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The Big Year Out-The Registan

After having travelled through Turkey, Iran, and Turkmenistan, we entered our fourth country on our journey along the Silk Route, Uzbekistan. I recall it being a very dry and dusty country, or maybe that’s because most of my destinations in Uzbekistan were like this. It just seemed that Tashkent (the capitol) was the only place to have full and free flowing water and grass and trees. Outside of Tashkent it seemed like time had stood still and you could still get a feel of the days of the Caravansary that used to dot the country along the Silk route. Here a slide show of one of the most beautiful and iconic places in Uzbekistan, The Registan, in Samarkand. Yes it really is that blue. Thankfully the Russians although supressing any kind of Religion during their occupation, did have the foresight of restoring after many earthquakes much of the Registan as you see it today. Working as recently as 1987, twenty years of hard work and money and people with patience and the eye for the historical detail have made The Registan great again!

Posted by TheJohnsons 21:11 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged art sky night architecture mosque sunset monument culture temple religion history traditional travel square eastern city building heritage dusk mosaic old road muslim medieval central asia ancient tourism historic dome landmark decoration pattern silk islam ceramic illuminated ornament tile exterior facade uzbekistan minaret samarkand complex islamic madrasa registan madrasah samarqand sher-dor Comments (0)

The Big Year Out- Karakol


View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

large_1842667_1346155130923.jpgKarakol

We arrived in Karakol [Karakol-travel-guide-1019301] from Tamchy on Saturday lunchtime (well about2.00pmto be precise). We got the driver from our taxi to drop us off outside the CBT office which I cannily spotted on the way into the town. Well outside door open but inside door shut! Across the road we crossed to the Tourist Information office which also has great English speaking staff, success! We were asked how close to town? How much did we want to pay? Toilet inside or outside? Etc. We got directed to Teskeys (under hotel reviews). We also asked about getting about the town and we were offered a great town map which at the time of writing was 100com, which really was great value and invaluable for buses and sights, names of streets (rare here).large_1842667_13461551302629.jpgDungan Mosque, it's hard to believe that this was built using NO nails!Our other enquires were aimed at trips out to Jeti Oguz [Jeti-Oguz-travel-guide-1354514] and Altyn Arashan, the first one for the scenery and the valley of the flowers and Altyn for the natural hot springs that we had heard about. The young woman (all of the tourist info office is manned by volunteer University students) at the TIO told us all the ways we could get there by buses, or shared taxis, or private taxi, oooor taxi with guide. All with their appropriate prices. No hard sell, great. We decided that we would discuss and get back to her if needed. We walked to our homestay/guesthouse it was hot, and the side streets are not so good for pulling trolley holdalls! We found it and Takai was kind enough to come out and help us in with our bags and show us to a lovely cool room.large_1842667_13461551318986.jpg

Our first night’s meal we went to a restaurant called Kench, just a couple of streets away and mentioned in LP. Takai also gave it his endorsement so off we went. Angela had a lovely fish dish and I had a Chicken and sweet pepper dish common here inKyrgyzstan. Real “ice tea” made from cold tea and lemon wedges…so much more refreshing than tins or plastic bottled variety you commonly get everywhere in CA.

We had already decided that we wanted to go to Jeti Oguz & Altyn Arashan; we spoke with Takai as we noticed he had lots of info about tours that he arranged himself for Jeti Oguz and the surrounding area. We were clear that we were not fit enough for tough hiking; Takai said “no worries”. We spent the next day doing a town tour by ourselves.large_1842667_13461551329009.jpg We visited the mosque made with “no nails” no not a squishy caulk used for fixing skirting boards, but no nails were used in it’s construction, Dungan in style it is still a working mosque so headscarves were donned. My first taste of Chinese architecture this side ofChina!

I was particularly on the hunt for local Architecture so our next stop round town was the Russian Orthodox Church (always an interest to me as my mother is Greek Orthodox,and although I am not religious,I am aware that the two churches share many similarities). This one had originally been made of stone but destroyed by earthquake and replace with a totally timber offering. Looking at it I could see how much loving work had gone into it’s the carving and decoration (on the outside).large_1842667_13461554866487.jpgLook No Nails!Inside the Dungan Mosque, which really does not look like a mosque as we know it.I spent quite a lot of time walking round the outside and taking pics of different angles. Inside was beautiful too, with the typical saints on display and candle turns for prayers and worship. The dome had some very clear and almost new looking paintings with various saints and of course Jesus. No pics were allowed indoors as is usual with very much working orthodox churches in this region.

We left the grounds of the Orthodox Church to be greeted outside the front gate by an old colonial building, now a pedagogical society building. Very grand and with quite a nice large front garden area which seemed to be a good dropping off point for the mini buses that were stopping to let the Russian tourists get off. Further along the road behind the church, we found further examples of colonial buildings, windows ornate and many of them on the sides of these huge buildings.large_1842667_13461554863377.jpg One in particular, a wealthy merchant’s house was a very good example of Soviet style Architectural colonialism. Now a Youth Volunteer organisations training centre, you could see its former glory even in it’s so very poor and sad state. Alongside it on both sides of the street were more single storey buildings of the same era, no doubt lesser minions lived in these. We made our way back into the town centre to eat a well earned lunch with the thought of taking it easy after lunch and meandering back to the guest house, picking up money from the numerous ATMs in Karakol and some meds from the also many, Aptekas, or pharmacy.

