Tashkent Uzbekistan

by budgettravelnotes on May 23, 2010

I’ve just spent a few days in Tashkent after entering Uzbekistan, and on my return from Burkhara.  One thing that’s immediately obvious is the distinct lack of visible tourists, which is quite a nice thing.  If you do see any the chances are they’ll be French, almost or already retired, and part of a tour group. The one thing we got asked a couple of times when sitting on our own were ‘no group?’.

I read recently (on the Uzbekistan Airways in flight propoganda, sorry magazine) that there are only around 400,000 tourists per year visiting Uzbekistan and the majority of these probably fly into Tashkent and get whisked off to Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, or at a push Fergana.

So who does that leave lingering around the backpackers haunts such as Gulnara Guesthouse?  Visa Hunters.  The majority of folk I met there were just that – waiting around for visas to be processed but they all had very interesting stories of where they had been, where they were going to (or trying to) and how they got here (overland, bike, van, motorbike, bus, train).  A very different and extremely interesting group.

Anyway, I digress…..so back to Tashkent.  What is there to see?  Not too much really but I’ll do my best to give an overview :

Chorsu Bazaar

This bazaar should definitely be on your visit list and the metro conveniently drops you right in the middle of it.  Enter the largest dome to get dried herbs and spices on the ground floor, and fruit and nuts on the top.  Walk around it to find vegetables, breads and lots more.  The meat stalls can be a bit of an eye opener – as usual there’s no refrigeration and you could see anything from standard meat cuts to heads and hoofs.

This is a good place to change money but don’t be too obvious as there’s a heavy police presence (like everywhere in Tashkent!).  If you stay at the nearby Gulnara Guesthouse then there’s buedget places to eat here.

Parks and Gardens

Tashkent’s a lovely city full of wide boulevards, grassy park areas and lots of flowers.  It makes a great place just for strolling around but I often got the feeling of just killing time.  Unfortunately some of the trees are being killed as well.  Stories abound about the government felling 300 year old trees in certain parks (such as Amir Timur square by Hotel Uzbekistan and others) so that new showcase buildings can be viewed from the surrounding area.  Whilst I was eating lunch under a terrace in a city centre park, trees were literally falling around us with about 6 chopped during lunch, and debris lying all around.  They paid no attention to diners either with one falling ten feet away!  Local embassies and international groups have apparently complained, sadly with no effect.

At weekends look out for wedding parties around national monuments like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – it’s a tradition to get wedding pictures taken by national monuments.

Museums and Galleries

There are several museums around Tashkent such as the State Fine Arts Museum, Art Gallery of Uzbekistan and the like’s but that’s not really my thing so I never visited any of them.

Metro Stations

If you’re used to the London Tube then you’ll be surprised that Metro stations are featured, but if you’re in Tashkent you really should use them as it’s so easy.  Each station is different and with it’s own unique Soviet style decor so it’s worth stopping at a few of them, or at least popping your head out of the doors at each stop.  Don’t take photos, and I never got any hassle from the police like some older guidebooks mention.  It’s 500 Sum (around 25-35 cents US) for each journey, regardless of how long you’re underground (e.g. how many stations you get off at without surfacing).

Day Trips to Chimgan

You can easily do a day trip to Chimgan in either a minibus or shared taxi.  I heard of some hiring a taxi for $60 which is over the odds.  Unfortunately this trip was a bit disappointing as there’s very little to do once there apart from take a ten minute trip to take you a few hundred metres up the mountain on an old chairlift for 8000 Sum return ($4).  At the top of it there’s no walking either as a fence blocks any paths off.  There’s nice views of the mountains though.  Unless I missed something obvious I can’t understand why this is an expensive place to stay overnight.  There are bound to be trails taking you closer to the snowline but it would take a good while to do any decent treks.

I hope that’s given you some background on Tashkent.  Many people there never felt it was worth more than a day or two, but it’s a nice place to wander around.  If I’ve missed anything obvious, please let me know in the comments.

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