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A romance carved in stone

A romance carved in stone
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While searching for details about the place one can land up in a fix. In maximum tour guides, instead of projecting the places of visit about the place, there is a lot of information about its culture,  especially mentioning it as a Muslim dominated country.

Sitting in Delhi, I started surfing the internet to gather details about Tashkent for I was long planning a short trip there. But the tour details and sites were not impressive and I began to doubt my decision for a moment.

Though the names of our neighbour, Pakistan, and the country I was visiting, Uzbekistan, sounds similar; the culture is very different. Tashkent is known as the city of peace and rightly so, since there are no cops patrolling the streets of the capital. Out of curiosity and being a crime reporter by profession, I visited a police station to understand this peculiar situation. I was stunned to know that the city has almost zero crime rate. How I wish this was the case in India!

The people in Uzbekistan are men of honour, modern and sophisticated. Women in their land are very safe and can wear anything – from spaghetti tops to long, flowing skirts. The deliberations in women clothing are very few and open. I was elated, since I could feel the reality down the Soviet-built streets.

Tashkent, commonly known as the stone city for its ancient monuments and sculptures is a great attraction for sightseers. But it is a sheer disappointment for those searching for skyscrapers like New York and Singapore.

Apart from the TV tower and few others, there are no tall buildings in the city, which now openly competes with Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as a favourite tourist destination. It’s the epitome of brilliant Soviet design and architecture, a 375m structure that stands north of the city but can be viewed from all over Tashkent.

The city even boasts of a deep Indian connection – a park named after the second Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri, with his statue in the middle. According to reports, Shastri died in 1966, under mysterious circumstances in Tashkent, soon after signing the Tashkent Declaration.
Often referred to as ‘Thailand of the Middle East’, Tashkent is young and vibrant. But the people and administration have tremendous respect for their history and cultural values.

The Abdulkasim Medressah (Madarsa), Khavendi Takhur Sheikh Mausoleum (Museum), Memorial of Victory, Romanov Palace, Parliament Building, Memorial of Repressions, Independence Square are a must visit in Tashkent. For a Delhiite, it’s more like the entire story in a nutshell. For me it was an experience of a lifetime.

It is impossible to miss the Amir Timur Square at the heart of the city. It is basically a huge circular park around Amir Timur monument, the commander and founder of a huge medieval empire. It is located at the centre of the city, under the thick foliage of Amir Timur Square. The commandant sits on his horse, clad in armour, his steed in his left hand, his right hand stretched over the people meeting him, proudly wearing his crown as if just returning from a victory.

Amir Timur Square is surrounded with buildings of the ‘Uzbekistan’ Hotel, University of Law (former Women’s Gymnasium), the Amir Timur Museum, well-known Tashkent Chimes and the Forums Palace — one of the most beautiful architectural structures in Tashkent.

Trust me, it is a beautiful view when you stand at the centre of the park. From Amir Timur Square, you can go to any part of Tashkent since the road connectivity is very good. The place is a photographer’s delight with a marriage of diversity and traditions.

You can also take a taxi or a bus to visit these places. While travelling in the city, you will rarely see anyone on the road as Tashkent is a sparsely populated city. At times, you might feel that you are the only one walking down the alley.

If you are on a short visit to the city, it is better to check out the historical places at first and then move towards the most beautiful place of Tashkent—Charvak lake and Chimgan mountains. You are bound to remember the place for years and long to spend more days there.

Chimgan mountains are 60 kms away from the capital and it will take around one and a half hour by bus (easily available) to reach there. But to enjoy the scenery you need to reach on the top via chair lift that is again an adventure by itself. After reaching the top, you will find a breathtaking view.

Lake Charvak (from Chor bogh, four gardens in Persian) is a water reservoir in the northern part of Tashkent. It was created by erecting a 168 m (551 ft) high stone dam (Charvak Hydropower Station) on the Chirchiq River, a short way downstream from the confluence of Pskem, Ko'ksu and Chatkal rivers in the western Tian-Shan mountains, which provide the main volume of water.

Lake Charvak is a popular resort and thousands of travelers from all over the world visit the reservoir. There are a wide range of hotels, houses and tapchans to accommodate tourists along the banks of Charvak like Yusufhona, Brichmulla, Nanay, Sidjak. Yusufhona is also a popular place among paragliders.

The best time to visit Chimgan Mountains is in the winters when the peaks are covered with snow and shimmers with the first rays of the sun.

Even if you visit the place in summer, it is as exciting as it would be in December. After all every season has its own specialty. It is always better to wear cotton clothes in summer as you might sweat a lot.

Two hours is enough to spend at the mountains and then you can move on to ‘The Charvak lake’, formed of melted snow. Words are not enough to describe the view. The deep blue water of the lake surrounded by green mountain slopes appears like a blue pearl. The lake is as beautiful as the Pangong in Ladakh.

There are plenty of options to enjoy on the beach like water scooters, boating, banana rides only to name a few. These rides are the main attractions on the lake. Even if you do not know swimming, there is no need to feel unhappy as you will be provided with all safety measures. All these rides are very affordable and adventurous too.

For relaxation, Charvak Resort restaurant, is adjacent to the lake is the best option. You can have food and snacks at the resort. A very special kind of tea is also available there that is served in a bowl (not in a cup).

Paragliding is another amazing option that one must try. Flying like a bird in the middle of the mountains and above the beautiful lake is an extraordinary feeling, one of the best experiences I had in my life.

The Chorsu Bazaar is a traditional shopping hub in Tashkent. A portion of the bazaar is under the open sky whereas the main area is under a huge dome-shaped building. Believe me, it is the best place to check your bargaining skills and enjoy the market to the core.

Nuts and dry fruits including almonds, raisins and apricots are a must buy from Chorsu Bazaar. I can bet that you have never ever tasted such delicious dry fruits in India. Your bargaining skills will work here and you can negotiate the prices with happy shopkeepers trying to have their way and smiling away for every Indian customer who steps into their shops.

Actually, people in Uzbekistan are very fond of watching Bollywood movies and love Indian music. They will try to impress with their broken Hindi but you really don’t have to try very hard to understand it.

Chorsu Bazaar is also famous for its fruits and vegetables. To bring back gifts for your near and dear ones, you can buy artifacts in plenty from the market.

Malls in the city are another option to hang around. But all the things are comparatively expensive. Samarqand Darvoza, is one of the famous malls in Tashkent that offers you best candies dipped in chocolates and a variety of juices. You can surely buy them, but you cannot bargain as the prices are fixed there. You can also enjoy Uzbekistani food at five star hotels/restaurants and even visit popular eateries and cafes which offer great food that is affordable and tasty.


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