Once again, I found myself at a train station in Uzbekistan. I pressed my back into the cold, marble walls, my voice echoed into the high ceilings and archways, and once again, watched Uzbeks juggle and shove their items onto train cars. My mom recalls musicians dancing and singing their way through each train car. Dreadfully, I could tell I was at the beginning days of a cold, perhaps from being drained of exhausting travel or battling the intense heat of Samarkand. Little did I know, I wouldn’t be spending too much time outside the hostel walls. Alas, we still had to get to Bukhara, the last stop on our Silk Road journey.
Bukhara and Samarkand are infamous in the East for their history, Islamic architecture, and dire importance along the Silk Road. Once in Bukhara, we took a taxi to our hostel; it was almost as if we were on a tour within our taxi. Within thirty minutes, we had passed by each and every monument on our list to visit. I left my window ajar, my hair blowing in the crosswind of my brother’s window. I watched with awe as we passed the Great Minaret of the Kalon, the Samnid museum, the Chor-Minor, and the Mir-i-Arab madrasa.
Unfortunately, for the next few days I was confined to the four walls of my small hostel room. At least I knew from the rest of my family that Bukhara was amazing. When the time came to leave Bukhara, I had been out to dinner twice, walked in a market, and briskly walked through a museum. However, I was content with witnessing Samarkand’s beauty, a few glimpses of Bukhara, the post-communist Tashkent, and the odd, but enjoyable city of Andijon. It felt like the grand-tour of Uzbekistan.
On our last day in Uzbekistan, we got kicked out of our Bukhara hostel and left with our backpacks in the middle of the humid day. We found a rarity – an air-conditioned restaurant, which we instantaneously made our home for the next six hours. Six hours swiftly disappeared, and we chaotically ran across all of Bukhara, trying to look for a taxi to take us to the airport all in time to catch our flight. When we finally got a taxi driver, he was elated to find that we were from Texas; we then had a very impromptu Facetime session with his brother, who lives in Houston! When we arrived at the empty Bukhara International Airport, our driver insisted on a selfie, his current Facebook profile – we are very honored!
This time, we weren’t taking a train to another Uzbek city or town or even going to another country in the Stans. We were heading to the Netherlands for a much-needed decompression period after our four-month stint in Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan – countries that are challenging and very tiring (but incredibly worth it) to travel in and around. But of course, it would be a long journey to get back to Europe.
My eyes burn in the suddenly intense light of the airport, my throat itches with thirst, and my head pounds from dehydration as I drag my weak body through customs and immigration in Amsterdam Schiphol. A red-eye from Bukhara to Tashkent, Tashkent to Barcelona, Barcelona to Schiphol left me fatigued and eager for a bed. I was more than content to be back in Europe but mostly despaired leaving a place as notable as Uzbekistan. I reflect on my trip through Uzbekistan often; it’s a place where I let only my fondest memories lay.