Friday, June 30, 2006


As you may remember, we entered Azerbaijan by cargo/ferry boat over the caspian sea right to Baku. Baku is the largest city in the Cauacasus and right on the water front. As I mentioned before, the Caspian sea is absolutely loaded with oil and gas reserves and Azerbaijan is currently raking it in.
The area of Azerbaijan is so rich in the stuff that it literally oozes out of the ground in places and there have been natural gas vents burning for ages as a result of ancient accidental lighting. It's probably no surprise that it is the birthplace of all sorts of fire worshipping religions and cults like Zoroastrianism (the first monotheistic religion by the way). Imagine hiking in the mountains and seeing a random, constant wall of flame. These days the walls of flame are dying as oil drilling in the region has reduced the underground pressure needed to keep them going.
As the oil was so easily accessible, the Soviets built the first ever offshore oil rigs just outside of Baku. They were incredibly inefficient and in fact the Soviets did so much drilling and chemical processing in the area that one of the main attractions of Baku is to drive around on the nearby Abseron peninsula and see the completely devastated landscape. All the pollution and factory pipes in the area make the whole thing look like some post-apocalyptic nightmare. We didn't do the drive around (I've seen enough garbage lately) but we did see a little bit coming in by sea and also driving out of Baku. What a mess. Needless to say, with the fall of the USSR most of the factories were shut down and people started leaving the area. Driving out of Baku you could see little oil derricks in neighbourhoods and in people's backyards. Insane. When we were docking the ferry at Baku we were just floating through a mess of oil rather than water. It was amazing and disgusting. Baku was a nice enough town though. Definately a new area of the world. It's funny to keep crossing borders and seeing the change in fashions as well as the look of the people themselves. More European clothing and HUGE sunglasses. We were laughing our heads off. Our biggest challenge was dealing with the money. Azerbaijan is currently revaluing its money. New manats are worth 5000 old ones but this year is the transition year so both types are floating around. The people quote prices in old manat, the banks give you new manat, and everyone pays and gives change in a combination of both. A little confusing and everyone has to go really slow to make sure they are not getting ripped off.
We did a little day trip south of Baku to a town called Qobustan. It is known for it's rock carvings dating back to 12,000 years ago or so. It also has a rock graffitied by a roman soldier, the furthest east evidence of romans found. Apparently it was some bored spy at the time. The wierdest (and definately most fun) thing in Qobustan were the mud volcanoes. On top of a hill outside town are just random little mud volcanoes. Like geysers but not hot or strong and more like farting mud blobs than anything else. As you may recall from China and a few other places we haven't mentioned, the girls are born to be mud demons. Little holes (of the best mud ever according to them) and somehow they managed to almost immediately get themselves all muddied up.
From Baku we then went to the hill town of Seki before crossing to Georgia. Not that hilly or high really compared to other hill towns. The whole area around the northern border with Georgia actually looks like Chilliwack. Little mountains on one side opening out into a flat plain, great as farmland though not being fully used when we drove through. The best part of Seki was the hotel. A converted Caravansarai (the old caravan hotel, trade post places) so the rooms are what would have been the little shops. The stone arches and big courtyard were really nice. You'll have to see the pictures when we get them up.

