks and I think we caught the convenience store off guard by entering without greeting him and immediately demanding vodka. After grabbing two large bottles of vodka for less than $4 USD, we headed back to the hotel to hang out in the basement, getting free back massages from Remi until it was time to go to sleep.