Category: Central Asia

My second visit to Central Asia in 2008 started in Kazakhstan and brought me from there to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. As I needed to see something else besides Central Asia I finished the trip in India, my plan to visit Pakistan unfortunately failed. By the time I got to Uzbekistan I was short on time and treated it more like a transit country. I still could not withstand the temptation to spend a bit of time in beautiful Samarkand with its amazing Islamic monuments like the Registan ensemble, the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum or the graves at Shah-i-Zinda. […]

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The Pamir Highway is a dream journey for many travellers, a road that for hundreds of kilometres runs above 3,500m of altitude and reaches 4,655m at its highest point. The road has a military origin, in the 1930s the Soviet Union embarked on its construction to support its claims on the territory. The landscape is barren, winters are long, the sun bright and the wind strong. In fact, before the road there were no permanent settlements in the whole east of Tajikistan but the road needed workers, needed repairs, needed soldiers to guard it, and all these people needed food, needed housing and now a small number of people lives in an area that is immensely beautiful but honestly not well suited to human habitation. […]

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Due to a lack of public transport I arrive in Karakol on the back of a vegetable truck late in the night coming from Kazakhstan. In 2003, I arrived at night as well and I found it a rough place where I tried to get off the street as quickly as possible so I ask the driver to drop me at Vladimir’s hostel. He doesn’t know the town and after some fruitless search just tells me that this is the place I am looking for. I know it’s not and find myself alone at night in Karakol without having any clue where I am. I am scared. One house still has light and I just knock on the door. “Hello, I am a stupid foreigner and I have no clue where I am, could you please help me and tell me how to get to Vladimir’s place?” The hostel is not far. […]

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The city I am visiting is impressively big for just celebrating its 10th anniversary. Or at least this is what the Kazakh government wants you to believe. In fact, the place was founded 178 years ago under the name of Akmolinsk. Later it was known as Zelinograd and then renamed to Aqmola, a kazakhified version of Akmolinsk. As it was made the new capital city of Kazakhstan and the name changed to Astana it already had about 350,000 inhabitants. Since then, a new government quarter has been built and the population has nearly doubled […]

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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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