Current page about my 2010 trip to Europe and Central Asia
The maps above roughly show the route that I took on this trip. The trip was somewhat divided into 4 parts:
#1) Starting in Los Angeles, I flew to Amsterdam where I had a day stopover and continued by flying to Vienna. In Vienna, I met my friend Klaus, and traveled with him to Prague, Kutna Hora and Bratislava. We also spent about a week in Vienna.
#2) From Vienna Klaus and I flew through Berlin to St. Petersburg. There we met my friend Gregory and spent a few days in St. Petersburg, went to Moscow and Pereslavl-Zalessky for a few days and came back to St. Petersburg for a few more days. We then went on a 4,000 kilometer train ride to Astana, in Kazakhstan
#3) From St. Petersburg we went by train to Astana, the Kazakh capital. There we met another friend, Christian, and continued to Almaty. From Almaty we went for a few days to Kyrgyzstan, going to Bishkek and lake Issyk-Kol. (We left 2 days before the revolution!) From there we went back to Almaty to pick up some visas and continued by train to Shymkent, then crossed the border into Uzbekistan and went to Tashkent where we met another friend, Vladimir. Then we went to Samarkand, Buhara and Khiva. From Khiva my friends left to go back home, except for Klaus, who came with me back to Bukhara and to Termiz.
I was able to cross the Soviet "Friendship Bridge" into Afghanistan (I got my Afghani Visa in Almaty). I went to Mazar-e-Sharif and Balkh for a couple of days. That part of Afghanistan is very safe (by Afghani standards), the Afghans that I met were some of the friendliest people I have ever encountered anywhere!
I went back across the friendship bridge to Termiz, from there Klaus and I went back to Samarkand and crossed the border into Tajikistan to visit the Fan Mountains. Then we went back to Samarkand and took a train to Tashkent to catch our flight from Tashkent to Kiev through Riga. That however didn't happen since the Riga airport was closed because of the Icelandic Volcano eruption, so after 2 days of being stranded in Tashkent we flew to Istanbul instead. Klaus continued his trip by flying to Kiev, I spent a couple of days in Istanbul and flew to Chisinau (Moldova)
#4) From Moldova, I went across Trans-Dniester (w) to Kiev and met Klaus again. After a couple of days we took and overnight train to Lviv, then crossed the border into Poland and went to Cracow. From Cracow Klaus went back home to Vienna and I continued by going to Lodz. Then I went to Plock, Ciechocinek and Torun before flying back home to California from Warsaw through Amsterdam.
Unfortunately I did not go to Turkmenistan, due to the extremely strict visa policies 2 of my friends were not able to get a visa in time (due to their nationality). I'll come back to Central Asia and visit the country in the future when I'll be travelling in Iran.
Here is an 2 page photo overview of the trip (with descriptions!). I am working on additional country-specific photos and will be adding them soon.
Part 1 - (48 photos) - (Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan) (link)
Part 2 - (43 photos) - (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Moldova, Ukraine, Poland) (link)
Sedlec Ossuary (Czech Republic) - (20 photos) - (link)
Afghanistan (Coming Soon!)
Older (temporary) Photo Galleries are below - Please note that there are no descriptions of any of these photos. I am working on individual country pages at the moment and will post them as soon as I can
Czech Republic - Praha (Prague) (link)
Russia - St. Petersburg (link)
Russia - Moscow & Pereslavl-Zalessky (link)
Russia - St. Petersburg - Hermitage - Part 1 (link)
Russia - St. Petersburg - Hermitage - Part 2 (link)
Russia - St. Petersburg to Astana Train (link)
Kazakhstan - Astana (link)
Kazakhstan - Almaty (link)
As an interesting addition to the page, here are some fun facts about Turkmenistan: (As far as I know these laws made by Türkmenbaşy (Saparmurat Niyazov) are still in effect):
"Gold teeth were outlawed in Turkmenistan after Niyazov suggested that the populace chew on bones to strengthen their teeth and lessen the rate at which they fall out." He said: ""I watched young dogs when I was young. They were given bones to gnaw to strengthen their teeth. Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not chew on bones. This is my advice..."
"Niyazov banned the use of lip syncing at public concerts in 2005, citing a negative effect on the development of musical arts incurred by the use of recorded music." Personally, I can't find anything wrong with this law.....Britney Spears beware!
"He also banned news reporters and anchors from wearing make-up on television, apparently because he believed Turkmen women were already beautiful enough." I will confirm this when I come back from Turkmenistan, with pictures!! So far, it's plausible as witnessed by myself of these Turkmeni women in Istanbul (link) (link), then again, there is evidence to the contrary (link) (link)
"Niyazov requested that a palace of ice be built near the capital, though Turkmenistan is a desert country with a hot and arid environment. The palace was never built." Well, in the summer it only gets up to 50 °C (121 °F), so I don't see a problem...
And of course the calendar: "In his calendar, Saturday was Rukhnama Day and April was named after his mother, who died in 1948 (in an earthquake). September was renamed Ruhnama in honour of the book written by Niyazov" The calendar went back to normal in April 2008, a year and a half after his death.
As a bonus, here are some more fun facts about Turkmenistan (some courtesy of LP)
In 2007, gasoline in Turkmenistan cost about $0.02 a liter (about $0.08 a gallon). As of now the price went up quite drastically, it's about $0.12 a liter now (slightly more expensive then Venezuela, or Iran if you can get the ration cards)
A species of Dinosaur once lived in the country and left footprints in the east, local scientists suggested that it should be called the "Turkmenosaurus"
The national language, Turkmen, has it's own unique alphabet. It's called "Elipbi" and is copyrighted!
in 2003 every street name in Ashgabat (the capital) was replaced with a four digit number. For Example, Azadi Kocesi Street became known as 2011, Gorky Street became known as 2060, etc.
Like Uzbekistan, the biggest banknote in Turkmenistan is worth less then $0.50. Take a look here at me taking a money shower with Uzbeki sum (I couldn't resist setting up that photo). Here is what $20 looks like in the 500 Sum notes (Biggest bill in Uzbekistan is the 1000 Sum note). Ok ok, I'm joking, the second picture actually shows about $800 (about 4,000 banknotes)
Natural gas is free for citizens of Turkmenistan....but matches are not. So the residents often leave their gas stoves on 24 hours a day........
Some of the worlds earliest evidence of grain cultivation can be found at the archeological site of Anau
The biggest mosque in Central Asia was built in Turkmenistan....on the site where former president Niyazov's two brothers and mother were killed in the 1948 earthquake