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An Author on the loose
13th May 2018 - Travels on the SIlk Road
Day 1: Ashgabat - the morning after and the city tour

Last evening we crossed the plaza to the  Circus and bought tickets . This is only the first day in Ashgabat, but the performance could well be the highlight of the  tour. It was a magnificent, old-fashioned circus although full of up to date sophistication. The effects, choreography and skills were superb.  There were jugglers, acrobats, tumblers, high-wire artistes, goats, doves, camels, a donkey and the wonderful Akhal-Teke horses. 

I went up to pat one, and their coat is truly extraordinary with it's iridescent sheen. The trick riders were enormously talented. Imagine the nightmare it must have been as a cavalry of Mongolians charged down on a town - How frustrating to swing a sword at a rider and find they'd ducked beneath their horse and come out the other side!  One of these riders was a little girl, who can't have been more than five.

Today the city tour:  We started at the Sunday market where everything is there for sale, from goats to jewellery,but the scale of the place is so large it could take you a lifetime to find it all.

Then on to the City itself.

I had no idea!  Ashgabat is magnificent. This is a city of white and gold - white for the marble, imported from Turkey, that is used on the buildings; and gold or  gold leaf liberally applied to public monuments.

This is a CIty of grand design. Completely destroyed by a vicious earthquake in 1948 in which 100,000 people were killed, old Ashgabat disappeared. Initially it's reconstruction was determined by Russian Communist values, but in 1991 when the USSR fell apart and Turkmenistan achieved independence the scheme changed. There is a grandiose, monumental vision designing this city. It's buildings, it's vision is on an enormous scale by any measure. 

I imagine this is how Paris felt when Napoleon started knocking it into the modern world, or maybe what London was like after the fire forced it to redesign itsself.

Every detail of this city has had thought and design put into it. I couldn't find any object, from lamp posts to monuments, that had been put together purely to be utiliterian. Everything has been designed to be asethetically pleasing. It's almost like being in an extended Disney land, except this is for real. 

A part of me worries that, like Versailles, this creation may have beggared the nation. Still a larger part of me wants to applaud the vision that created all of this. Ashgabat, I would be a poorer person if I hadn't seen you. In an ordinary  world, you are truly unique.



Next: Day 2. The Darvasa Crater
Previous: Ashgabat


Diary Photos
13th May 2018  Ashgabat
Ashgabat 1

13th May 2018  Ashgabat 2
Ashgabat 2

13th May 2018  Stock for sale
Ashgabat Sunday market

13th May 2018  Ashgabat Sunday Market
Ashgabat Sunday Market

13th May 2018  Ashgabat Sunday Market 2
Ashgabat Sunday Market 2

13th May 2018  City of white and gold
City of white and gold

13th May 2018  Mausoleum.
Mourning for the Pesident's family lost in the 1948 earthquake

13th May 2018  Mosque
The biggest single dome mosque in central asia

13th May 2018  Prayer beads
Prayer beads

13th May 2018  Mosque door knocker
Mosque door knocker

13th May 2018  Mosque and Cavan
Mosque and Cavan

13th May 2018  Ashgabat buildings
Ashgabat buildings

13th May 2018  Memorial for those dead in the earthquake
Memorial for those dead in the earthquake

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