Category: 2003

Mad Dash Home: Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary In the autumn of 2003, I took a three-month trip travelling back to Germany from Hong Kong overland via mainland China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In mid-December, I had only reached Georgia and had to make a decision how to get back in […]

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I had kept an eye on the situation in Georgia for the last weeks. On the 2nd of November 2003, parliamentary elections had taken place that fell short of international standards. Protests started which had grown to impressive demonstrations by mid-November. It was unclear in which direction things would develop. On the 23rd of November President Eduard Shevardnadze finally annulled the results of the parliamentary election and stepped down. The Rose Revolution had won a first victory, a caretaker president took over and new elections (for parliament and president) had been called. I entered Georgia barely two weeks later on the 6th of December, things were calm. […]

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I arrived to Azerbaijan by bus from Tehran in what was and still is the weirdest bus ride of my life. It started normal, I came to the bus station, went to the company I had bought the ticket from and they pointed me to a bus. The weirdness started when I realized that I was to be the only passenger and not just for the beginning but for the whole journey. This normal-sized bus had two drivers but just one passenger. […]

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I arrive at the border together with a Turkmen doctor. Iran pays better wages. She is wearing a long skirt and a traditional Turkmen headscarf that covers most of her hair, she is wearing that at home in Turkmenistan and does not have to adapt to fulfil the clothing rules of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the country on this trip I am most looking forward to. I am curious how the strict, politically controversial Iran is looking from the inside. Clothes are one thing, female hair has to be covered, these rules also apply to visitors. We cross the border without pain and soon we sit in a taxi to Mashad. Before starting the driver pulls out a small screen, attaches it to the windshield and soon we are driving through the Islamic Republic with its clothing rules and scantily clad Shakira is dancing in front of me. Every time a police car comes into view, the driver takes the little screen down. I can’t believe it. […]

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As the Central Asian states were more or less pushed into independence with the break-up of the Soviet Union Turkmenistan was one of the first to positively embrace the new position. It had a small population but large reserves of natural gas. As in most other Central Asian countries with independence the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, Saparmurat Niyazov, took over as president. His vision saw Turkmenistan as the Switzerland of Central Asia, a small rich nation in the middle of things. It all went south from there. […]

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I visited Kyrgyzstan in 2003 on a three-month trip travelling back to Germany from China overland that also brought me to Hong Kong, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia before ending in a Mad Dash Home to make it back in time for Christmas.
I will cover Kyrgyzstan only briefly, I visited again in 2008 and have much better pictures from that trip. I’ll focus on the things that are peculiar to the 2003 trip. […]

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I had visited China for the first time the previous year. Whereas I was very happy about returning to Hong Kong I felt conflicted about China. On one hand a very interesting place, on the other hand I found it complicated, difficult and annoying. Because of this, I decided to spend little time there and cross quickly to get to Central Asia. I spend six days in Hong Kong and planned to spend the same amount of time to cross China to Kyrgyzstan, a distance, as the crow flies, of more than 4000km. Crazy idea but I was young and inexperienced. […]

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