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Another great day in Tashkent.

The evening meal remained intact from last night’s roadside diner so after a sumptuous breakfast I set off for Chorsu Bazaar. It was far more than I expected, and there was much less. Let me explain 

In 1993 Pauline and I went through the meat market in Lahore, and it was an unforgettable experience. The stench of rotting meat was overwhelming, and the offal was thrown into an open drain in the centre of the road. It ran black with effluent and sewage. 

Since then I’ve been to markets in Vietnam and Thailand which have been so much cleaner and delightful. All Asian markets are places of fascination. Fresh vegetables, spices, fish, bread, meat and served up by a huge and rich ethnic diversity of people.

I think Chorsu is the best so far; all the sections were signposted and it was beautifully clean. 

No one paid any attention to me (except the money changers who were no problem at all) and I had some good banter with the spice sellers who were insistent on selling me dried tea, both green and black. I tried to explain that dried tea looks exactly like hashish to a British customs officer, but none of us had enough of each other’s language. I went to the end of the market and through an open curtain expecting to find a way out, but instead found a man sitting on a simple wooden bench. He motioned me to sit beside him, and I was about to speak when I realised he was praying. Instead of the formal rising and kneeling he would lean forward and sit up, as he quietly spoke the prayers. I waited for him to finish and I spoke a little Arabic to him and he laughed and we shook hands. A rare and special moment in the hubub of a marketplace.

The meat market was at the back and I braced myself for the odour, but there was none. There was a range of meat including, goat, horse and camel and it was spotlessly clean. 

I headed off into the Metro, emerging at Uzbekiston to be sent the wrong way by the duty policeman. I’m glad he did. I found the canal and the gardens and some lovely back streets where people were tending gardens. From everyone was a greeting. At the end of the road was the local ‘beach’ where several families were swimming or sunbathing. As I turned back onto the main road I found the first of many waterfalls, until I got to the Independence gardens where there was a wall of water

I got a bit artistic with the camera and as I was trying to be clever, a couple stopped and the woman walked into the water, across a causeway just below the surface.

She’d nearly reached the middle when the ever-present police started blowing their whistles. She was out of there faster than a rat up a drainpipe; she was definitely an Olympic sprinter!!

I was flagging a bit with the heat and stopped in the gardens by the statue of the Sorrowful Mother, with the eternal flame. A beautifully carved wooden avenue held endless brass pages of names. It commemorated the names of the 400,000 Uzbeks who died in the 1939-45 war. A somber moment.

I headed back to the Arch of Independence topped with the great sculptures of the storks.

For a capital city it’s a great place, yet strangely empty. I know it’s out of season, but it’s nothing like the tourist traps of European cities; and all the better for that.

Tea in the park, and the Metro home to sleep away the hottest part of today. Tomorrow? A long train journey …