Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tashkent, Tyranny of Uzbekistan.

Just a quick post on Osh as I promised to do so. The interweb being very fickle in Osh I have had to prioritise what I do. Odes to myself are fun but not that high on the urgent list. Other things must come first.

As stated in the previous post, Osh has a very Central Asian feel. Once a trading post, always a trading post. This is great fun and gives one the impression that the Silk Road never really died but just revamped itself into the legendary Assorted Crap Road. Oh to follow the trail of the cheap pair of socks.

As you might guess the bazaar is the focal point of Kyrgystan's second city. It's wonderfully chaotic and haphazard but it's a bit tricky to quietly browse here. There are loads of pushcarts (and the odd taxi) ferrying stuff around and your ears become sensitive to their cry which sounds like a reminder of where you are (OSH! OSH). If you value your shins you start to mind their call.

It's a paradox that I love bazaars and markets with the same intensity that I detest shopping but there it is. Being limited on lugagge space and being stingy I bought nowt but managed to get my knife sharpened and also to get some trousers repaired. I had ripped a pair getting out of a mashrutka and the Kyrgyz love affair with smallness and jeans prevented me from buying a replacement. The bonus is that I got a giggle from the sewing ladies who at first were trying to get me to drop trow publicly then, when I convinced them that the trousers in my bag were the ones needing their expertise, they decided to become some sort of matrimonial agency. Apparently they know eligible ladies with many gold teeth.

I have also scrambled up Suleyman's throne, Osh's answer to Edinburgh's Arthur's Seat. It's wonderfully craggy and and peppered with significant caves and one stone slide where women would woosh down repeatedly. I thought it had something to do with fertility but seeing the age range (10-60plus) of the lasses polishing the chute with their bums I am either wrong or Kyrgyz women badly need some basic Sex Ed. Also of note on Solomon's little chair were the odd couple who go for some ilicit heavy petting.

Because of this I had a very strange argument. Me and a Swiss guy were climbing up to one rocky top and from time to time paused to check that we hadn't gone up anything we couldn't get down of. We then spotted a chap dryhumping his lady on another highspot and, predictably yet childishly, had a laugh about it. Said chap noticed and started to yell at us, presumably for being pervy, to which we responded. It's hard to have a bit of argie-bargie from highpoints 200 metres across from each other and with no common language but we decided to give it a go. We somehow managed to point out that if he wanted to feel up his girlfriend discreetly he should consider options other than the one spot than can be seen from anywhere in Osh. He buggered off and we continued upwards.

I suspect couples have to be a tad subtle here as it is way more islamic than Bishkek. It's all mosques and muezzins here and the ratio of women bearing headscarfs to women from the Russian school of hookerware is heavily in favour of Allah's lot. There are a few things who's origins I am unsure of though. At the waterfall in Arslanbob I had seen a lot of rags tied to bushes and in Osh there are people going about with a pan of burning herbs connected to a tube. They blow into the tube to produce smoke which they then waft around departing cars and businessnes in exchange for some notes. These look like remnants of traditions older than Islam.

Osh is religious by day but at night it's a different story. It's very badly lit and the streets belong to groups of aggressive drunken men. A bit like a UK high street without the slappers. The classic Central Asian battle between the Arab import of Islam and the Soviet import of joyless alcohol abuse has resulted in a division of the day in Osh. To highlight the point there is a very loud bar just across the street form the mosque and I am sure some people patronise both.

I'm not against a wee bit of religious hypocrisy but here it's a little irritating here for no better reason than they don't just make the odd exception in order to have a bit of fun with their friends and family, they get bladdered Russian style. This way of getting drunk is in my opinion one of the worst kind. Alocohol is not a social lubricant but pretty much a drug. It is consumed with little or no cheer and there are precious little jolly drunks around. A truly miserable way of getting sozzled.

Off to explore Tashkent,

Take care,



Post a Comment

<< Home