Hey Fans!! -Breanna

Amy- I'm so jelous that you've been to Japan! I'll make it there some day....I hope.
Shean- I'll take you up on one of your bear hugs.
Sandra- I still have Winnie the Pooh on my backpack. Our favourite quote "WE DON'T WANT CHAI!!"
Grandma- It's cute how you worry so much, but you don't need to.
Alysha- Let's ride the camels in Egypt together. Train rides and Backstreet Boys, wahooo.
Phyllis- Have fun on your cruise with Grandma.
Eric- It's awesome how you have us up as your home page. I hope we still are and haven't bored you yet.....Well maybe Ammon has. That's okay, we're sick of him too, haha!
Andrew- We're true football AKA soccer fans now. I hope we make you proud.
Bruce- You'd love the mountains and camping out here!
Britt- "OMG! It's an elephant!!!" Meet us in Africa, we'll find some more and drag you up another mountain, ahah. (Kilimanjaro)
Terri- Terri? Terri??? TEERRRII! Where you at? Are you on the plane yet?
Linda- Have you graduated yet so we can go play?!
Sky!- Ooooooraaaah!~! TEAM 5! P.S. Don't forget to wash behind your ears and wear clean socks every day.
Jesse- Sorry about creating the blog of torture.
Aletta- Bring that handsome boyfriend of yours out here to see us. Grad 2000 rocks!! The very, very right. Ha ha!
Malcolm- Butchart cookies, mmmmm! P.S. We need more toffee.
Kelsey- "Let me see that thooooOoooOOOOng!!"
Amanda- Keep saving up! Nothing is impossible, you'll make it!
Ron- Hope you're still addicted and still forwarding to Alysha.
Sarah & Tyler- Hope you are feeling better. It's great to see you on the webcam.
Jim- How's the retirement? Got the urge to travel yet?
Paul- It's almost september!
Gordon- About the soccer...We DO get pretty psyched when someone scores and DO choose sides....but our decision on which team to cheer for has a LOT to do with who has the nicest bodies in their uniforms!!!! Woot Woot, hubba hubba!!! Can't beat those legs and buns!!
Vanessa- I'm glad we're MSN buddies.
Lisa M.- Beware of Mr. Tightey Whiteys and his brothers!!!!
David & Ronna- Hope you are loving your new place. How's the garden growing?
Megs- "OOOh My goodness! Hoooooly cow!" Attack of the giant zit!
Wade- We can appreciate your work even more now after seeing the smiles out here. Beware of the one-toothed grannies!
Craig- We haven't heard any interesting poems lately.
To all of our fellow travellers we've met on the road- Happy travels, maybe we'll meet again and swap more stories. Keep in touch!
All of our friends at the ward- Thanks for all of your prayers. Keep 'em coming.
Those who are anonnymous- You guys are awesome for leaving comments!
Those we DO know who DON'T leave comments- We think of you often and wish you'd learn to type!! :)
It's really great out here and I want to share the experiences so... GET YOUR BUTTS OUT HERE!!!
P.S. I can't wait to watch the games tonight!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Where to begin? It is like going back to our roots or something as the Caucasus gave rise to Caucasians but the people are a mix of everything now. The girls are still trying to figure out why they stand out so much as it's no longer a skin colour thing anymore. Must be the sketchy clothes (mine are a mess and I am constantly sewing up holes in my stuff now), flipflops and the occasional English comment from us. Or maybe we've perfected the lost tourist look.....
People are still arguing about where the Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia) belong. Is it Europe? Asia? The Middle East? It's just sort of stuck in the middle of everywhere and has a bit part in the history of everything it seems. And yet all 3 fell into war after the end of the USSR. Armenia and Azerbaijan with each other, and Georgia with itself. The whole area seems to not know what it wants to be, or where for that matter. Nagorno-Karabakh, the area Azerbaijan and Armenia fought over wants to be (and is) independent (though not internationally recognized) and the two countries still hate each other. Huge sections of historical Armenia are in Eastern Turkey so they hate each other too. It's a bit tough here with so many borders closed. Then there's Georgia, one area (Abkhazia) has separated from Georgia, and a few other parts also want to be on their own. There is also an area that wants to join back up with Russia. Go figure, because right across the border is Chechnya, which of course doesn't want to have anything to do with Russia. If they all had their way, there'd be a dozen countries here. In the mean time, it's a mess.
The style is definately very Soviet in the capitals but otherwise it is quite different and European. I never thought the day would come but I am now wishing for the days when things for us were still in Russian. Azerbaijan has a roman alphabet but Georgia and Armenia have their own alphabets so it is really hard to figure out what is going on. We just aren't there long enough to figure them out so I'm really happy when the occasional thing is written in Russian. English (and tourism) in the region are not very common at all and we are still having to make do with Russian.
The Caucasus is also a very poor and messed up region and I must say I have been very surprised at what we've actually seen here. I don't know what I was expecting but I don't think it was this. Things are totally run down, dirty and falling apart but things are finally starting to pick up. Corruption, crime and all that mess are finally coming back under control. The landscape of Georgia and Armenia especially, is beautiful. Green mountains, lots of rivers and gorges and tons of small villages scattered about. The Caucasus mountain range has a very, European look and feel.
Azerbaijan is Muslim, but Armenia and Georgia are the first and second countries ever to convert to Christianity. Old Christian monasteries on tops of hills all over Georgia and Armenia are beautiful. We have found the people here to be less friendly and helpful (though there have been many great ones too and we'd be very lost without them) than in previous countries, simply because I believe you can't get any better than what we've seen before. They are also quite unattractive. Big noses, big bellies and the women have an unbelievable amount of facial hair. We can't tell some of them apart from the men!
As I said before, tourism here is not very well developed and most accomodation is in homestay B+B's where a family will squeeze you into a spare room. A bit squishy for 4 sometimes. (Un)fortunately for us, we really can't appreciate the hospitality of Georgia or Armenia properly as they are huge drinkers and meals usually end up with people sweating alcohol for the next few days. This is, of course, all hearsay from other backpackers. One of the few ways to insult people here is to refuse a drink offer, so we've become rather unpopular at times.
The area really needs a few more years of tourism and stability to get the hostels set up and drive prices down. It's actually more expensive here than in most of Eastern Europe. Transportation generally sucks too as the towns are so small and people don't go anywhere. There are usually only a couple of minibuses going anywhere each day so it is hard to get around. Many places require very expensive taxi rides to see. As we are not financially or equipmentally prepared to see the region properly, I am finding the experience rather frustrating and more difficult than expected and we are continually scratching things off the list to do as it's just too difficult to arrange. Consequently we are moving fairly quickly now. We are currently in Yerevan, Armenia. I'll have to write about individual countries and experiences later.
PS. Savannah wants you to know she is beautiful.
PPS. I think I created a few soccer junkies. The World Cup is on (if you didn't know) and we've been following it. Bre and Savannah are becoming obsessed and if there is a TV around during a game, the day is over.......

