Our first ancient Silk Road city today – Khiva. We picked ourselves up off the floor of Roma’s restaurant and after a spot of scrambled eggs and sausages we were dropped off at the trolleybus station. It was a fun ride, as we were 100% the centre of attention, but Uzbek people being a little shy, it took the middle-aged woman sitting to my right to break down the floodgates. After a small prod and some introductions, firmly establishing my proficiency in Russian at chou-choute, whatever that means, I was able to explain what we were doing on the bus and in Uzbekistan in general, and soon it became a bit of a free-for-all of questions, photos and smiling and laughing. Uzbekistan is just the best.
Once we arrived in Khiva we split our time equally between wandering around gobsmacked by the ancient city, taking photos of incredible architecture, artwork and museums and being mobbed by people demanding a photo. Needless to sat we’re on a lot of people’s cameras, probably labelled as ‘those hairy guys’. Khiva is a beautiful city, and I can’t do it justice in words or pictures – you have to go there and see. The thick walls extend all the way around the old city and the inside is a maze of mausoleums, mosques, museums, madrassas, minarets and other equally inspiring m-words. After spending an incredible afternoon in Khiva, we jumped back on the trolleybus, repeating our first journey – mainly with the attention and the photos again – and when we arrived back at Roma’s place we went back out to get more kebabs from the incredible kebab house, this time with his brother and cousin.
After our satisfying tourist day, we had an equally satisfying admin day in which: we were able to get my phone unlocked (turned out it already was); buy a SIM so we could have mobile internet in Uzbekistan; pick up our tickets to Samarkand from the station; and get our stuff together for our train journey. We bade goodbye to Roma around 3pm and trundled down to the station, eager to be off. It’s annoying that we don’t have enough time to cycle to Samarkand, but not much to be done about the strictness of Uzbek visas.
As we expected, the train was great fun again. Within minutes we’d made a bunch of friends, especially a guy named Ergash, who bought us some beer, fed us some bread and talked with us until it was time to pass out. The trains in Uzbekistan really are just wonderful. People recommend the compartments, but I loved being able to sit in a small community of people, forced into intimacy by our shared space and enjoy each other’s company – all with no shared language. As night came, I lay my head alongside an open window and felt the breeze from the desert cool me as I passed of to sleep.