Friday, April 10, 2015

Bukhara. Last Moments.

Wall hangings at our hotel.  I wanted to get some of these but got so distracted with buying other things, I completely forget about them :-(

Our last afternoon in Bukhara was free time for us. After we said our thank you's and goodbye's to Sukhrob, Pat and I headed back to the room and rested for a bit. Then, we headed out to for a pre-dinner stroll. We didn't have any particular destination in mind. As far as I was concerned, I had already seen enough historic sights so a nice relaxing walk was perfect!


We didn't get far from our hotel before we crossed paths with the samsa man, as I called him.  We had seen him every day we've been here, sometimes more than once a day.   He comes with a cart, with a small tandir oven installed on top.  The samsa are freshly baked - I think he uses the oven to keep them warm.

By now, we easily recognized him and he knew us by face.   Everyday, he and his helper stand at the same spot near Lyab-i-Hauz.  If the police shoo him away, he goes down the alleyway and when the police are gone, he returns back.  On each of our previous encounters, we had told him we would come back later for samsa and we never did.   This time, we bought.  Only seemed fair to not keep stringing him along.  Besides, it's only a few soms to buy one.  The samsa was pretty big so Pat and I actually shared one.  As samsas go, it was okay as far as the flavor goes but it was indeed piping hot.  We waved him goodbye with a smile as I knew this would be our last encounter.


There's a puppet workshop and theatre in the old city.  We had passed by the place several times before but the door was always locked shut.  This afternoon, it was open.  There were a few men inside, chatting away.  There was no performance on schedule otherwise, I would have dragged Pat to see one.  So, we just walked around and looked at some of the puppets that were on display.


When I got to the these cute puppets, hanging on the wall, one of the men approached me and told me they were finger puppets.  He then did a quick demonstration of how they work. How cute!  Of course, some of the puppets were for sale and I have to admit, I was tempted.  If not for the fact that we still have three more Central Asian countries to visit....with more possibilities for souvenirs, I would have bought one of the finger puppets.  I loved the trio at the bottom of the photo.  So, since I didn't buy them, I took a photo to remember them by.


We continued our walk and made our way to Toki Sarrafon.  Since arriving into Tashkent, I have had my eye on buying one of the cute pottery statues of the old Uzbek man - dressed in traditional Uzbek clothing and tubeteika, holding something that is iconic Uzbek.  Originally, I hoped to get a good sized one but with all the other stuff I've bought, I don't have much room left so I'm now down to buying a small one.  In Toki Sarrafon, there was a store with a good selection.  My eyes fell on one of those Uzbek statues and he was carrying a loaf of non.  He called me.  I responded.  But, for some reason, I was feeling cheap....real cheap because the vendor only wanted a few som.  So, I decided to walk away.  Bless her heart, Pat picked up the statue, bought it and then handed it to me!  My gift from my wonderful travel partner.

Update:  April 27, 2015.  My Uzbek man has a spot on one of the window ledges in my kitchen.  He fits in perfectly with all the other tchotckes I have displayed on the ledge.  He makes me smile and he represents a lot of fond memories for me. 


With my most precious souvenir safely packed in my backpack, we continued our stroll.  On our previous walks, we had never really ventured too far beyond Toki Sarrafon.  Today, we decided to continue on.  We ended up in a very local neighborhood.  It was interesting to see that there was a dividing line of sorts.  The nice brick walkway was no longer; we were now walking on simple pavement.  The pretty buildings, designed to look as if they once stood in Silk Road days, were replaced by more humble looking structures.  The souvenir shops were replaced by shops selling items needed for daily life. The sounds of tourist chatter was replaced by the gleeful sound of happy children playing.  There were cars but they were still far and few between.  We were more likely to be knocked over by a speeding bicyclist than a speeding vehicle.  We were just a stone's throw off the tourist path and it felt like we had entered into another world.  It was very calm and peaceful here.


