Turkmenistan: Riding a Time Machine at an Archaeological Site

I met up with the tour Wednesday and have been on a hell of a schedule ever since.

Yesterday we caught a 7 am plane to Mary and returned to Ashgabat on the 7 pm plane. Mary is just next to Merv, a UNESCO archaeological sight. The ruins can be traced back to the 7th century BC when the area was first settled by the Zoroastrians. It was then taken over by the Greeks, the Mongols,and eventually the Russians in the middle of the 19th century so we've once again been taking a rapid ride on a time machine. You can still see the walls of the first settlement. In fact, I climbed one of them.

One marvelous aspect of this tour is that there are local guides who are extremely knowledgeable. In addition these local guides are able to get local specialists to provide lectures. We went to a rug museum yesterday here in Ashgabat and a charming researcher provided the lecture and tour. She usually doesn't provide tours but agreed to do this. She was especially good in that her mother had been a rugmaker. She had me sit beside her at a loom and then provided me with my first lesson in knot making. I was all thumbs. In another area of the museum we joined her inside a Yort where she talked about how the nomads had lived, made use of the rugs for sitting and sleeping and how they had entertained themselves with musical instruments. One of the members of our tour group, John, is a retired professor of music at Illinois State University and after a few plucks provided us with an example of the music of what he called a stick fiddle. This was a treat.

I need to sign off now. It is 7:30 in the morning, I've already had breakfast, my suitcase is outside my door waiting to be loaded, and the bus will be picking us up at 8:00 to go to the Sunday Bazaar and then on to the stables of the Akhal-teke horses and Nissa, the second archaeological UNESCO site in Turkmenistan before we board a plane to the North for the third UNESCO archaeological site.

More about the horses next time.

Filed under: Turkmenistan

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  • Is your life becoming a bit hectic? The woman who was working the rug loom - I would wonder how many years she has and will be doing that. Is such a profession considered at what we would call middle or working class? Does she support a family with her efforts? Is her position as an 'independent' worker or does she work for someone else? just curious.

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    Carolyn Boiarsky

    " I am an American," but not "Chicago born" like Augie March. Only Chicago aged. I'd like to think that if Henry Louis Gates were to investigate my geneology, he would discover in my past three women who traveled around the globe, chronicling their adventures. Sarah Kemble Knight traveled 112 miles by carriage from Boston to New York in 1704, a journey most women did not embark on alone (and men did so only with some trepidation). In fact, women were only just beginning to exercise their independence in the 1920's when Emily Kimbrough took off with her friend, Cornelia Otis Skinner, to explore Europe. But it is Auntie Mame, transforming herself from a New Yorker to the wife of an Austrian Baron and climbing the Matterhorn, whose mantra I have adopted. "LIFE IS A BANQUET...LIVE!" I began travelling in the 1960's when I traveled around western Europe between graduating from the Univiersity of Pennsylvania and my first job as a statehouse correspondent for UPI (United Press International) in Charleston, West Virginia, which was about as foreign a place as Europe was to someone who grew up in the environs of Philadelphia. Since then, I've also travelled to Kaunas, Lithuania, to teach at Vytautus Magnus University and to Sheffield, England, to present a paper at an engineering conference. I've been to the Alps and seen Auntie Mame's Matterhorn while climbing, by a series of cable cars rather than by foot, toward the peak of Mont Blanc. For the past 10 years my husband and I have been traveling to unique places: a sheep farm during lambing season in England's Lake Country, a hotel on one of the Barromeo Islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and a cottage in Dun Quin on the Dingle Peninsula which the Irish claim is the last parish before Boston. Between excursions, I'm a professor in the Department of English at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana,. My husband passed away recently and, Auntie Mame-style, I am in the process of transforming myself. Last year I joined a tour to Central Asia. This year I'm going to China to work with the pandas. A new adventure. Another banquet.

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