From Khiva to Bukhara, Uzbekistan

I want to catch you up on some of my travels as I have been unable to transfer these stories from Word to the internet until now. Here is the blog I wrote traveling from Khiva to Bukhara.

I am writing from the bus on a very bumpy road from Khiva to Bukhara. The ride will take abt 11 hours. Right now we are all reading or writng but the road is supposed to get even bumpier so I imagine we will eventually stop and start playing games of geography or something interewsting.

In  the meantime I will fill you in on the last few days. Our tour guide has been able to wangle some very unique experiences,. Yesterday in Khiva we had a private showing of a local trapeze troupe,. They set up their mobile trapeze in a courtyard in the old city where we were staying. The old father played the musical accompaniment on a sorna, an oboe-like instrument,while the two sons performed acrobatics on the high wire, standing on ea ch other's shoulders, on each other's head. Then came the little girl, riding across the wire on her father's shoulders, proudly waving to her adoring and willdly applauding audience.

We have just passed an area with Poplar trees surrounding a home and our guide has informed us that this is a sign that there are boys in that home The tradition is to plant 40 Poplar trees when a boy is born. The wood is good for building houses so that when the boy grows up he will have enough wood to build his famiy a house. All the boys are expected to build their own homes except the youngest son. He inherits his father's house but he is also expected to take care of his parents in their old age.

We have heard many tales of such traditions as we've traveled. It's been interesting how we've heard similar ones in several countries.

There is the one about the minarets.

A prince fell in love with a princess who was already married, But he loved her  so he asked  her to marry him anyway. She refused but this did not stop him. He kept asking until she agreed, but with one stipulation--that he build the highest minaret in the world. When he was finished, he came to her to claim her but she gave him one more stipulation--he  must jump from the window  of the minaret. He did, and so she was through with him.

In a more romantic variation, she loved him  so much that when he jumped, she followed to be with him forever. (A touch of Greek). And in a variation on that version, when she jumoped she was wearing 40 petticotes and parachuted to safety.

Here is another story.

In Khiva a builder started to build the largest minaret in the world, but he never finished it. Some said it was because one of his workers learned that the King planned to kill the builder once the minaret was completed so the builder would not become more famous than he. When the builder learned this, he began to buid very slowly. But this also angered the King so he had the buider put to death.

A more feminist version, according to our guide’s grandmother, was that the builder was using the minaret to look over into the harem. The king found out and had him killed.

We have just passed a cemetery.  The graves are quite different here, unlike any in the US and, actually, unlike any in other parts of Uzbekistan. The graves here are above ground because of the high water level. They look like 2/3 of a barrell lying horizontally on the ground, covered in the adobe mud used here to build the homes, in a fashion very remiiniscent of the Southwest In the Unted States.

Because this area is an oasis, water is available . Every building in the Old Town has a well. (We still could not drink from it because of different bacteria in the soil, but our  local guide took a long drink. We have been unable to drink water, even going so far as brushing our teeth with bottled water. We were actually warned to make sure we kept  our mouths closed in the shower. And unless fruit and tomatoes are peeled, we were told we should not eat fruit or salads. We have all been salivating over the grapes and salads placed on our tables that remained untasted. However I accidentally used tap water to drink after taking a pill and I have had no problems. Perhaps we're being over cautious, especially in a five satr hotel (although the hotel we've been staying at in Khiva is probably only 3 stars).

This country is very different from Ashgabat . There was obviously money in Ashgabat and it was obviously a country modernzing. But  this was a country designated by the Russians for agriculture and it appears it has continued this focus with little monetary reward. Cotton is grown here and rice which seems odd for a product that needs water and this is desert.  The people appear poorer. They are not in the colorful dresses worn by the Ashbagat women whom we saw even in the countryside.

In Khiva we stayed in the old city, It was within the walsl of the original town of the 17th century. Our tour took us from building to building, Palacse with its harems, mosques and madrasses (schools) , one of whichad been converted into our hotel. The entire area has been turned into a museum and for the first time on our trip we were meeting up with  other tour groups.

Along every street, in every buildinng are the traders, selling their wares of hand crocheted shawls of camel and angora wools, bleached white or dyed with natural coloring of grays, pinks and orchids. You can buy post cards, wooden bowls, blankets, and the steel-pointed wooden mallets for makinng designs in the bread. I bought  one  of the shawls for a friend and two puppets for my grandchildren.I also bought two of the bread designers for makiing designs in the Christmas cookies and grandchildren and I made every Christmas.

Our guide is now giving a lecture on the history of the region as we drive along. 3000 years ago the area was different from what it is now. It was between two rivers and like a marshland.

We are about to cross the Oxus River and then enter the desert. We stop for a train taking the one lane bridge to Karakolpakstan where we were when we first crossed over to Uzbekistan and went to the Sevitsky Art Museum, The train is simply the engine which allows us to enter the bridge fairly quickly. As Marty points out, it is the only bridge we have ever crossed that serves both cars and trains.

The road is becoming too bumpy so I will cease my writing.

Filed under: Uzbekistan

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  • Carolyn, the bumpy roads you describe remind me of trips I took in India in my youth! Those roads may not have been so merciless as the ones you are describing--but I do remember the pleasures of being sore all over! I hope there are reasonably decent rest areas where you can stop from time to time? Instead of talking about the landscape, notice that I am talking about the calls of nature . . . . not about aesthetics or economics but about bodily functions!!
    Mita Choudhury

  • I understand your references perfectly. And, yes, there have been rest stops. I definitely think skirts are easier than jeans but at this point I've got the crouch perfected; I no longer spray my jean pant legs.

  • I found this blog worthy and the stories are quite interesting, I think while travelling it is great fun to talk about particular traditions and tales.
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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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