We peered down a few of the alleys - curious to see what was there and if we would want to wander down them.  But no, most of them were empty of people and activity - nothing to see.


Every now and again, we would find kids playing in the alley.  I don't suppose there's much play space inside the homes.  Here,the rowdy boys could be at their rowdiest best and no one would care.  It's nice to see children at play and not working alongside their elders in a field somewhere.  These are the lucky children.


Somethings are the same no matter where you go around the world. I think I've seen this bicycle scene in every country I've been to.  There's always someone in need of a ride and someone willing to take them on one :-)


In the neighborhood we walked through, the stores had no signs.  But no matter, there were *markers* to tell you what they sold.  Need bread?   Then you've come to the right place!


It's not exactly a pretty neighborhood but people were out enjoying the late afternoon.  Even so, it was a quiet place.


Towards the end of our walk, we happened upon a park.  Nearby were a couple of women selling snacks.  Hmmm....the sunflower seeds called out to me.  I had seen them for sale in other places but never bought any.  Today was a good day to buy some so we just picked a vendor and bought two bags.  After the sale was completed, I asked Pat to take a photo of me with the woman.  As has been the case all along this trip, the women were curious about us.  Unfortunately, the language barrier prevented us from having a conversation so all we could do was share a smile - no words needed to explain the emotion behind that action.


On one part of our walk, we heard the sound of traditional music.  Curious as we are, we decided to see where it was coming from.  Our ears led us to an opened door.  Above the door was posted a small sign.  The words "Folklore Group" was enough to make me want to walk through the door.


We entered the grounds and there was no one around.  The music was emanating from a small white building at the other end of the courtyard.


We headed towards it.  There were two open windows.  We peered through one of the open windows and saw a group of young women rehearsing a dance performance.  Seated on the other side of the wall from us were the musicians and a singer.  Here, the dance troupe was not rehearsing with taped music but they had live musicians backing them up.  We decided to quietly stand and watch. Pat was a professional ballerina in her younger days and I knew she was interested and even though I have two left feet, I love to watch dance performances as well. As we stood outside the window, the several of the young women and I'm sure the teacher herself noticed us but no one paid us any attention.  Then, from inside the room, a man appeared at the door.  He walked towards us and spoke in Uzbek or Russian.  From the lack of response on our part, he quickly figured out we didn't understand him so he resorted to sign language.  He waved for us to follow him and so we did.  We were inside the dance hall.  He pointed to a bench and Pat and I took our spots.  I thanked him in Uzbek - I said, "rahmat:".  Shavkat had taught us the word and I finally got to use it!


Pat and I sat and watched for quite some time.  At the point where they were doing a full rehearsal of the dance, I surreptitiously shot a video - I had my camera on my lap.  It's a four minute performance and worth watching if you've never seen traditional Uzbek dance before.

Enjoy!

">

In a a very unexpected way, this was ended up being the Uzbek traditional dance performance that we had been trying so hard to find a venue to watch a performance at.  The experience of stumbling on this school and then being invited inside to watch this performance ranks as one of my favorite moments of this trip.

We ended up the day with dinner back at Chinar.  Tonight was a wonderful night for an al fresco meal so we got a table on the restaurant's roof top.


We had a simple meal of shashlyk and salad.  Pat washed hers down with a beer and I had a Coke.  It was our last meal in Bukhara and a bittersweet moment for me.  On the one hand, I am excited about going to Turkmenistan but on the I have really enjoyed my time here and am sad to be leaving - wouldn't mind coming back to Bukhara one day.

Salad looks good, doesn't it?

Tonight, we have to pack our suitcases and do our paperwork for the border crossing - that means filling in the Uzbek customs declaration form (another round of counting out thousands of soms....ugh) and making sure we have all the paperwork we need to get our Turkmenistan visa in order.

So I am signing off early tonight so I can focus on getting ready for tomorrow.

Goodnight from Bukhara!