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Gas and glass

I know a lot of you (if not all) are really complaining about the gas prices at home right now. I just want to make a quick comment on that just to put it in perspective and make you jealous at the same time.
You guys actually don't have it as bad as you think and gas is still pretty cheap at home compared to other places. At least you still make some money to pay for it too. What I want to know is how do people in Pakistan, Tajikistan or Georgia, where average incomes are a few dollars a day maybe, get by when the price of their gas is also $1/litre or more. It's amazing to think that these poor countries are also suffering from the same brutal gas price hikes that we are.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are those countries that have all the gas. The caspian sea is apparently totally loaded with natural resources and fuel reserves to rival anywhere else in the world. The countries really cashing in on that are of course Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. As they don't have any tourism there, almost all foreigners are rich businessmen cashing in on this and the prices of everything (especially hotels) reflects that fact. Turkmenistan has tons of natural gas and not much oil but apparently Iran sends a lot of it's oil to Turkmenistan to get processed so Turkmenistan cashes in anyway. Their fuel is so heavily subsidized that gas is 1.5 cents/litre!!! That is not a typo. If you can think of anywhere cheaper I'd love to hear it. Their airline is also so heavily subsidized that even a foreigner can fly all the way across the country for about $10! That's definately the best deal I've ever seen.
I know we are a little behind on where we've been and what we've done lately, but we are moving fast these days trying to get through the Caucasus quickly as it is even more expensive than eastern europe and we don't like that idea very much. We are currently in Tbilisi, Georgia and I just want to say that I haven't seen this much garbage lying around since India. The worst part is all the broken glass everywhere. Damn drinkers. It's nice being in all the Muslim countries because you don't have all the problems associated with alcohol. One of the simplest, but most obvious is the broken glass from bottles lying around. Even in India, where garbage is piled sky high, there was never any broken glass. Convenient, considering half the people didn't wear shoes. That is just not an option over here.
We'll try to catch up a little later. Things are still going well. There are new pictures up from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in case you hadn't noticed.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Family Travel

Well after completing the 7 "Stans" and all of Central Asia, I have to say, we have a brilliant leader for our little group! Ammon is amazing. He can learn and research everything we need to know so quickly. We have successfully negotiated one of the hardest regions in the world to travel. With the lack of tourism it makes travelling through very difficult and we've met many others that have not had such an easy time at all! We just mingle and travel the way that locals do, in most cases. This really is the only way to get a feel for the people anyways. It's so interesting to see the change in the look of the people as you travel from country to country. You always can immediately tell that you've crossed a border. There is always a noticable change, some very obvious and apparent and others very slight. One thing is always the same, people are people. Some are good and some are not so good. I'm happy to say that we have been lucky and only met the good ones (with exception of the taxi drivers of course). I believe that we have had an almost flawless (if it was completely flawless it would be boring, you need some challenges or there would be no stories to tell or any personal growth) journey so far, for three reasons: #1 Ammon is SO good at what he does #2 We are a family. It's amazing how border guards, security, police and every one else in general soften up immediately. As soon as they discover that we're travelling as a family for so long, they want to hear our stories and are amazed. We don't get our bags thoroughly checked like everyone else and the gaurds lighten up and start to have fun with us instead. I guess it's because they all have families at home too. Even the infamous Turkmen border guards stopped searching our bags after learning we were a family. They simply moved on to our Japanese friend next in line and completely ripped apart his bag! #3 Because of our prayers and yours. We have absolutely had several miracles (Did we ever tell you about losing our passports in Afghanistan?!) and felt protection at other times.
We are having a wonderful life experience! We will have so many memories to draw on when we get back to our normal lives at home. We are still going strong and there is still so much to see and do.
P.S. Shean, I like Coke best now, hahah. They keep changing the taste on me in the different countries!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sim City world

