Following the golden road to Samarkand, sort of…

by Ollie, 09/02/2014

I am in Turkmenistan
Where is that?
It’s in central Asia
What are you doing there?
I am working there
Working? But does it have a coastline?
It does indeed, 1740 km of it in fact
In central Asia?
But how is that by the sea?
It’s on the Caspian Sea
Oh right so

That’s usually the direction a conversation went, when I told people I was going to Turkmenistan for work.
Outside of Turkmenistan not a lot seems to be known about this former Soviet republic and to be honest I didn’t know a whole lot about it myself.
So when I was in Dublin before Christmas I went to Hodges & Figgis to see if I could get a guidebook on Turkmenistan.
Unfortunately they had none. They did however have one for central Asia, surely that would have a section on Turkmenistan?
Well, it did. A whole 2 pages.
Not much help that. Good auld Wikipedia (click here) and Wikitravel (click here) had some interesting stuff on Turkmenistan though and Google Images (click here) came up with some nice photos.

Getting there took me quite a while. At Heathrow I missed my connecting flight so I had to spend the night in a hotel at the airport. The next morning I flew to Frankfurt and from there to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. At the airport I had to hand in my Letter Of Invitation (it made me feel kind of special being invited into the country), which the company had arranged for me, and a hefty $117 to get a four-week visa.
Myself and a few of my colleagues were then picked up and brought to a hotel in the city where we could sleep for a few hours. The next morning we were on a domestic flight to Turkmenbashi where tug and dredger were waiting for us.

Turkmenistan is on the Silk Road. The caravans of old used to travel through the desert to the oases of Merv and Konye-Urgench amongst others.
James Elroy Flecker wrote

“We travel not for trafficking alone:
 By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned: 
 For lust of knowing what should not be known
 We follow the Golden Road to Samarkand!”

Those romantic days of the old Silk Road are gone, but the sand in the desert, which starts as soon as you leave Turkmenbashi, actually has a golden colour and every now and again we see camels and horses roaming the desert on our way from the hotel to the project area. I even saw a local man riding his donkey in the desert.

So with a bit of imagination, I find myself not on a tugboat, but on the Silk Road.

The Turkmen flag.

The port of Turkmenbashi

View of Turkmenbashi, or Krasnavodsk in Russian, from my hotel room

A father and his son herding their sheep through the streets of Turkmenbashi

The dredger and a random tug on the Caspian Sea seen from our own tug

1 comment:

  1. Mooie fotos ziet er redelijk beschaafd uit ook van dichtbij?