In the last post about my trip to Uzbekistan I simply wanted to give an insight into the sights of the country. Not so much text heavy – you can read most of it on this internet 😉 – more through photos.
This blog post will give my impressions about the people. It is clear that this can only be a very personal, very subjective and after the short 'tourist time' only a small insight.
As already mentioned, this was my first visit to Central Asia, to be exact, to Asia at all. You go through life with a few ideas, which I deliberately don't call prejudices, because I'm not a person who judges too quickly. I like to make myself a picture. So I got on the plane with a few tips, a lot of curiosity and excited expectation.
What came surprised me despite all openness – positive!
I must also say that I am more open and much more relaxed when traveling, on vacation, than in everyday life. It would be great to be able to take this 'travel feeling' back home, but unfortunately I can only do this for a short time. It must be just from time to time by another trip to be re-triggered!
During the whole trip from the arrival at the airport in Tashkent to the early morning departure we were taken care of by Maria. Quasi around the clock, in almost fluent German. It was not simply
tour guide, but a real enrichment. On the long bus routes she told us a lot about the country. Most of the information about Uzbekistan I got from their – of course – subjective stories. These were not always positive things. She did not wear rose-colored glasses, but – and this is also understandable – the development of the country since independence in 1991 is mostly presented positively and pride resonates in the voice.
Anyway, the pride thing. Rarely have I felt such a pleasant, quiet pride in a country. From the feeling I would say, the Uzbeks are still searching a little for their identity, which was suppressed during the long time as a Soviet republic. Despite the different population groups, the clearly distinguishable living conditions between city and countryside, there seems to be a national consciousness. Russian is still widely spoken, but Uzbek is the official language.
Everywhere in the country white Chevrolets are driving around, mostly small nimble versions. On my question if there is an exclusive contract with Chevrolet, came the rather proud answer "no, these are Uzbek cars, there is a factory here in the country, they are all built here in Uzbekistan". Independence and own production are important achievements. That there are politically, market economy, socially not to be overlooked shadow sides, I will not deny here, even if they try to keep them hidden from us tourists.
No matter where we went, the people were all unbelievably friendly. Tourism has not yet reached the level of being perceived as intrusive. On the contrary, the tourists are smiled at, greeted and sneaked around in the hope of catching a photo. Old women came to us and murmured grinning at us. And no, I did not have the impression that we were cursed, rather something like blessed.
The most open were the students and young people. In school is from the 4. Class one European language compulsory. English and German in front, but also French and Spanish. While visiting the sights or strolling through Khiva, we were surrounded again and again by school classes who wanted to get rid of their three English sentences: "where are you from??", "whats your name?"and … hey, you don't ask that 😉 "how old are you??". If one then asks back for the name, an avalanche of for our ears hardly understandable first names pelts down on one. And all with a laugh on my face and happy lightheartedness. The highlight is the selfie with a tourist or even better, several tourists. A huge fun, I have probably never been photographed so often. By the way, doubly astonishing when you consider that the majority of the population belongs to Islam.
This subheading should almost read 'Encounters with the non-touristy side'. Which is not to say that this unplanned excursion into the world of the Uzbeks was any less friendly or helpful. Quite the opposite.
They had picked me out, those notorious germs that stimulate the digestive system beyond measure. At dinner on the first evening in Bukhara it happened, the cause, whether dirty glass or food (I tend to the former, since the others had nothing and the beer did not taste good to me 😉 ), is no longer traceable.
Already in the evening it started, the whole night, the next day bed rest in the hotel room was announced and light fever joined also still in addition. This caused concern, both with a – to my great fortune – traveling doctor from our group, as well as with Maria and the traveling director of the local travel company, Bachtior (no idea if that is spelled correctly…).
After I had seen the whole day nothing else than the – admittedly quite beautiful – hotel room, in the evening they discussed what to do with me further. Our home remedies against intestinal germs all helped nothing and so we decided to try it first with an antibiotic that our doctor had with him in the group. The fever was gone in the morning as a result and I was actually mostly floppy. However, the diarrhea was to continue for two more days. So it was decided that I should rest in the hotel until noon and then travel on to Samarkand together with the group in the early afternoon. I thought it was a good plan and was looking forward to a few hours of rest in the already sufficiently known hotel room 🙂
However, it turned out that Bakhtior had other plans. Admittedly, out of caring, unfortunately not quite thought through. He had decided, an examination in the hospital must be. Cab was already ordered and – to my great luck – a tour guide on site, who spoke fluent German and was also super nice – Ranu (again no guarantee regarding spelling).
So I was chauffeured in a non-air-conditioned cab through half the city to a hospital in temperatures that felt like 40°C. What awaited me there shocked me.
Up to now we had only worked through the tourist program. We stayed in fancy clean hotels, walked through clean streets to prepared sights, drove in an air-conditioned bus through the country, ate in nice tea rooms or restaurants food that was tolerable for our western stomachs.
Here I encountered what unfortunately happens again and again, when money is put into tourism, which brings foreign exchange, but the own population falls by the wayside. And I deliberately do not want to see this as a criticism of any of these people I have met in the hospital. Incredibly helpful and friendly, but the hygienic conditions there were catastrophic. Treatment rooms in which three people were examined at the same time, a toilet that was virtually unusable, no possibility to wash hands and they had to quickly improvise the container for the stool sample.
Then it turned out that I had not caught any bad germs, but I should go to another hospital for 'treatment'. That I would not have been treated here or anywhere else, I quickly realized. But now the machinery was running and it went in a patient transport (somewhat larger cab without air conditioning) to the next hospital. In the meantime I had time to talk with Ranu more closely. It turned out that she had not only lived in Germany in Augsburg for a month, but also in the same part of town as me and knew all the stores and pubs there. I call that a great coincidence. Her fluent German enabled me to make it clear that I would not take any local medicines.
Since the 'Turisti' was meanwhile registered with the local authorities as well as the German embassy, we agreed on a 'treatment' with an electrolyte drink in boiled water! Water. Here I got a special treatment – I am sure – in a very clean room with two beds.
Afterwards I was finally allowed to go back to the hotel in a hot cab. The whole action lasted more than three hours, during which I would have liked to rest in my hotel room. But let's be honest, this is an episode that not everyone experiences like this and I found it incredibly important and interesting to have also gotten to know this side of the country.
It is very important for me to emphasize that all the people I met were polite, helpful, courteous and friendly. Even other sick people in the hospitals smiled friendly and I am convinced, if it would have been possible for them, one or the other would have wanted to take a photo 🙂 .
For me, the journey continued that afternoon in the circle of the group again through the desert over bumpy highways to Samarkand.
…and who else should be mentioned
Maria accompanied us, as already mentioned, the entire trip and also made sure that we z.B. always got something to eat. She pre-booked tea rooms or restaurants and provided us with info about the dishes and translated for us. With tireless patience!
In the cities we had local guides, who all spoke fantastic German. It seems to be the language, which is studied next to English most at the universities. For us that was of course super.
Last but not least, our bus driver Djassur. Always friendly, always a smile on the lips and a cheerful greeting. Every morning when we got on the bus we got the thumbs up and tried to return the favor with a 'thank you' in Uzbek. Unfortunately, that's all we were able to do linguistically, but then a whole week of traveling together almost feels like 'you know each other a little'.
I'm sure there would be much more to say about the human encounters, I've absorbed so much, but you've already made it this far and some things are easier to tell in a personal conversation.
There will be a third article on Uzbekistan, because the impressions from the road, driving through the country, are still missing.