I don't know where to begin on Turkmenistan, it's just so weird. Turkmenistan is one of the wackiest countries in the world. The ruler is super paranoid and has almost totally shut down the country to foreigners. Tourist visas are really hard to get and require an accompanied guide the whole time which is really expensive. The trick is that it is possible to get 5 day transit visas and once you are in, well, there shouldn't be any problems. It's very safe, just suspicious.
There are roadblocks and police checks everywhere and you are constantly having to register your passport details wherever you go. In Konye-Urgench to buy a ticket for the ruins we had to register our passports. Then when we went to the museum, we had to register again. The people really are super friendly, some of the best in the world. It's seems to hold true that the more oppressed the people are, the nicer they are to us.
The scenery out there is also pretty wierd. Beautiful in that lost on the moon kind of way. There is even less life out there than the other deserts we've been through. It was 45C of course so we were roasting. On the way west from Ashgabat (driving at Mach2) there were times where as the result of the haze and the flat, uniform landscape, there was the standard mirage on the road in front of you but also to either side so that you get this wierd feeling of driving in the middle of well, a mirage and nothing real around you. Quite trippy.
President Turkmenbashi is a crazy guy. One of the world's top megalomaniacs and obsessed with his own personality cult. He grew up an orphan and is obsessed with his parents. He even renamed the month of April after his mother. Ashgabat is something you just have to experience. The president just randomly bulldozeses huge sections of the city and then builds it with whatever he wants. He especially loves hotels, parks, statues (of himself) and fountains. White marble and gold are the look he favours too. They are beautiful structures and awesome to look at but completely useless. The buildings are empty and hardly anyone is in the parks.
It's funny because he's built these parks and museums and shopping malls and when you go in, the only people there are the guards or cleaning staff, repolishing spotless, unused surfaces.
Very surreal. We met a few American businessmen in Ashgabat that had flown over the president's new helicopter that he bought. It's gold-plated inside (even the toilet) and has a shower too! First in the world.
The sad thing is that all the residents of these bulldozed areas are left with nothing. Anywhere he isn't interested in, be it 2 blocks away from all the cool monuments or on the other side of the country, is sorely neglected and falling apart. The soviet memorials and parks are full of weeds and their fountains no longer work, in complete contrast to the new ones he's just built (including the largest fountain in the world, the middle of which is a shopping mall!). The whole thing really feels and looks like Sim city when you view it from above on the Neutrality arch monument (which has a golden statue of the president that rotates throughout the day to always face the sun).
Maybe it's a result of being out here for a year, or they really are bad but we found the taxi drivers there to be totally unreasonable. After overcharging you to go somewhere, they then follow you around or stand outside of the place you are at demanding even more. Usually you can just tell them to go away or ignore them and they will give up after a few minutes but not in Turkmenistan. Unbelievably persistent and after they already have more than they deserve and agreed on. I couldn't believe it. Nearly fought the first one but the homestay family got between us and I finally remembered what country I was in. The second one, at the ferry terminal, was just as crazy. To be perfectly honest, in the end we didn't pay him enough because he had told us a price and then we agreed to it. When we got to the end he tried to jack it up to an unreal amount. Well, when you really don't have any more money and would've taken different transport under those conditions, and he makes up all sorts of lies to get more money, and when he threatens to stay there and prevent you from leaving the country, but you're not leaving and have nothing better to do than just sit in a waiting room for more than 24 hrs, he doesn't have much ground to attack us from. We are very good at waiting people out now. It took him a good 2 hrs or so, trying to cause a scene and turn the other people there against us but as it went, if you are in a building full of police, customs and immigration people and nobody cares he can't do much without getting himself in trouble too. Savannah was right about my "Oscar winning performance" though it's too bad the girls missed it. I brilliantly portrayed the distressed man with nothing left in the world. It was modelled after Hudson's "What are we supposed to do now man?!?!" from Aliens and I'm sure Bill Paxton would be proud. We should've got it on tape or something....... Of course for the next 40 hrs the other passengers on the ferry were making reference to it and laughing at me. They were cool but I think they thought I was a little crazy. They liked the girls though.

