The first thing we noticed upon arriving in the outskirts of the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent in May was the strawberry infused air. The main road was lined for miles with stall after stall selling huge bowls of plump red fruit for around USD$1 and the sweet smell filled our shared taxi. Strolling around town in the following days we came across fields of wild strawberries growing throughout public parks, outside office buildings and alongside carparks. Strawberries were everywhere! It’s a great time to visit the city and spend a few days wandering around. Here’s our top sites and tips for Tashkent.
Check it out for the architecture, inside and out, as much as for the action. A great place to exchange your USD at the best rate and pick up fresh fruit, veg and less fresh meat and offal. Head upstairs for dried fruit and nuts, a friendly greeting and a great view down onto the action below. Oh and during May, the entire bazaar area smells of, you guess it, strawberries!
The most famous of Uzbekistan’s cuisine is the seemingly simple plov. Technically just a jumble of rice, meat, vegetables and animal fat it’s a favourite of the region and you can get it almost everywhere. Handy when you can’t read the menu, just ask for plov and you shall receive. A good choice is National Food opposite the Circus (east) where service is welcoming and a plate of plov to share and a pot of tea for two will set you back just USD$2.
Get that old Soviet feeling
Like many of Central Asia’s capital cities Tashkent is full of Soviet architecture, monuments and mosaics. Stop by the Kosmonavtlar metro station to check out the art work of famous Soviet cosmonauts and astronomers lining the walls before heading outside the see the Cosmonaut Monument. Even the trains are old Soviet style. Check out Mustakillik Maydoni where you get a weird echo of your footsteps when walking below the domed lights on the platform and admire the chandeliers and over the top marble. Just be prepared to have your bags searched when entering the metro and again before passing through the turnstile. We were also asked every time we entered to show our passports and visa so make sure you at least carry a copy of both.Oh and if you want to take photos on the metro be super discreet, there’s security everywhere and in typical Soviet fashion it’s not allowed!
In addition to the metro the exterior of the Central Exhibitions Hall of the Academy of Arts, the Circus building, Hotel Uzbekistan and the Seattle Peace Park will all remind you of Uzbekistan’s Soviet past. During the 1980’s Seattle schoolchildren created 10,000 tiles to commemorate Seattle and Tashkent’s twin city relationship and a Cold War era wish of peace. It’s touching if a little worn and seeing things from children’s eyes perceived in art is humbling.
Art Gallery of Uzbekistan
You can get your Tashkent culture fix here for less than USD$1. Rotating exhibitions mixed with static showings make this a worthwhile stop if you’re passing by.
Release your inner child and climb aboard some old Soviet relics. If you’re lucky the place will be swamped with over enthusiastic school children when you visit making the place seem even more exciting.
Grab a bed at Art Hostel
One of the cities first and best hostels, this place attracts a good variety of travellers. We ran into many overland friends we hadn’t seen in weeks here, the buffet breakfast is varied and huge and there’s a swimming pool to boot. Add to this good WiFi, comfortable beds, uncrowded dorm rooms and a well stocked kitchen and this place has everything a hostel needs. The nearest metro station is Kosmonavtlar from where it’s a 10-15 minute walk and if the place is full they have a hotel a short walk away which usually has rooms with breakfast for a couple of dollars more a night. Dorm beds around $12, private twin/double at the hotel USD$30.
Camera repairs before hitting the Pamir Highway
Having had some issues with the zoom on our professional Canon lens we were stoked to find this place right outside the Alisher Navoi metro station. Nuron are a certified Canon repair agent so all repairs are warranty guaranteed and not expensive. If you have any minor issues and are heading into the Pamirs get it checked before you leave town.
Don’t forget to try the local craft beer!
After trying several times to locate a couple of craft beer bars we’d found online we almost gave up until we finally managed to hunt out Dudek Brewery. Friendly staff and decently priced craft brew plus an extensive beer snack menu means you can easily settle in for a couple. The place gets packed with locals on weekends and the atmosphere is great.
Tips for Tashkent
- If arriving from the west by shared taxi you’ll likely be dropped right near the metro station in which case ignore the determined city taxi drivers and ask for directions to the metro. It’s quick, clean and cheap.
- Always cary your passport or a photocopy of your passport and visa. We were asked every time we took the metro, sometimes just in order for the guards to practice their English, other times to scour every single page to ensure we were legitimate.