Wednesday, April 1, 2015

More of Tashkent.

Pat with our guide, Maria, at the Applied Arts Museum.

From Chorsu Bazaar, we got to ride the metro to Amir Timur Square where we met back up with Mavlon. Maria bought our subway tokens - they cost 1,000 som each. Maria told me that photography is not allowed inside, which I already knew.  Pat noticed how the inside of the ticket booth had been decorated with curtains and plants - it's as if someone had made the place their home.


On the other side of the entry doors, we were greeted by two security guards who again reminded me about the photography restriction. Before we were allowed to move on, one of them did a cursory check of Maria's backpack though neither had any interest in checking out either Pat's handbag or my backpack.

Our ride took us from the Chorsu Bazaar station to the Alisher Navoiy sation - it was all of two stops. From there, we literally walked up a flight of steps and down another and we were in the Paktakhor station. From Paktakhor, we rode another two stops to Amir Timur station.  As the train pulled into the Mustaqilliq Maidoni station, we caught a quick glimpse of the chandeliers that decorate the ceiling of that station.  Riding the Tashkent metro gave us our chance to finally see at least four of the system's 29 uniquely designed and decorated stations.  They are indeed each unique in design - small art galleries unto themselves.  Of all the stations we stepped inside, Alisher Navoiy was the prettiest. All of them were spanking clean - no trash, no graffiti. The trains reminded me of the ones in NYC - very spartan, very utilitarian....there's no carpeting or leather seating like DC's metro trains.


We exited the Amir Timur station across the street from Amir Timur Square. I managed to catch a photo of the famed father of this country sitting atop his steed as we walked towards the parking lot where Mavlon was waiting for us.  Mavlon drove around the square so we could see the statue from all sides.  That was good enough for me.


From here, we headed for the Applied Arts Museum, more formally known as the State Museum of Applied Arts of Uzbekistan. We entered through a small door that opened up into a courtyard.


The building that houses the museum was once a home of a Imperial Russian diplomat, Alexander Polovtsev who was collector of unique national handicrafts. After the Soviet revolution, his home which was specially built to show every aspects of the national art with numerous collections of handicraft items, was nationalized and opened for public as a museum.  Today, there are several thousand items in the museum's collection including wood carvings, art jewelry, gold embroidery, carpets, paintings, ceramics, and engravings.

Maria got our entry tickets and I forked over an extra 4500 som so I could take photos.  Pat opted to not take photos.

The building of the State Museum of Applied Arts of Uzbekistan was once a home of the Imperial Russian diplomat Alexander Polovtsev who was collector of unique national handicrafts. After the Soviet revolution his home that was specially built to show every aspects of the national art with numerous collections of handicraft items was nationalized and opened for public as a museum.
Along with the museum displaing an antique collection of Uzbek applied arts, it is also sells an impressive variety of paintings and prints, jewellery, ceramics and vintage clothing.

The museum is a small place - just a few exhibit halls, each displaying a traditional handicraft of Uzbekistan. We went through all of them starting with the first one which displayed samples of ikat, the iconic textile of Uzbekistan.



Next, it was on to see examples of suzani, the iconic embroidered textile of Uzbekistan.



Then, we saw some very nice examples of tubeteika, skullcaps traditionally worn by both men and women.



Some very cute pottery pieces caught my eye.  Both Pat and I commented how they reminded us of similar pieces we've seen in Mexican art.




Next, we went to visit the galleries housed in the main part of the house, which was exquisitely decorated - itself a work of art!













Here, we got to see some pieces from the museum's collection of Uzbek instruments.  I hope that sometime on this trip, I will get to hear someone playing traditional music - I'm curious to hear what it sounds like.


More pieces from the museum's collection.



A wooden bed.

Carved wood columns.

Gold embroidery is another Uzbek traditional art form


By the time we finished up at the museum, it was nearly 2p. I wasn't hungry but I was ready to eat. Maybe it was because I knew plov was coming. Unfortunately, Maria told us that the National Plov center was overrun by the participants of the fencing competition so it was not going to be easy for us to get in and be served. So she offered to take us to a restaurant for plov. We gladly took up her offer and as Pat suggested, we invited both her and Mavlon to join us. I prefer sitting and eating with the guide and driver rather than eating separately.

Mavlon pulled the car into a small parking lot that already looked like it was already filled beyond maximum capacity. In fact, if he had left the car when he had stopped it, I think he would have blocked anyone from coming or going. Maria, Pat and I got out and left Mavlon to figure out the logistics of parking the car.


We entered into a nice restaurant and took seats at a table. Maria did the honors of ordering for us as the menu was all in Cyrillic. From what I could gather, the main food item served here is plov. The dish comes in two portion sizes - full or half. The women all went with half portions. Option toppings include two quail eggs and horsemeat sausage. We all went for all toppings except for Pat who did not want any horsemeat sausage. Maria than ordered two servings of preserved veggies, a yogurt like sauce that reminded me very much of tzatziki, and green tea for everyone.


Our plates of food arrived along with a loaf of non. Looking at the size of the plate of rice that the waitress put in front of Mavlon, I was thankful I opted for the half portion....that was more than enough for me.


Our first taste of *real* plov.  I have to admit that the plov was tastier than I had expected. It was a bit greasy and although there was lamb, there was no overwhelming taste of mutton. Eaten with some of the yogurt sauce and bits of the preserved vegetables, it was quite tasty. I love, love, love eggs and for me, two quails eggs were not enough. I would have had more.


As for the horsemeat sausage, Pat tried a small bite's worth and decided it was too strong tasting for her. To me, it didn't taste gamey at all, just like a flavorful but a bit on the dry side, piece of beef. It's not anything I dislike or like....meh. The only thing I did not like about the plov were the raisins and that's because I can't stand raisins. I picked them out as best I could.


The meal for four of us came to 59,800 som which at today's rate converted to about $24 for four of us. Cheap lunch for 4 people! Pat and I split the bill. I left the table stuffed to the gills. In fact, it's just past 8pm as I write this sentence and I'm still stuffed. I just asked Pat if she wanted to head downstairs for dinner and she's not hungry either! That plov went along way!

It was well past 3pm when Mavlon and Maria deposited us back at the hotel. Maria's tip was lunch so we both shook her with an empty hand. I usually pass over the tip when I shake the person's hand. Before he got back into the driver's seat, Mavlon reminded us that we are meeting him tomorrow at 8a. He will be driving us to the border of Tajikistan where our roadtrip through Central Asia will truly begin! I am very excited!

Before we headed back up to the room, I went to the reception desk to inquire about exchanging money. As I had expected, I got the official response that they do not have a currency exchange desk. I then got the unofficial response that someone will meet up with me later. I nodded that I understood and headed up to the room with Pat.

No sooner had we gotten inside the room when there was a knock on the door. The badge on his shirt said *bellboy* but I knew what he was here for. I invited him in and told him I wanted to exchange $200. Using his phone, he converted using the current rate and said he would give me 500,000 som in exchange. Having already done the currency exchange myself, earlier in the day, I told him this was an acceptable number. He left to get the money and was back within a half hour or so with a much smaller wad of bills in hand than what we received two days ago - a hundred 5,000 som bills to be exact.

Once he left, Pat and I got down to the business of counting out all our money - something we have to do for Uzbek customs declaration so we decided to get it out of the way now so hopefully, it will save us some time and trouble when we get to the border crossing tomorrow.

I have a few more tasks to take care of tonight before I can hit the sack and since I want to do that early, I need to get off this keyboard so I am signing off for now. It was good day today and I'm hoping that better weather will greet us as we begin our trip tomorrow.

Goodnight from Tashkent!