At long last, I’m feeling well enough to provide an update. Today is my last day in Uzbekistan, and I’ve spent most of it in bed, trying to recover from a pretty terrible stomach bug. As I did a tally of the possible culprit meals, I’ve come to the conclusion that a salad that I ate the night before leaving Bukhara is most likely to blame. Although I vaguely remember hearing that I should not eat salads because they are most likely washed in contaminated water, I stupidly succumbed to temptation. Unfortunately, now that I’ve learned my lesson, it’s a little too late.
I have some mixed feelings about leaving this part of the world. Tomorrow, when I arrive in the Thracian part of Istanbul, I’ll be venturing into Europe for the first time on this trip, albeit the easternmost extreme of the continent. I have a feeling that I’m in for somewhat of a cultural shock. Although some of the experiences that I faced as someone who was obviously a foreigner in this region were annoying, and even troubling, I’ve grown accustomed to them, and might even miss them. Although I don’t exactly look Turkish, I think that the days of children running up to me, and begging me to take their photographs are over. Gone, too, I’m guessing, will be the big smiles, and friendly “Hallo!” as I casually walk down the street, and the excited offer for a cup of tea. But, I don’t quite know what Istanbul will bring me, and that’s part of the excitement.
One thing is certain, I am not looking forward to my 6:00 AM flight, for which I need to arrive at the airport at 3:00 to face the outrageously complicated customs process at the airport. It has been drawn to my attention that I did not declare everything that I should have, including medications and my Kindle, when I arrived here. The customs forms were somewhat unintelligible, and I have no idea what difficulties I will face when trying to leave. I only hope that I am able to get out of here, and that I am not slapped with exorbitant fines.
The photos from a couple of days ago are posted below. Just as a primer, the night before these photos were taken, I ended up having dinner with a German motorcyclist who was a dead ringer for Tim Robbins’ character in “High Fidelity.” I was about to dine alone, but the waiter ended up seating me with him. He recently sold almost all of his possessions, bought a BMW motorcycle, and set off from Koln. He’s planning on driving all the way to the eastern edge of Mongolia, and then heading back through Russia. As we finished up a pleasant dinner, he said, “So, I am waiting for you tomorrow at my hotel at 9:00, and we are spending the day together.” With that, I guess I didn’t really have a choice.
Alas, I have none for today or yesterday, as I was feeling too terrible to even think about taking a snapshot. Plus, other than a venture to the bank, and a successful solo black market exchange (I’m actually proud of this because the hotel bellhop who first helped me exchange money told me that there would be no way that I could get a good rate on my own), there is little new to report.
"See, they're McDonald's... I'm McDowell's. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds." A little quote for fans of "Coming to America."
The German motorcyclist and I took a trip to Bukhara's produce bazaar. Although these bazaars may all look the same in photographs, they have each had a unique character.
After I took this photo, this woman handed me a necterine. It smelled great, and I made it look like a took a bite, but I was afraid of getting sick, so I ended up throwing it out. Who knew that I'd get sick the next day?
The women who run the produce stands spend most of their time rearranging their goods to make them look absolutely perfect.
Uzbekistan is not a place for those offended by clashing patterns.
Apologies to those who are offended by the site of meat, but for documentation's sake, I had to show the butcher area of the bazaar.
Would you care for some chicken with your salmonella?
This woman's tripe stand was very popular.
Another friendly, but unsmiling Uzbek, this man runs a horse meat shop.
This butcher was hard at work on a large animal.
A little respite from all the meat, the sweets area of the bazaar had some treats that looked pretty good.
An old soviet classic
Off to the market!
I wonder how this truck cab got up there.
This somewhat funny-looking mausoleum is called "Four Minarets." I wonder where they got the name.
Bukharan neighborhoods are full of all sorts of pipes poking out in all directions.
Only noon, and the streets are completely deserted.
Another way to beat the heat, head to a hammam. This bathhouse is 600 years old, and still in operation.
The cavernous interior was composed of a series of interconnected domed rooms, lit from above by oculi. According to the proprietors, the water and floors are heated by "underground fires." My visit here will remain one of the architectural highlights of my whole trip. It was a little too foggy for photographs, however, and way too wet for sketching.
Most of the medrassas have been converted into craft shops.
One of the persistent scarf-salespeople who would not leave me alone, this woman and her mother also sold table cloths and ceramics.
I spent my last evening in Bukhara trying to soak up all of the details of the city. I'm headed towards a very different type of architecture in Istanbul.
On approaching the ornamental details, it becomes clear that every little niche is different.
A former Kazakh weightlifter, this guy invited us over to his table, which he was sharing with some old weightlifting buddies who have become Uzbek bigshots.
I never would have thought that these guides were former athletes, but they claimed to have been competitive weightlifters. The guy in the background is evidently extremely wealthy, and very well connected in this country. I was told to mention his name if I run into any problems. Hopefully this will come in handy at customs tomorrow morning.