Our day in Tashkent was our own so after breakfast we asked the way to the nearest Metro station as we had heard that they were decorated like those in Moscow, which are very impressive.
After a bit of a walk we arrived at the Toshkent Metro station. Sure enough there were colourful majolica tiling in jewel colours on the walls. Knowing the ‘no photo’ rule we were careful to observe it. (Later we were told that one of the others had fallen foul of the system by trying to take a photograph and was asked to produce her passport….) By the use of sign language and guess work we were able to identify the train to the Grand Bazaar and the name of the station where we had to get off. The train itself was pretty utilitarian and fairly empty.
When we reached what we thought was our destination, we emerged to find the most amazing market. Every possible vegetable and fruit had its own area – potatoes, peppers, garlic, onions. The place was amazing. Inside under a great dome were meat, cheese and pickled vegetables. Upstairs were nuts. It was wonderful! There was a whole hall dedicated to bread – if only you could capture the smell! It was an amazing place – there were spices and herbs, baskets and sweets. All had their place. We wondered how you chose which stall to frequent!
Some time later, after a wonderful time looking round, we came across some Odyssey chums who had been adopted by one of the bread ladies who had fed them up on bread and tea! Peter our Australian friend was the apparent attraction! We decided to go and look for the main mosque together.
It was, therefore, quite a little crowd who, after quite a walk through a much older than any we have seen in Tashkent, arrived at the impressive mosque buildings situated in well manicured gardens. The blue tiling on the frontage and the domes was stunning. We had hoped to see one of the oldest copies of the Koran which is housed in the main building, but just as we arrived the building was closed for lunch for two hours. Some things you just miss by a whisker!
At that point we met up with two other members of the group and it was rumoured that a micro brewery had set up in the city, in what was advertised as a ‘short walk’ away. Perhaps an hour or so later we arrived at the identified location but the micro brewery had given up the ghost and was no longer operating. After a kebab lunch for those of us who had not been courted at the market and a beer, we headed back to the hotel by taxi, having promised to go with the girls who have responsibility for the drinks on board the truck to restock the ‘fridge. So, after an hours siesta, it was off to the supermarket. Here we did very well in that one of the young men from the store volunteered to escort a trolley with our purchases to the truck so we did not have to carry what was quite a heavy load. A result!
On the way back, with our trolley steering escort, an Indian restaurant was sighted. Quelle excitement! A table was booked, but we were told the chef went home at 8.00. This all sounded a bit odd, but we agreed to arrive at 7.00 and order straight away, such was our enthusiasm for an Indian meal.
What actually happened was even more odd. We arrived, our numbers having doubled, everyone having thought it such a good idea, and were handed a menu but were told there was only chicken. Then menus were removed and we were told it was a set meal and the price. OK we said. We got some drinks and waited. And waited. A number of Indian men arrived but no food. The Indian men spoke English. They said a belly dancer would be arriving but there would be no food until 8.30 (when the chef would supposedly have gone home?). As it was still only 7.30, we decided that was too long and we would leave. We told our waiter who said that was not right and our food was just coming. The Indian gentlemen left. Our meal came – it was very good. As soon as we had finished the bill was produced because we were told we had to go (nicely). No belly dancer. It was 8.30. What was all that about?!