The Alisher Navoi Opera House is one of Tashkent's most picturesque buildings. It was originally built by Japanese and Korean prisoners of war in 1947 to the design of Shchusev, the man who built Lenin's tomb.

The journey from Kokand to Tashkent of 240 kms is up and over the mountains via a wide and well made road, but, apparently due to government restrictions on buses and other heavy goods vehicles using the road, our journey was made in a convoy of 4*4s, with 3 of us plus a driver in each. This steep road which connects the Fergana Valley with Tashkent runs via picturesque Kamchik Pass (2267 m. above the sea level).

The road regularly appears on lists of "the world's most dangerous roads", but on our crossing, the weather was like an old pussycat, and the scenery was sublime. The Kamchik Pass is frequently closed in the winter due to avalanche hazards. Mudslides and landslides are also threats to vehicles along the route and the nearby villages. In February 2015, the United Nations Development Programme announced it would help aid a disaster risk-reduction project for the Kamchik Pass. The plan is to improve an early warning monitoring system, emergency assistance and education for the people living in remote and rural disaster-prone regions nearby.

So on to Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan. It’s known for its many museums and its mix of modern and Soviet-era architecture.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Soviet government relocated factories from western Russia and Ukraine to Tashkent to preserve the Soviet industrial capacity. This led to a great increase in industry during World War II. The Russian population increased dramatically; evacuees from the war zones increased the total population of Tashkent to well over a million. Russians and Ukrainians eventually comprised more than half of the total residents of Tashkent. Many of the former refugees stayedon in Tashkent to live after the war, rather than return to former homes. Since then further changes in populations have resulted in the city today being 60% Uzbek, 20% Russian, and 20% a host of other groups

In 1966, much of the old city was destroyed by a huge earthquake (7.5 on the Richter scale). More than 300,000 residents were left homeless. The reconstruction created a model Soviet city of wide streets planted with shade trees, parks, immense plazas for parades, fountains, monuments, and acres of apartment blocks. At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tashkent was the fourth-largest city in the USSR and a centre of learning in the fields of science and engineering. Due to Soviet redevelopment following the 1966 earthquake, little architectural heritage has survived of Tashkent's ancient history. Few structures mark its significance as a trading point on the historic Silk Road.

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Lotte City Hotel Tashkent Palace

The hotel has had a deal of work done to it since I last stayed here in 2012. The "Soviet Era" hotel that existed then has been renovated and is now a passable 21st century hotel : and the staff have been trained to look after customers.The hotel has gone through a number of owners, including I understand Marriott in the past. Sanctions have kept out western owners. However the new owners have done a good job. The rooms are spacious and well decorated. If you have a front facing room, you have great views. Breakfast is good by Uzbek standards It is well positioned in the centre of town, and is, justifiably, the best rated hotel on TripAdvisor. It is certainly not perfect, but given that it is Tashkent, then worth staying at.

There was a problem with Norma here; having first fallen in the covered market during the day,she then collapsed in a hotel corridor near her room, and had to be taken to hospital, and was kept there overnight.

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Lunch in the park in Tashkent was very pleasant

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And a quick city tour, including the large modern covered market - here Norma disappeared, and was eventually discovered, having collapsed, in the care of local medics

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And after just the overnight stop, we moved west by train to Samarkand. John & Pam reappeared, having arrived from Kashgar late the previous night; John having made a miraculous recovery from his chest infection. Group back up to 14.

On to next town - Samarkand

Back to Overall Itinerary for Silk Road Trip 2016