Turkish Airlines, Boston to Istanbul, Istanbul to Tashkent. By the time we arrived in Istanbul, I had already been mauled by our tyrannical Tuscan farm cat Ponce. While attempting to quench his kitty thirst on the 11 hour flight, he decided he didn’t like the oral syringe method, and proceeded to sink his fangs deep into my forearm. Infection set in fast, and my arm started to swell up like a balloon. By the time we landed in Tashkent at 7am I could barely move my arm, and my temperature was 101.5. Passport control, customs, agricultural inspection, bus ride to hotel, immediately to the international clinic, good antibiotics, sleep it off. Welcome to Uzbekistan.
Less than 24 hours later, the house hunting adventure began. In a jet lagged semi comatose state of mind, it was like a surreal episode of HGTV’s House Hunters International. Ambient air temperature about 110°F, our group of newcomers were grouped together and split between two agents, taken away in vans, and shown properties in various states of acceptability. Small houses, huge houses, un-renovated and brand new apartments mixed in with standard soviet era stock. Some had success immediately, while others continued looking for the next three days. We fell into the three-day group, not because we’re picky, but because the two perfectly acceptable apartments we said yes to both fell through at the last minute. Apparently, even if a cat is okay during the showing, when the landlord goes home and tells the wife, the wife says no.
We eventually settled on a typical (but renovated) soviet style apartment in central Tashkent. We’re on the fourth level of a 10 story block that was supposedly built about 25 years ago. The building, we’re told, is owned by the city. All residents of the city pay taxes which support maintenance, so there isn’t a separate maintenance fee like you’d see with a condocomplex in the states. Heat and hot-water are provided here like a utility, controlled by a central district thermostat that decides when heat gets turned on or off for the season.
The city of Tashkent does not feel much different than most capital cities in eastern Europe. It does however have a distinctly eastern vibe. It’s difficult to describe, and will require further exploration. Getting around is easy. Hold out your hand on any busy road, and in less than a minute, a car will pull up offering to take you wherever you need to go for less than $2 in most cases. Wide busy avenues separate pedestrian friendly rows of European style storefronts. Behind those storefronts are rows and rows of evenly spaced apartment blocks with smaller side streets. Small convenience stores, cafes and restaurants can be found on the lower level of most of these blocks, and 8-10 floors of apartments above.
There hasn’t been time yet for Tashkent tourism, but we hope to get out this weekend and explore a little bit. The bulk of these first days has been focused on the logistics of getting settled into our new lives, but Uzbekistan beckons! We got a glimpse of the mountains, and keep driving past the beautiful Russian Orthodox center and bustling bazaar. Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva all await PashbyMaul adventures in the weeks and months ahead, so stay tuned!