Friday, June 16, 2006


For starters, Turkmenistan was really good (subtracting the taxi drivers who are our mortal enemies!!) and I am proud to now be able to say that I have successfully been through ALL of Central Asia and ALL of the "Stans" before the age of 15. We only had a quick visit in Turkmenistan due to the 5 day transit visa. We did get to see a few things though. Our first stop was a dry, old west look a like town named Konye-Urgench. We saw some old minarets, mausoleums and medressas! The people there were extremely nice and helpful like everyone else in the country. Our first day we got driven to the sights and our hotel by the ticket office guy. How random, eh? Then we took an extremely HOT, 10 hour minibus to Ashgabat, the capital. The country side is a complete desert with sand dunes for the most part and there are lots of camels roaming about.
Ashgabat was extremely clean, quiet and very beautiful. The city has tons of monument parks, fountains, wide streets and trees! The president basically just builds statues of himself and makes all the major buildings have at least one picture of him in/on it all over the place and builds buildings for the hell of it. It's total Sim City! But geez, if you got the money, why not....hahah! We stayed there for two nights at a really friendly family guest house.
From there we went to Turkmenbashi to catch our boat across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan on my birthday. We got an early start and drove in the sweetest car I've been in in the last year and it even had A/C ( none of this 15 km/hour, rickety, old, paint peeling Indian bus, ahhaah). The ride only took 5 hours or so when it should have been more like 12 hours. As you can see, we were HAULING BUTT!! Other than having to slow down for camels, police checks or pot holes, we were cruising at 180 km/hour!! SO fun!! When we got there the taxi driver tries to charge us 4 x the price we had agreed on. So predictable! I knew it was too good to be true, hehe. The taxi driver stood around causing a scene for a while, expecting us to pay him then finally left after Ammon's "Oscar winning performance", as he put it. Ammon was frantically pulling out his pockets pretended he had no extra money to pay the taxi with and demonstrating sleeping on the curb. Sometimes I'm not convinced he ISN'T a crazed, poor, lost man, with the places he's been travelling these days! The ticket office wasn't open and they told us it would be "tonight". We sat for over 24 hours in the waiting room and poor mom stayed up the ENTIRE night hoping for the ticket office to open and the obvious, watching our bags. Of course it was VERY nerve racking not knowing if we would get on the boat or not in time before our visa ran out. So lucky lucky me, I got to sleep on the hard floor, freezing my arse off in the A/C waiting room on my sweet 16th birthday, ahhaha! But I DID get to see the Caspian Sea after all, thanks to Ammon. I always get what I want...don't I, heheh?
It wasn't until 11:00am the next day that they even opened the ticket office. The boat didn't leave until 6:00 p.m.
I had an absolute blast on the boat! The people ( there were only about 60 people in total) were extremely friendly. We had a bunch of teenagers with us so we got along well. There were a couple kids who could translate for us so that was good. We laughed and joked and talked a lot. It could have almost passed as a slumber party. The only thing we needed to complete the scene was my birthday cake and some ice cream, hehe! Oh yes, and on the very first day of being 16 I got proposed to by some dude's father. Hhaha, he was so excited about it and saying I was his daughter and Ammon would be his son-in-law. Oh man......I just felt sorry for the 13 year old translater who was laughing and looked so embarrassed asking me to marry the guy's son. It was great but I think he was getting his hopes up a little too much.......
We arrived this morning at 6:00 am in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, our 15th country so far and definately not the last!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Aral Sea

