Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Killing Time in Daşoguz.

Posing with my gal pals in the market in Daşoguz.

Thanks to the cold and windy weather and skies that threatened to open up and pour at any minute, we had a whirlwind tour of Konya-Urgench.  In fact, we went through Konya-Urgench so fast that we had hours to kill before we could even arrive at our next destination - the border with Uzbekistan.


From Kunya-Urgench, we made our way back to Daşoguz.  By the time we made it back to town, the skies had cleared and it was back to a picture perfect spring day.  Daşoguz is another desert oasis town - not really a picturesque place.

Poor Kseniya had to figure out how to fill the time so she suggested lunch.  Our box breakfasts were so not satisfying that we eagerly welcomed her suggestion.  Our driver dropped us off outside a local restaurant.  It was barely 11a.

After exchanging a few words with the hostess, Kseniya turned to us to tell us that the restaurant had not yet opened for lunch but we could go inside and have a cup of tea or coffee while we waited.  That sounded good to us as well so we headed into the dining room and got a table.  Minutes later, a waitress showed up with a menu.  I was thinking we were pre-ordering, so to speak but as it turned out, we were actually ordering.  I guess the kitchen decided to go ahead and open up.

Pat and Kseniya about to enjoy lunch.

We let Kseniya do the ordering for us.  So far, all we've eaten in Turkmenistan is basic tourist food or the usual Central Asian fare.  Given the cultural heritage of the Turkmen people, I was hoping we would get to taste some foods that share a tradition with modern day Turkey and we had told Kseniya we would enjoy trying something different.  Today, was our lucky day!  No plov.  No shahslyk.  No lagman.  Not even a fresh salad.

Instead, we got to try a few new states.  We started with a dish that Kseniya called Turkish salad - it was a beef salad with French fries mixed into it along with tomatoes, onions, and bits of parsley all bound together with a bit of dressing.  It sounds like an odd combination of ingredients but it was absolutely delicious!

Two loaves of non and the Turkish salad.

Kseniya also ordered a plate of börek.  I was expecting to see the baked version, made with yufka, that you find in Turkey.  Instead, a plate of what looked and tasted like steamed blintzes is what we got.  Although it wasn't what I was expecting, they too were delicious.  The pastry had been rolled out very thin and the cheese was whipped so each bite was light and airy in the mouth.

The dumplings.

Last but not least, we shared a plate of fried pelmeni, the iconic Russian dumpling and they too were quite tasty.  The pelmeni were stuffed with ground meat.  The dough was a bit tough but you can't go wrong with anything fried. 


We lingered over lunch, learning a bit more about Kseniya.  She is of Russian heritage and although she has never visited her homeland, she was obviously very proud to be Russian.  She's only been a guide for about a year but she seems to enjoy it.  I told her it was the best way for her to improve her English though her English was already pretty good.

After lunch, we still had time to kill so Kseniya asked if we wanted to visit the market.  Of course we did so back in the car we went.

Like the other large cities we've been in in Turkmenistan, Daşoguz has its faire share of white marble clad buildings.  It all looks a bit out of place against the backdrop of the desert landscape of Turkmenistan; a bit too ostentatious as well.




Our driver parked the car alongside a row of small shops.  As I stepped out of the car, I caught sight of the entry sign to the bazaar.


All four of us walked headed to the market. As with so many of these places, you can pretty buy everything you need in this one place.  Today, it was a quiet place but I'm sure that on weekends, this places is bustling with people shopping.  The area near where we were parked was filled with small shops selling everything from electronics to housewares to clothing.  None of that interested us so we just kept walking.


Eventually, we made it to the produce market which was housed under a covered pavilion.  My cup of tea even though I have already been to several markets.  I'm always curious to see what locals eat even though I was suspecting things would pretty much be the same as we've seen in the other markets.


Beans for sale, pigeon not.

Veggies.  There's not a whole lot of variety in Central Asian markets but it always looks fresh.

Two very friendly women who were very curious about me. 

You can't have a Turkmen meal without bread.

Pickled veggies.  Surprisingly, I have yet to taste any.

Dried fish. I presume this is imported as Turkmenistan is mainly desert.

The egg lady who caught my eye because she was knitting.  I was curious to see her technique - she
knit into the back of the stitch. Okay, you have to be a knitter to understand what that means.

Tea which is typically sold in bulk.  In hindsight, I should have bought some of the green tea.  The quality
looked good and I'm sure the price would have been very reasonable.

More of the ingredients that go into a Turkmen meal.

We've met a lot of friendly people on this trip but the award, hands down, for the friendliest goes to the Turkmen!

We hung around the market as long as we could.  The drive to the border crossing with Uzbkekistan only took 20 minutes and we arrived pretty much on the dot.  At the crossing, we said our goodbye's and thank-you's to Kseniya and our driver and gave them their tips.  Then, we had to switch our focus to the soldier who had his hand out waiting for one of us to hand him our passports.  As our journey continues, we end our time in this very interesting country and we leave with very fond memories!

Goodbye Turkmenistan!