After only two weeks of work I was given a week of vacation. The perfect chance to explore more of Tashkent and take a quick weekend trip to visit Samarkand and Urgut!
Getting to Urgut, Uzbekistan
This past year Uzbekistan put in it’s first high-speed rail train, Afrosiyob. The route travels from Tashkent to Samakand, and the trip that use to take 4-5 hours now takes only 2. A round trip ticket is about the equivalent of $60.
I arrived in Samarqand around 10 am and quickly sifted through the hoards of pestering taxi drivers that prey on you as you leave the train station. I walked a block away from the station and found a calm spot where I could more easily sort out how to find a driver to take me to Urgut.
Urgut is a small town at the base of the Tajikistan Mountains, about 40 km from Samarkand.
A lot of weed goes through Urgut, but that’s not why I was going. Urgut is also known for beautiful handicrafts and a garden, Chor Chinor, with the oldest planted trees. I later found out that Chor Chinor means “four big trees”.
After a few failed attempts at getting anyone to understand why I wanted to go to a small city 40 km AWAY from the Samarkand, the tourist hub of Uzbekistan, I finally found a young man willing to take me there and back for a bargain. Sherry. He later became a very useful guide (and friend) for navigating Samarkand.
The road to Urgut was bumpy, it maybe felt even more bumpy because I drank 4 cups of tea on the train ride. Woops! We passed cows roaming the streets and people riding donkeys. Women were selling fruits and vegetables on the side of the street. As we got closer, people’s clothes started to look more traditional. Until then, I had been only in Tashkent which is a city of almost 3 million people. It’s been easy for me to blend in. Samarkand and Urgut have a lot of Tajik people and I begin to stick out more and more the closer we got to Urgut.
The first stop in Urgut was to a pottery shop. When I walked into the family’s house, the grandfather quickly hurried me into the basement to show me his kiln and a poster showing his family tree. He didn’t speak any English but I could tell by the pointing and smile that he was very proud to show me that the craft went back in his family to the early 1600s.
After buying a few things, barely exchanging words, but sharing a few awkward laughs, he decided it was a good idea to invite me to his son’s wedding next week. I think I like how things work around here. A party seems to mean everyone is welcome! I asked for someone to show me where the gardens are and he agreed to come along. It was Friday and, as the country is predominately Muslim, it was their day of worship. He came anyways as their is a mosque next to the beautiful gardens.