A wake up call at 6.00am, finished packing, payed bill, jumped in taxi and arrived at Tashkent Railway station, a grand edifice if ever I did see one. Stretching at least half a mile I was somewhat confused as to where the entrance might be but spotted what looked like a security check point and offering ticket and passport was ushered through. I was growled at by an official looking Commissar who reluctantly stamped my ticket, showed him that yes, I did have a camera in my camera bag, and there I was, in the VIP Waiting Area! Tea was brought,I was given a box of Uzbekistan Railways tissues, bowls of nuts and dried fruit were laid out on low tables, massive leather sofas, there were newspapers, morning tv, pretty girls and flunkies, and me. I have no idea how this came to be but I wasn’t about to complain and the hour before departure passed rather um, surrealistically. I was then escorted out of the waiting room by one of the aforementioned pretty ones, down the platform, onto the carriage and to my seat in a totally full compartment. Another oh dear moment.
We left on time and raced out of Tashkent on what appears to be a German financed railway line, electrified and very fast, not French TGV fast, but fast enough. Some fruit juice and piece of cellophane wrapped cake were given out then we had to buy water. The scenery was flat, agricultural, irrigated, with the occasional cement works. We moved West and the desert developed, dry and sandy, low hills loomed to our left looking daunting in the heat. Then it was all over. Two hours to travel 300 kms (180 miles). Not bad. And I was in the legendary city of Samarkand.
I always have known I would get here somehow, its always been a goal and here I am. My little B and B is perfectly situated in the old part of town near all the famed sights, The Registan, Bibi-Khanym Mosque, The Shah-I-Zinda and the Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum. All to be investigated and hopefully described as the days pass by. While waiting for my room to be ready I did venture out to see the Registan and it did not disappoint. It encompasses a huge area and is probably the most well known building in the city. If you have ever seen photos of Samarkand it will have undoubtably featured the Registan. Consisting of three different Medressas (schools basically) it is incredibly tiled in blue, the minarets reach to the sky, the domes are marvelous, the vast courtyard dwarfs the crowds (sparse actually), and I loved it. The photos were a bit washed out as it was noon time, so now, after 6.00pm, I will venture out again and see if I can improve.