For a typical Central Asian or even European capital, Tashkent has way more fountains than you can imagine. Every large park worth its name would have a display of dancing fountains with hundreds, if not thousands, of streams of water sending across a joyous message. The city is amazingly green with wide roads and little traffic but for some strange reason we always saw loads of cars parked around. I can’t seem to have seem all the Central Asian country capitals but the two that I have seen, have a well spread out city centre with a monument and the backdrop of a archaic looking hotel names after the country. Hotel Uzbekistan held its ground all the same, illuminated by cheap lights that made it look like an advertising hoarding at night. The monument of Taimur was quite impressive, though.
The entry process was actually quite smooth unlike what some of the blogs said. The immigration took about 5-10 minutes and the baggage and customs another 10. There was the unfortunate incident of at ATM deciding not to part with my debit card that caused a 30 odd minute delay but we were on our way quite soon. The prepaid cabs were a charm, though they charged about 2x of what you could negotiate outside – if you are the negotiating types.
Hotel Lotte was quite nice and especially the breakfast and the location – right across the road from the local Opera house and also a short walk from the central walking district which was quite lively. A number of small European restaurants served up some amazing steaks and chicken wings served up with strawberry lemonade. Even some of the fancy restaurants did not serve alcohol and even the ones that did, didn’t have much variety. Clearly, drinking was not a large part of the culture of the country, though it wasn’t really looked down on or prohibited.
A standard bus tour of the city started from outside of the glorious Hotel Uzbekistan and unlike the typical Hop-on Hop-off it stopped at each destination long enough for you to make a quick visit and we stayed with the same bus as most of the destinations did not require much experiencing. The monuments, even the mosques, were even built quite recently. The soviets never bothered to rebuild or repair the damage after the 1966 earthquake. The constructions all started in the 90s, even though some of the mosques look exquisite – maybe a little too clean and new. One of the most amazing of these creations was a souvenir shop that looked like a mosque and we actually took a lot of pics before we went in and found out.
One of the most famous landmarks of the city is the Chorsu Bazaar, or market. The glass dome houses 2 levels of sales floors. The lower one is dominated by butcher shops selling all forms of meat and some sellers of cheese and honey. The upper floor is mostly aromatic spices and dry fruits. The dome itself is surrounded by other marker areas that sell anything from clothes to spices (the cumin is quite famous) to household things.
Just like all the old USSR major cities the metro stations are definitely worth a visit. It is the cheapest tour you can take. It costs about 10 cents to enter the metro system and then you can get off and back on as many stations on any of the 3 lines. A quick online search can get you a list of the stations worth visiting – there are about 8-10 that are worth a visit, including one of the interchange ones. The decor includes ceramic mosaics, stories told via colorful tiles, fancy chandeliers and even a tribute to Russian cosmonauts.
Going around the city is quite easy and cabs are quite cheap. Getting from one place to the other should usually cost less than a dollar. There were instances were we took 2 cabs and for the exact same route got charge significantly different amounts. The metro is quite efficient but usually requires at least some walking. The city center is small enough that you can actually walk around to a lot of places. There are a lot of parks to see with fancy fountains making it a very green and open city. If you plan to take a nap in one of the green lawns just remember that all parks have built in sprinklers that turn on more often that you would think is needed.