As with Samarkand and Bukhara, Khiva was another one of those cool old towns along the silk road. The only real complaint out here is that it's all a little too restored and clean now so you lose a lot of the atmosphere. In the old towns themselves there are all these great building but really the only people there are tourists and souvenir hawkers. The markets are also pretty small and don't have that same kind of chaos found in Kashgar or even Osh, let alone India. In that sense it's been disappointing but in a way it makes for a much easier day. Amazing how much better tea is at rehydrating you than water is. Just load up on tea at breakfast and off you go. Don't even need another drink until late afternoon.
From Khiva we went further north to Nukus. Not very exciting but today we went on a "field trip" to Moynaq. Moynaq was once the southern fishing port on the Aral sea. Maybe you've heard of it, maybe you haven't but the Aral sea is considered the world's worst artificial ecological disaster. Back in the 60s the Soviets decided to divert the water from the 2 rivers that flow into the Aral into canals instead and use it to irrigate the desert. So the desert (as we've been driving along a lot of it) actually is acres and acres of cotton fields (Uzbekistan is the world's 2nd leading producer of cotton). At one point over 90% of the rivers were diverted to the canals and the Aral quickly began to shrink causing all sorts of problems in the area. Hotter, drier summers, colder and longer winters. It's gone from the 4th largest lake in the world to the 8th or something but the area difference is huge. Moynaq now sits more than 100km from the shore and there is no fishing industry at all. Moynaq's population has largely disappeared and you can walk around just outside of town and pick up seashells from the desert floor and climb on deserted boats stuck in the sand. Quite strange and tragic to think that it was all done on purpose.
We are off to Turkmenistan tomorrow. It is known as "the other North Korea" because it is so restricted and paranoid so we won't have internet access again until we get to Azerbaijan, hopefully in a week.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Silk Road

Seeing as we've been on so much of it now, I thought I'd give it a proper mention. The "silk road" refers to the old overland trading route between China and Europe or the Middle East. Though the silk road was technically many routes that changed with time and politics (trade was already flourishing 2000 years ago), and covered the entire route from Xi'an, China to the shores of the Mediterranean or as far as Istanbul, the true spirit and legend of the silk road was/is in the middle, Uzbekistan. It is, for the most part, the only real history and reason for existance that central asia had. It was the string of oasis and crossroad towns that held it all together in a region of temperature extremes and harsh terrain, including some of the world's highest mountain passes and meanest deserts. The area around Uzbekistan was the center of it all, the junction between China, Persia, India and Europe and even today evidence of this can easily be seen. The architectural styles are an interesting fusion of the others and even the people look like a thorough blend of the rest. I'd say a Mongolian/Persian cross is most dominant but blue eyes are common too, coming from Aryan or even Greek influences from Alexander the Great's time. Archaeological digs have found the remains of every major religion (and a lot of minor ones too) all living in harmony (wouldn't it be nice to have that again!) and numerous languages all being used. As almost all traders were short or medium range haulers, the cities in the middle (here) effectively functioned as huge markets where goods were swapped and provisions restocked. Tea, silk, spices, paper and porcelain went west while gold, silver, ivory, wood and wool went east. Very wealthy and beautiful cities like Samarkand and Bukhara were created, only to be completely destroyed ~1220 for insulting Genghis Khan.
150 years later Timur (Tamerlane) created his own empire in the area and smashed them all again. He did a lot of building after though and the whole region is full of the blue domes and amazing tilework popularized at the time. You'll have to look at the photos when we get some up (don't hold your breath though) as some of these sites are awesome. Uzbekistan seems to be the only country in central asia with package tours and tourists too (we've seen a lot lately) so you have no excuse and have to come out here some time.
With major increases in the instability of the region and sea trade developments a few hundred years ago, the silk road went into decline, never to relive it's glory years. Small waring Khanates (kingdoms), infamous for their brutality and slave trading, or nomadism took over until the Russians eventually annexed the region. With the Soviets in charge, the entire region might as well've been wiped off the globe for all anyone ever saw of it. They did, however, do quite a bit of restoration as general decay and earthquakes had managed to knock almost everything down.
We've been to Samarkand and Bukhara now, both full of fantastic history and architecture. The streets are so quiet and clean though that we are all a little disturbed. Quite a few bus loads of tourists kicking around so there is a lot of tourist trap souvenir atmosphere as well. But overall it's been great. Accomodation out here is private B+B's with rooms around very relaxing courtyards and finally some edible food. They run at about $8/night with breakfast (more than we can eat). It's still really hot out here (35C) but we're quite used to all of that now. It's just the intensity and avoiding sunburns that we worry about now. It is also ridiculously windy too.
Tomorrow we take off further west to see the last of Uzbekistan's great silk road cities, Khiva.