Monday, April 13, 2015

The Home of Turkmen Pride. Bedev Hippodrome.

A very friendly palomino photobombing my shot as I attempt to take a picture of a mare and her colt.  I loved this moment!

After spending much of our day seeing the ostentatious side of Ashgabat, including monuments constructed as a tribute to himself - their former leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, I had had enough.  I was ready to flee Ashgabat.  But, then we finally got to visit a place that made me smile.  We ended our day of sightseeing with a visit to the Bedev Hippodrome which is located within the city limits of Ashgabat.  To say that Turkmen love horses would be a true understatement.  They are obsessed with horses and these beloved animals are treated as well as any human.


We arrived at the hippodrome and immediately headed for the stables of which there are several.  We just stopped outside one and went inside.  The first thing that greets you is that overwhelming smell of horse manure.  Then you quickly forget all about that the instant you see the horses.  Inside each stall was a horse.  According to Jabbar, they are all privately owned.  I was surprised at their size - they are large, magnificent creatures!

Well, hello!


Some were more curious than others about our presence.


The more shy ones need some coaxing and a gentle touch to ease their fears.


You could tell from their shiny coats and eyes that each horse is very well cared for.  Each horse is walked at least once a day.  We watched a couple get saddled up to go out.




We decided to follow the riders and horses outside.



Just outside the stable,  another horse was being shown off to a few men.  We didn't know if they were just curious bystanders or the owners of the horse or potential buyers.  In any case, the horse was being put through some maneuvers.  We stood and watched.  Compared to the horses we had just seen inside the stable, this horse was comparatively smaller.  Yet, you could see the power in the animal, especially when it pushed up to stand on its hind legs.





We then watched a few of horses walking the track itself.  These looked like racing animals - lean, elegant and yet very muscular.



We were just about to go back to the car when I spotted a colt, in a corral, near the stable we had just come out of.  Jabbar + baby animal = awww.  We had to go take a closer look.

She's all legs.  A supermodel in the making :-)

In addition to the colt and its mother, there were two other horses in the corral.  The palomino and I locked eyes and it was love at first sight.   He was the friendliest of the lot and followed all three of us around - he basically was looking for a pat.


Hey, what about me?  Okay, I will pet you too!



We watched a small group of horses returning to the stables from their afternoon walk.


So young and she already knows how to pose for the camera!

Jabbar, the animal lover. 

How a Turkmen greets a horse?

Feeding time.

Someone was hungry :-)


After our short visit to the hippodrome, it was back to the hotel.  Our day of sightseeing in Ashgabat was over.  Early tomorrow morning, we'll be boarding a plane to fly to the town of Daşoguz, the launch point for our visit to Kunye Urgench.  Our flight leaves around 6a so before he bid us goodbye, Jabbar arranged with the reception desk for a boxed breakfast to be ready for us by 3:30a which is when he and Dolat will be back to pick us up and take us to the airport.

Tonight, Pat and I headed back to the restaurant that Jabbar had recommended we go to.

On our walk to the restaurant, we passed by the Turkmen State Circus building, which we can see from our hotel room.

Inside the place looked and felt like a nightclub cum reception hall and the lighting was all red which was a bit disconcerting.  I don't think red lighting goes with food.

In any event, the menu was in Turkmen and the waitress spoke no English but luckily, some Turkmen words look like Turkish words so we took a chance on ordering pide which is pizza.  That's exactly what we got!


It was an okay dinner but to be honest, we had a better meal last night.

Tonight, we had to prepare our paper work for re-entry into Uzbekistan.   It's going to be a long day tomorrow because we fly from Asghabat to Daşoguz, spend time visiting Kunye Urgench and then cross the border (on foot) to Uzbekistan and from there, make our way to Khiva!


Night time snack of sunflower seeds, munching while I write this post on my iPad.

It's barely 9p but I need to get my shut eye so I am signing off.

Goodnight from Ashgabat!