Monday, May 25, 2015

Istanbul, Turkey and Uzbekistan - SPRING BREAK!

Donna, a good friend of mine from my time in Vietnam, now lives in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She is working as the art teacher in the international school there.

I decided to go visit Donna for my spring break this year. My friend Jaime came with me! She is the friend that I visited in Copenhagen, Denmark for the Thanksgiving holiday this past November.

Jaime and I met up in the Istanbul airport and had an 8-hour layover. Being the first time to Istanbul for both of us, we decided to purchase a tourist visa and go for a trip into the city. I hope to get back to Istanbul this summer, as 3 hours sightseeing wasn't enough! The $30 USD I paid for the visa is good for 180 days and is a multiple entry visa - perrrrrfect.

This is Donna's second year in Tashkent (like me in Milan). When she first told me about accepting a position there, I had to look on a world map to figure out where she would be!

This was my first time going to this part of the world. What an adventure!

Honestly - I read a lot about visiting the country before going. This was the most nervous and cautious I have been so far in my travels. I wore my hair in a tight bun all week and wore loose clothing that covered me. I also did not want to be out after sunset. I was very glad to have a friend traveling with me for the week, since Donna was working. Overall - I felt safe the entire time and really enjoyed the week of traveling and exploring.

Below are two maps, which I created in Google Maps, to show this trip:

Milan is furthest West;
Istanbul, Turkey is flagged in the 'middle';
The 3 cities I visited in Uzbekistan are furthest East:

Closer up of Uzbekistan...
We started and ended in the capital city - Tashkent (northeast);
Took the train to Samarkand (middle);
Took another train to Bukhara (west) and flew back to Tashkent:

Before going on this trip, a teacher at school asked me what there was to see in Uzbekistan... and I didn't really know. Both Samarkand and Bukhara were major cities along the silk road trading path. I had read a lot about the mosques and mausoleums but wasn't sure beyond that. This was a trip like no other that I've taken.

The sights ended up being FANTASTIC. The blue tiles were my favorite (pictures to come!). The mosques are enormous structures that are filled with beauty and detail. The history throughout these ancient cities is incredible.

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