Next day started at eight with breakfast with a set off at nine. We were being joined by four other tourists, a French couple and a Belgian couple, both in not so dissimilar age’s group to ourselves. Good company as we had all got chatting nicely the evening before. Takai’s dad was also coming with us for us slow coaches! A Mitsubishi people carrier met our eyes on the front drive; we all piled in on our first trip Jeti Oguz.

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Posted by TheJohnsons 23:41 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged sky snow architecture horses view nature landscape religion scene travel church mountain lake green grass river adventure blue valley building panorama summer cathedral hill old resort animal tourist scenic forest high central asia gorge tourism orthodox dome outdoor landmark shan alpine range wooden kyrgyzstan christianity tian kyrgyz kul karakol issyk-kul Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Khiva


View The Big Year Out & Things we wish we had done & Photos of us & Photographic Equipement & Visas & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

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Khiva;
Beautiful restored living citadel town which is so refreshing after seeing so many abandoned ones in Turkmenistan. First thing that struck me about the Uzbeks here is how relaxed and laid back they are. Meros (see review) was a good place to start, even the border guards at the Uzbek border knew about Meros!

In Khiva, it was the first time we had seen bus loads of tourists sinceTurkey! You can by a two day ticket for all the sites within the citadel, pay in soumme as it works out cheaper than paying in dollars, as the official rate is less than the black-market rate. We found the official rate was just under 1900 to the dollar and the unofficial was 2800(exceptSamarkandwhere we got 2700). So you see it pays to pay in Soumme. There were two sites within Khiva which were not included on the ticket, the Kuha Ark; you have to pay extra to go up onto the bastion where you get magnificent views of Khiva. The Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum and all minarets have additional charges (albeit small ones). Another particular site within the citadel we really enjoyed was the Juma mosque which was cool and peaceful and beautiful when we went there.
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The eateries were more expensive inside the citadel, but the one café we frequented for two or three nights also had a wifi spot, which was very reliable, right next to the unfinished minaret. Food was cheaper outside the citadel walls and we even found more than one great supermarket right opposite The Isfandiyar Palace which is also well worth a visit. The prices at the supermarkets were a fraction of those in the cafes etc.

Water pressure is not great in the Old town, not sure but can’t imagine that its any better outside as Khiva does suffer with this. We managed to get a bumblebee sim card through our hosts at Meros, and is well worth getting for calls and texts around Uzbekistan. ATM can be found at the Outside south Gate, Hotel Asia, which only takes MasterCard and Maestro, no visa

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:26 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged art architecture mosque tower culture religion history traditional travel town urban city building heritage mosaic old road muslim unesco central religious wall east asia antique ancient tourism historic dome fortress gate landmark oriental decoration silk persian islam arabic exterior uzbekistan minaret bukhara kala islamic khiva uzbek majolica madrasah khorezm itchan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Kashan


View Food from our Journey & The Big Year Out & Things we wish we had done & Photos of us & Photographic Equipement & Visas & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

Kashan

Kashan is much smaller than Tehran; we arrived by bus about 3.00pm. We managed to get a taxi to near enough the Noghli home stay. As with some Iranian taxi drivers, they say they know the way, but are not really sure! Sometimes, they try and ask you for more money than was agreed. Taxis the world over seem to be like this.

Finally we arrive at Noghli, it appears that there are no rooms left, but they do manage to find us one twin for one night, and then we have to swap night two for a single room and one of us sleeps on the floor.IMG_0006.JPGIMG_0005.JPG

A Traditional home, the owner allows women not to have to wear their scarves all the time, a welcome relief. Local food is served (at extra cost), and very nicely put together in an arch underneath the first floor on a long table, in front of the courtyard.

Next day we walk to the ancient merchant houses and hammam, all very cheap to get into and easy to find once you’re on the main street. We spent most of the day walking round these, yes we do things slowly.IMG_0111.JPGIMG_0031.JPGIMG_0118.JPG

We also visited finn Gardens which are supposed to be the finest examples of Persian gardens. It was a bit like going to wisely on a bank holiday, it was heaving, so perhaps we didn't enjoy that one as much as we could have.IMG_0142.JPGIMG_0143.JPG

Basically that was it for Kashan, it really isn’t a big place and actually if you were of the mind you could do it passing through toEsfahan.

Posted by TheJohnsons 01:06 Archived in Iran Tagged sky architecture water desert mosque park culture temple religion fountain history traditional travel city building famous house garden heritage place old historical pool muslim medieval tourist cityscape fin wall east asia middle ancient tourism historic dome relax iran persia courtyard outdoor landmark decoration persian islam kashan iranian perspective islamic Comments (0)

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