The Spengler Family's Uzbekistan Tour 2002

My sister Lizzy is working for Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF, www.msf.org) in Turkmenistan on a Tuberculosis project. She didn't make it home for Christmas last year, so we decided then to visit her in the Spring. 'We' here means a quite big group: Grandpa Otto, Grandma Grietje, Mother Sabine, Toddler Lynn, Baby Till, and Father Jan.

When most people heard our plan, they said that we were crazy. Afghanistan is nearby, the Taliban are everywhere, there's an attack every day, and bombing all around the clock. We checked with Liz, who lives there, and consulted many sources on the web. No danger. "Be careful at nights if you are in the mountains near the borders." That was all we could find on the pages of the Secret Service, CIA, International Agencies, Foreign Affairs Offices and other funny sources. So, we figured that it should be ok for us.

Grandma got the tickets and organized the visas. There's a direct flight from Frankfurt to Tashkent--perfect, we'll go for that one. What kind of plane will we have? Aeroflot anno 1952? Will there be in-flight service? Will everyone get a seat? Many questions--most of them because we have no clue what we are getting ourselves into.

Cool, we get the tickets in time. It comes to EUR 2000 for the four of us from St.Gallen, including visas (2 adults, two-year-old Lynn, and one-year-old Till).

Well, time passes. Before we know it, it's the end of April, and time to get on the plane.

We didn't expect this. It's a Boeing plane, and in good shape. The cabin attendants are friendly--we even get two rows, 6 seats for 4 adults. And the food! Very good, and loads of stuff. After this perfect 6-hour flight, we land in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. It's 6 in the morning. Passport control takes a while--there are long queues. As the people notice that we have children, they let us go through from the very back of the row. Wow--never had this in Europe!

Liz is waiting for us with a car. Welcome to Uzbekistan!

Our plan is: a couple of days in Tashkent, to get a feeling for the place. Then a domestic flight to Urgench in the North, below the Aral Sea. From there, we'll proceed to Chiva by car, where we'll rent rent two cars (including drivers). They will drive us for a week, back to Tashkent along the Silk Road, via Buchara and Samarkand. Liz is organizing everything pretty well!

What language do the people speak? Many of them, esp. the younger ones, speak English. We also can hear some German. All of them speak Russian, even though the Uzbekis have an their language. Uzbekistan has only been independent from Russia for ten years, and Russian still dominates. Liz and Grandpa speak some Russian, so we have no problem getting along.

What does it look like? Well, the Russian influence can be seen, esp. in the cities. This means you have the typical Russian style of houses, i.e., they're falling apart. You can find that all over the former Eastern Block, so we expected it. And we've seen this sort of thing before, in former Eastern German cities, a couple of years ago.

The following pictures show highlights of the trip in a chronological order