Urgench, a capital of Khorezm province
The markets of Uzbekistan are well-known not only for their great choice of fruit, nuts, and spices, but also for the tastiest nuns (or lepeshkas) – the bread baked in tandyr ovens, and somsas – small pies, usually, with meat. They are often sold from such old baby carriages.
Here, you may taste a piece of the Soviet Union by drinking the carbonated water with different flours from such machines, remaining, perhaps, only in the Central Asia.
Having fully enjoyed the market, we realized that there are no buses to Urgench departing from there; we had to go to the new bus station situated far from the city center.
At the bus station, we were immediately greeted by dozens of taxi drivers offering a ride to Urgench. We managed to get through them and reach the bus station itself, in vain. There was the only bored woman inside the huge building, telling us that all the buses to Urgench had departed before the afternoon and suggesting to take a taxi. The taxi drivers wanted 25000 per person, but we decided to wait for the better offer. Soon one of the drivers offered to drive us to Beruni (situated near Unrgench) for 15000, and then to take a taxi from Beruni to Urgench for 5000. This was a good choice: in Beruni we took a bus for 1500, paying altogether 16500 instead of 25000. Taking non-direct transport is a cheaper and, surprisingly, often faster way to travel in Uzbekistan.
By the way, that is how Uzbek drivers and passengers save themselves from the heat:
The bus brought us to the center of Urgench and stopped near TSUM – in the USSR it was a central shopping center, but nowadays it is a useless shop selling unreasonably expensive Chinese clothes. From there, we went by marshrutka nr. 19 (GPS coordinates of the place where it stops N41.55600 E60.62040) to the railway station where they recently renovated the rooms belonging to the railway station.
Be ready for endless checking of the documents, scanning the luggage, and answering the questions at Uzbekistan railway and bus stations. The Uzbeks are paranoid about terrorists, maybe more than Americans, who at least had serious precedents for that.
The room with AC is – 25000 per person, without AC – 20000.
We paid for the room without AC, but the room-keeper who seemed very kind let us into the air-conditioned rooms without extra fee. That was, however, compensated in the morning when we asked to keep our bags there, and she kindly agreed to do that for 10000. More, in the morning she woke us up at 7 to show that all is fine with the room to the colleague who was changing her. Finally, at 9, a policeman rushed into our room without even knocking the door or apologizing.
Modern Urgench is a relatively new city (founded in 1938), so there are not so many places to visit. Around 20 kilometers from the city there is the Amu Daria river falling into the Aral Sea/. The city itself is situated on Shavat chanel.
There are many parks and monuments dedicated to the national heroes. These monuments allow to learn more not only about the ancient history, but also about its current stage of development: the monuments uncover the most important heroes and events independent Uzbekistan chooses to refer to.
For example, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu was the last ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire. He was brought up as a warrior, and was well-respected by his people as a legitimate and fair ruler. In 1999, Uzbeks celebrated his 800 anniversary. This architectural complex is dedicated to the worthy son of his people, who bravely faced any danger.
The whole park glorifies al-Khwārizmī, one of the greatest scientists of the IX century, the founder of classic algebra.
It is interesting that in 1979 Urgench hosted an international symposium marking the 1100 anniversary of the term “algorithm”. On the day of the symposium opening, the monument to al-Khwārizmī was laid, and the park was built around it later.
One of the newest attractions of Urgench is the rest zone at the lake. Here you may eat the Soviet-style ice-cream, walk around the lake, and enjoy Uzbek architecture in miniature.
But most importantly, Urgench is a great hub to visit Khiva: it has a unique 31.3 kms long trolleybus line, connecting two cities. There we went next morning.